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The Opportunities Party has released its first two policy priorities – making New Zealand fair again and boosting incomes by limiting immigration and increasing its quality. Here’s the logic for you to contemplate over Christmas.

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We could import heaps of workers from abroad prepared to work for well below the minimum wage just for the privilege of being here. In essence the numbers prepared to do that are infinite. So should we?

Secondly, tourists on their OE with working visas are happy to work for minimal wages, minimal conditions because the job is temporary & they're just moving through. Often these people are University student types and so highly intelligent and what you'd call high quality labour. These folk have proved to be hugely popular amongst employers - who can't believe their luck that there's a steady supply of such temporary talent.

So how many of both types of foreign labour should we admit? Should we throw the doors open & let them drive wage rates down to the minimum wage (or less)? The serious question here is where do you draw the line if at all? Unemployment is around 5%. We do not require the unemployed to up stakes and move to where work might be (imagine the cost of that for families), so clearly there is scope for forcing these folk to move – if that’s what we choose to do. But that approach aside, we find there are pockets of labour shortages around the regions.

Now let’s look at our reality in terms of how an economy is supposed to function. As it grows, not all the benefit is supposed to flow to profits. Wages are supposed to rise as well – that’s how the spoils are shared, distributed. But since Rogernomics and globalisation hit, wage rates have been set more by the balance of demand and supply – rather than any link to the rising overall income of the country. That is thanks to labour having less and less bargaining power – achieved not just by deregulation but also by increasing the supply (via immigration).

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(Value of 100 means all income in economy earned by 1 person, value 0 means everyone’s income identical)

So to me that implies a number of things

  • only suckers work for wages, the supply of labour via migration will ensure wage rates never rise, especially but not exclusively wages of the lower paid. Go and ask average white collar workers how their real income has been doing over the last decade.
  • we are building a low wage economy where the only way to become prosperous is via enterprise or by participating in the still-protected game of property speculation
  • the demand on the Government to be the primary vehicle for redistributing income via mechanisms like Working for Families will increase as working families find they fall further and further behind any semblance of a living wage. So our welfare bill will rise inexorably even though unemployment is low. It will rise because we have to boost the income of people in work. Expect the social costs of so many people trapped in low incomes to rise as well. 

Of course the above has been the situation for some years now and as we all know, measures of inequality verify an explosion in the differences across society in income and wealth. We can keep this going by simply keeping the immigration spigot open – the supply of foreign labour is infinite, without end.

It comes down to the type of society New Zealanders want – and we’re choosing one where wages are just a cost of production. As a source of income and material well-being we care less and less about wages. Or is it that we feel helpless here, that we’re on this treadmill of international competition that’s forcing our incomes down because if we pay our labour more we’ll just lose the business. And we can all agree on one thing – if there are no profits then certainly there’ll be no wages.

Our perspective at TOP is

  • that we have opened the migration spigot too far in low wage industries, that this inflow is keeping wages down, and simply forcing the government to boost the incomes of working families via more and more welfare payments.
  • that the governments of these Establishment parties just refuse to confront the tax loophole that is driving property prices up year in, year out. As a result the share of people’s incomes devoted to keeping a roof over their head is rising so fast their other needs can’t be met; quality food, transport, child care, health services, education etc.

So at TOP our approach is to:

  • change immigration policy back to what it used to be; if a migrant cannot boost the incomes of New Zealanders we simply do not want them.
  • address this open sore that is the tax loophole that enables owners of capital to escape their fair share of tax; this loophole is seeing money flood into property speculation while starving businesses of the investment funding they need.

Now will this make New Zealand less competitive and shrink the economy? We would argue no, what it will do is make the businesses that depend on low cost labour struggle, and those whose bottom lines are driven by talent and innovation will thrive thanks to (a) increased focus on creating wealth via business rather than property speculation and (b) higher average incomes as the demand for trained, skilled and talented New Zealanders rises.

We either strive to be a nation of productive, skilled workers or we stay in this race to the bottom where the only game in town is to hire low cost labour and churn out higher volumes of low value product. 

That choice is yours. Enjoy the discussion over the Christmas BBQ.

Showing 41 reactions

  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-01-03 14:01:06 +1300
    Hi Paul
    For a population management method to be adopted it would need societal buy-in. Something I’m not too confident about happening.
    But, no matter which one was implemented it would have both advantages and disadvantages over others.
    So unless Gareth and Co need our expert advice on this subject I think we’ve taken this subject as far as we can without starting to delve into the fine detail.
    I enjoyed discussing this with you and others.
  • Paul Elwell-Sutton
    commented 2017-01-02 16:13:46 +1300
    Hi Steve,
    I guess humanity is essentially viral.
    As for population management, if China could institute one child policy, how about a two child policy for NZ? For everyone. That eliminates the judgemental pitfalls.
    A world-wide two child policy couldn’t work where child and adult mortality is high, life expectancy low, and children provide an ‘old age pension’ to their parents.
  • Paul Elwell-Sutton
    commented 2017-01-02 16:13:45 +1300
    Hi Steve,
    I guess humanity is essentially viral.
    As for population management, if China could institute one child policy, how about a two child policy for NZ? For everyone. That eliminates the judgemental pitfalls.
    A world-wide two child policy couldn’t work where child and adult mortality is high, life expectancy low, and children provide an ‘old age pension’ to their parents.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-01-01 12:43:56 +1300
    Hi Paul
    I’m very, very aware of the potential for a contraceptive regime to be abused: – by politicians, religious groups, the apologetic, do-gooders, and so on.

