(scroll to bottom to read comment from Moonlight) The Labour party has obtained a cabinet paper that reveals National is planning a raft of changes around immigration that somehow seem to have been ‘left out’ of last month’s briefing to the incoming Minister.
Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Darien Fenton has issued a press about it here and the confidential briefing paper that found its way into Labour’s hands may be viewed here – ISSUES AND DECISIONS FOR THE FIRST 100 DAYS – IMMIGRATION.
Negative Net Migration
The confidential paper reveals that the global economic slowdown presents some serious challenges for New Zealand in that skilled migrants are less willing to migrate and job offers are falling.
“In the year to October 2011, annual net migration into New Zealand fell to negative 100 people. This is the first annual net loss since the September 2001 year (1,700). It is largely driven by increased departures, particularly to Australia. The number of skilled migrants arriving has also fallen. Because of the global economic situation, potential skilled migrants are less willing to migrate, while fewer skilled job offers have been available in New Zealand.”
Consequently, reduced application volumes have caused a funding shortfall.
“A memorandum account was established in 1999 to manage fee revenue. While the account tracked about even until mid 2010, by the end of October 2011, the account recorded a deficit of $28.11 million. The memorandum account is forecast to be $44 million in deficit at 30 June 2012. This is largely a result of a drop in visa application volumes following the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes. INZ’s high fixed-cost business model means it is unable to reduce operating costs in the short-term in line with decreased application volumes and revenue….”
But we’ll leave that aside for now for a future blog, let’s get back to the news coverage of the press release which is based around New Zealand seeking to attract wealthier immigrants and the abolition of the Sibling and Adult Child Category.
Danya Levy, writing for Stuff, revealed that there are plans for New Zealand to introduce a ‘two tier’ immigration system, giving preference to the wealthy.
“A Cabinet paper shows the Government is planning to tighten up on family members seeking New Zealand residency while giving preference to better-off immigrants.
The draft paper leaked to the Labour Party shows Immigration New Zealand is planning to create a two-tier system where applications from parents sponsored by their higher income children, or those who bring a guaranteed income or funds, would be processed faster than other applications.
The system would also be tightened for those in the second tier for wealthier immigrants so that only those with no adult children living in their home country would be eligible.
Sponsors would be required to support immigrating parents for a period of 10 years, up from five, and parents would no longer be able to bring dependent children.
Parents with poor English would also need to “pre-purchase tuition.
The sibling and adult child immigration category would be removed to reduce the number of unskilled migrants who find it more difficult to get jobs and are more likely to get benefit payments.”
The reasoning behind this is for new migrants to be “self-sufficient and be able to contribute to New Zealand, rather than going straight onto a benefit.” But are new migrants eligible for benefits and aren’t there already controls in place to ensure that families are able to support their relatives?
This looks like just another cynical move to increase the dollar value of migrants in New Zealand, without any thought given to the skills they bring with them, how those skills can be used to grow the economy and benefit society as a whole.
Some may call it a cash grab that will leave lower income families spread out across the globe with little hope of being reunited.
This is a move that’s sure to drive a wedge into the gulf between rich and poor in New Zealand.
Only the rich welcome
Darien Fenton, Labour’s immigration spokeswoman said New Zealand was becoming a country where only the rich were welcome. A report by TVNZ told readers
“Parents whose families have higher incomes will go straight to the front of the queue in a ‘Tier One’ category and face less stringent eligibility tests, while those less well off will be ranked ‘Tier Two’ and will face tougher conditions and longer waiting times,” Fenton said.
Fenton said the paper also states that the Sibling and Adult Child Category is to be removed altogether from July this year.
She said it will come as a shock to the thousands of people in New Zealand looking to reunite their families.
“Sadly it appears New Zealand is becoming a country where only those with pot loads of money are welcome. We roll out the red carpet for them, yet we make it near impossible for good, less well-off families,”
Red carpets for the wealthy
A NZ Yahoo report suggested that the new measures have been kept a secret from the public, quoting Darien saying:
“These changes were signed off by Cabinet in May 2011, yet there was no mention of them in the publicly released Briefing to the Incoming Minister.
“They will come as a shock to the thousands of people in New Zealand looking to reunite their families, especially given the special treatment handed out to millionaires such as Kim Dotcom.
“There will also be an impact on Pacific families, something that was alluded to by MFaT officials who raised concerns in the in the Cabinet Paper that the changes must be handled carefully considering 2012 is the 50th anniversary of New Zealand’s treaty of Friendship with Samoa.
Mind the Gap (download pdf here)
New Zealand’s green party have a policy document called Mind the Gap that gives eight simple solutions to resolving inequality in New Zealand, you’ll notice that importing rich migrants isn’t one of them:
- Solution 1: A tax-free $10,000
- Soultion 2: A comprehensive capital gains tax (except on family homes)
“Making changes to the tax system is one of the most important and direct policy options available to the Government if the goal is to promote equality.”
Addressing energy poverty
- Solution 3: Progressive electricity prices
“Warm, healthy homes are hard to come by in New Zealand. The phenomenon of “energy poverty” – when households have to spend more than 10 percent of their income to keep warm – is a growing problem.”
- Solution 4: In-Work Tax Credits for all low income families with dependent kids
- Solution 5: Reinstate a discretionary Special Benefit
“Benefit levels have not risen in real terms since 1991. For many of our most vulnerable families, making ends meet on inadequate levels of welfare support is a daily struggle.”
- Solution 6: 6,000 new state houses in the next three years
- Solution 7: Investment in community housing
- Solution 8: Secure long-term rental tenure
“Safe, secure, sustainable housing is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. Everyone living in New Zealand should have access to housing that is suitable for their needs.
Housing is a basic necessity but a lot of vulnerable New Zealanders are either homeless or do not have access to adequate housing. This has flow-on effects on their ability to participate fully in their communities, curtails people’s educational opportunities, and ultimately can negatively impact on the job market.”