Opinion: Labour adds insult to injury with parent visa scheme

7:04 pm on 8 October 2019

By Sandeep Singh*

Opinion - The re-opening of the parent-visa category by Immigration Minister Iain-Lees Galloway can best be described as outrageous and insulting to the hard-working migrants in this country.

The Labour government, like their predecessor National, have chosen the month of October, almost 10 months before the next general election to set the mood of the nation and the ensuing electoral campaign to announce a shocker of an immigration policy.

In October 2016 the National government temporarily closed the parent visa category on a most bizarre pretext of clearing a backlog of applications, thereby positioning itself for an election that would be decided by outlandish rhetoric on anti-immigration.

The Labour government has in October 2019 done exactly the same by announcing a highly elitist parent visa category, thereby conveniently positioning the party on the right side of the anti-immigration rhetoric.

This is what every uncertain government seeking re-election, either in its third term or in the first-term prefers to do - raise the anti-immigration rhetoric - so that all the jaded prospective voters sitting on the fence, unsure of the government's actions or (in)actions, gets triggered to vote for them.

Once the anti-immigration rhetoric is successfully raised, then every other policy failure or insignificant achievement could become meaningless, or safely hidden from public scrutiny.

The opposition parties then scramble to put together a more outrageous anti-immigration stance to get the attention of prospective voters.

In the lead-up to the 2017 election, the then opposition party - the Labour Party - came up with the outlandish suggestion of "cutting down immigration numbers by 20,000 to 30,000". The rest of the election campaign was fully immersed in anti-immigration rhetoric with immigrants being blamed for every possible public issue related to crumbling transport infrastructure, an unreasonably bullish housing market, and being a burden on the public health system.

Now, it seems that a similar story is unfolding in the lead-up to the 2020 election with the Labour Party in government this time setting the agenda for the anti-immigration rhetoric.

Otherwise, what explains such an egregious suggestion by the Immigration Minister that only those who earn in the league of $159,000 to $212,000 will be eligible to bring their parents into the country - especially when half of the country is at a median salary of $53,600, and the minimum wage rate is lingering at a paltry $17.70 an hour.

Iain Lees-Galloway, Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, ACC, and of Immigration.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced that migrants will need to earn in the league of $159,000 to $212,000 to bring their parents to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Clearly, the result (a consequence of a desired or undesired intention) is of adding insult to the injury, as it reminds a majority of the migrant working class that they are preposterously earning less, when they may aspire to bring their parent to live in New Zealand with them.

Deafening silence from National on parent visa announcement

Similarly, what else explains the main opposition National Party's alarming silence on the government announcement so far?

Usually, National's PR machine quickly goes into overdrive, to counter the government's every decision from a small roading project to e-scooters.

However, not in this instance of the government's parent visa announcement and their deliberate decision to deny a majority of migrant workers the basic humane option of bringing their parents here.

If we follow the script of the last election, probably the opposition party, outwitted by the current government's stance, will choose another day to come up with their own version.

So far, National's silence is deafening and equally uncomfortable. It suggests that New Zealand political parties are once again willing to take a convenient recourse to anti-immigrant rhetoric in the 2020 election.

And this is when every politician, across both sides of the spectrum, boisterously claims that the New Zealand nation is built upon immigration.

It is truly disappointing that none of the political parties has been able to delineate the issue of allowing migrants to host their parents for longer period of time, with the issue of permanent residency in the country and being a burden on the public tax system.

None of the political parties are willing to think out of the box and offer a simple long-term visa opportunity, where migrants bear the insurance and living costs of their parents, without costing anything to the public health system, and fulfilling a basic human desire to look after their elderly parents when they need them the most.

Clearly, winning elections is the bigger motive, and winning it on the basis of anti-immigration rhetoric is the easier option.

This Labour government is no different from others, despite their repeatedly proclaimed moral superiority over the others in the play.

*Sandeep Singh is the editor of Auckland based community newspaper The Indian Weekender. The views expressed are his own.

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