2 Oct 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Labour would vote against 'Kiwi values' bill

11:09 am on 2 October 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she doesn't support the concept of NZ First's Respecting NZ Values Bill, which would impose cultural conditions on migrants and refugees entering the country.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there are better ways to integrate immigrants. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Ms Ardern, who arrived back from New York where she addressed the UN last week, told Morning Report the bill was not something the Labour Party would promote or likely vote for in Parliament.

"We consider each bill case by case," she said.

"It is not a government bill, it is not government policy. It's a New Zealand First bill and it's up to them to pursue it and debate it and it's not something that Labour is likely to support at all."

The New Zealand First conference at the weekend voted for a member's bill requiring new arrivals to sign up to designated values.

The bill includes core values that demand respect for gender equality, legal sexual preferences, freedom of religion and a commitment not to campaign against alcohol consumption.

Ms Ardern said there was already provision in law to deport immigrants who broke the law and that there were other ways to integrate immigrants into New Zealand society, which included giving them support.

She said the government's refugee resettlement programme offered the best vehicle for doing so.

"I think the best way that we can make sure we are sharing, upholding, spreading what we consider to be values that are important to us, is the way we do it now," she said.

"Our refugee resettlement programme, for instance, is one of the best in the world because we support people when they come here.

"We give them a period where they're at the resettlement centre, where we really expose them to things that are a part of New Zealand life."

Such disagreements between NZ First and Labour were part of being involved in a coalition government and reflected the nature of MMP politics. She did not think the bill was xenophobic.

"This is not new to us, we have to walk these lines frequently and we all know the difference between being the leader of our respective parties and also government policy," she said.

Earlier, New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell, who helped draft the bill, said the vast majority of the public he has spoken to were in favour of the proposal.

"The feeling that I am getting already, in less than 24 hours, is very, very positive so I think it is something New Zealanders want as a whole."

The bill has yet to be discussed by the party's caucus.

But Ms Ardern said if it was drawn from the ballot, her party would vote against it.

Meanwhile, advocates of the bill say similar "values" obligations were already part of immigration policy in Australia and Canada and that an expectation of adherence to tolerance and pluralism among those allowed into the country was not unreasonable.

Trade agreements

Referring to her visit to New York to address the UN last week, Ms Ardern said her government had expressed support for globalisation and multilateralism, including trade agreements that brought business opportunities and benefited the country.

"What we are acknowledging that as a trading nation, one that's reliant on trade, is that we can do more to try and make sure that prosperity that's been generated is more evenly spread," she said.

"That's something that we have openly acknowledged ... we want to demonstrate that we can do things like uphold environmental standards, uphold labour standards, but also try and bring in new business opportunities through agreements like that."

She rejected criticism from some quarters over the use of a promotional company using taxpayer's money while she was on the visit.

She said it had made more sense using ex-pat New Zealanders to take promotional photographs, than flying a photographer over with her delegation, as previous prime ministers had done.

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