[ Paunawa: sincere apologies everyone, nothing here is backed up by research, stats or expert analysis, napag-uusapan lang po and is based on the Man on The Street’s barbershop opinion, mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]
THE CLOSEST THING anyone got to talking about the biggest non-issue last NZ elections was when dearly departed Labour Party leader Andrew Little (who did his party the biggest favor by giving way to Jacinda Ardern, I’m not being partisan by any means), days before his resignation from the Labour Party leadership, said something like when we win the majority in Parliament, we will take away thousands of jobs away from immigrants.
As simple as that. He spent the next 24 hours and the next media cycle (a period of time during which a major news story get coverage on multi-media, and after which media moves on to the next big news event) explaining himself, what he meant exactly and how he intended to do such a thing. Unsurprisingly, such a thoughtless statement didn’t score him any points on the polls and, falling on his sword, he handed in his resignation a very short time later.
Without consulting anyone, I can remember this fairly clearly because it was one of the more memorable pronouncements of the campaign. Nobody, and I mean nobody makes a statement like that, taking away jobs, whether from immigrants or what-not, and not expose himself/herself to repercussions. It was a mighty gamble, designed to win sympathy from the unemployed and underemployed, and whoever thinks migrants are taking jobs away from New Zealanders, but here’s the thing : the skilled migrant visa pathway of the NZ Government works, and most migrant jobs are jobs that New Zealanders can’t, or won’t take.
Note I didn’t say the whole residency / visa pathway of Immigration works, nor that there is an imbalance in the number of guest / foreign workers in New Zealand, and what New Zealand can absorb without harming its own citizens. That would take a lot of figuring, analysis and economic models requiring serious study taking longer than the time it takes to post this blog, or prepare tonight’s dinner.
You’ve probably guessed what that hot non-issue is: the unlamented Andrew Little gave his two cents about the IMMIGRATION issue, paid for it with his resignation (although he might have survived, he would’ve led Labour to oblivion under his leadership anyway), and guess what? NO ONE of consequence, not National’s leadership, Labour’s leadership, or any of the other fringe parties said ANYTHING about the IMMIGRATION issue (I’m typing it in caps just so there’s no mistake) for the rest of the campaign. See how a sensitive topic it was?
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And yet, whoever forms a government this October (we have a hung parliament, or an elections that produced a parliament without any single party holding a majority of seats needed to govern), will have to deal squarely with the issue of immigration. It is more important than education and crime, and perhaps equally as important as the economy, employment and the quality of life in New Zealand for the next decades. I’m no expert, but this in my humble opinion is the single most important issue the next government needs to tackle, particularly because:
Immigration is a gamechanger for national life. Migrants fill jobs. Migrants are contributors to the trades and professions. Migrants are contributors to research, development and innovation across the cutting edge fields of science and technology. Migrants jump start massive consumer spending. And migrants via entrepreneurship and investment further spur growth, repeating the cycle of business growth leading to more and better jobs leading to increased spending. Reset, repeat.
Government knows this. Migration may not always be a good look if you want to keep locals happy, but the alternative would be almost unthinkable. It doesn’t matter if you’re National, Labour, Greens or New Zealand First. Can you or I or anyone imagine a New Zealand without Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Pacific Islander or all other races of migrants. In an unguarded, candid statement, then Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said it best : without immigration, the outlook is bleak.
And even then, regardless of any more immigration tweaks, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. If we need any more idioms: locking the barn door after the horse is gone, aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo, hope you’ve had enough. The “multiplier effect” of each migrant assimilating into New Zealand is staggering: spouse or partners and children of productive and income-generating migrants are not only expected but also anticipated by New Zealand, as the gravitational pull of love and family towards the lucky migrant is universal.
Whoever forms the next government, they can’t pull the plug on new migrants based on relationships with migrants already in New Zealand. Even the mothballed parent and sibling migrant pathways won’t stop immediate family members following their successful relatives on their own merit (on other pathways).
And how about current special work visa pathways specific to Pinoys and other Asians (dairy workers, scaffolders, Christchurch rebuild)? The world is not going to come to a standstill when a new government rises in the Beehive (NZ’s version of the Batasan). The fact of the matter is, migrants will continue to be in demand, in NZ, Australia and elsewhere. Is that so hard to accept?
Immigration is an issue that won’t go away. Let’s face it. All of the guest workers currently in NZ are potential permanent residents. They wouldn’t have taken the chance to work so far away, in uncertain circumstances, if they didn’t at least have a ghost of a chance to become future citizens here. Whether migrant entrants year-on-year are to be maintained, increased or decreased, it is reasonable to expect that migrants will figure prominently in the New Zealand economy, for good or bad (but mostly good).
It didn’t figure prominently during the campaign, probably because it was too hot to handle, but the migration / immigration issue, believe you me kabayan, will affect every single New Zealander for the next 50 years.
And probably long after that. Mabuhay and thanks for reading!