    Here is an excerpt from the UN Human Rights; – “… all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so …”. Different people will interpret that as it suits their agenda, mostly by choosing their emphasis within that statement. Me, I’m emphasising “responsibly” and probably distorting “means to do so”.

    To avoid eugenics is why I’ve suggested an independent body to manage the contraceptive regime. A body that is fully challenge-able in court and required to be very open in it’s criteria and in reporting its performance. Eugenics is a wall at the top of the cliff, my proposal is a fence and education is warning signs. The problem with warning signs is that the person may be illiterate or approach a part of the cliff where there are no signs.

    The recently released Dunedin Longitudinal Study found that 20% of those in the study demanded 80% of the state’s costs (health, benefits, justice). Science can roughly determine who that 20% will be. Maybe the prospective parents of those who might (note the might) fall into that category should be nudged toward not having children at this point in time.

    And on to the important question for 2017: – is humanity viral or bacterial?
  • Paul Elwell-Sutton
    commented 2017-01-01 09:58:54 +1300
    Hi Steve,
    Your suggestions would open the door to eugenics or something similar, so I don’t go along with it, though your intention is good.
    At present, humanity is carrying on lilke bacteria in a petri dish, so inevitably there wil be an eventual and painful population collapse unless we collectively get a grip on our addiction to breeding and population growth, and evolve past what is essentially a teenager’s level of awareness, with poor appreciation of the consequences of actions.
    I doubt whether coercion can work, and anyway would be an abuse of human rights, so education plus equable sharing of wealth and resources is more likely to succeed.
    On the other hand, the Chinese ‘one child’ policy did work….
    Best wishes for 2017.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-01-01 08:18:04 +1300
    Some people should not have become parents when they did, I agree with that. We require exams and licences for many things that are much less consequential than raising children, like driving a car, building a house etc. I would support some kind of capability and suitability test for future parents, if they are actually up to the task and have the means (not just money) to raise children in a way that provides them with their own fair go. It’s probably a taboo at the moment – every time I bring it up I receive severe backlash – but if we are willing to subject immigrants to a qualification process, why won’t we do it for people who want to raise future citizens? Is it fair to give New Zealanders a carte blanche just because they’re already New Zealanders? When my wife and I moved here, we had to prove that we were capable and worthy, that we spoke English well enough, were skilled enough, could find jobs that were in demand and fill these roles successfully, and adapt to NZ rules, regulations and lifestyle – and we were totally ok with it because it was fair. We needed to prove that we could make a positive contribution to New Zealand. Can we afford to just not apply this test to people who want to raise the next generation?
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-31 13:32:20 +1300
    I may be sounding a little cynical and/or devils advocate-ish at times but I’m actually in agreement. We, humankind, have to stop being a virus that seeks to consume it’s host.

    The other day I made three tongue in cheek reasons why a population limit wouldn’t work. Here’s the fourth I thought of later; – d) It is a woman’s inalienable human right to have as many children as she wants. And it is the government’s obligation to pay the mother to bring up those children.

    Just so you know, I do not agree with d) above. But I see that and other arguments being put forward to oppose any sort of population limit.

    We’re drifting off subject, but what the heck, it’s the Christmas holidays. My idea is that at puberty every girl has a long-term contraceptive implanted. And is replaced as and when required. When a woman wants to have a child she and her partner visit the person (maybe her GP) who will decide if the couple are suitable to become parents (Paul’s comment re “quality rather than quantity”).

    Whatever the organisation is that makes the contraceptive removal decision it will be funded by gov’t but be independent of; much like the ombudsman. The criteria and guidance for who gets to have children would be separated from gov’t ideology and interference. Two examples of where the criteria would indicate a no baby ruling might be a) two seventeen years-old who’ve never had a job and live at home with her parents, and b) a women who has six children already by five different fathers, but is convinced this sixth man is “the one”.

    The pay-back for NZ should be a lower incidence of vulnerable children. Fewer children born into poverty. And to help achieve this the gov’t would have to up their game as regards doctor’s visits, early childhood education / day-care, and school funding.

    In summary if the parents cannot adequately feed, clothe and house their children then there will be no child. The child’s life beyond the gate will mostly be covered by gov’t support.

    OK, I’ve left out a lot of detail but I hope you get the idea.

    And if this means the average NZ woman only has 1.5 children, then to maintain our population, well that’s where immigration can fill the shortfall.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-12-31 11:44:46 +1300
    I’m with Paul on that. I don’t respond to the obsession with endless growth anymore because it is unsustainable and unfair to the next generations. Happy to support a soft population cap that allows for seasonal, cyclical and temporary fluctuations but limits the absolute population growth and focuses on quality rather than quantity instead.
  • Paul Elwell-Sutton
    commented 2016-12-31 11:02:54 +1300
    Responding to Steve Cox, I believe that with the population and technology humanity now possesses, we have to cap our population both here and world-wide in order to provide sufficient space and resources for the other life forms on this planet. The time has come for humnakind to kick the growth addiction in its various material forms, since we are not and never have been the centre of the universe, and are not the only species that counts. Idealistic? Maybe, but I’m optimistic of a sea change away from our anthropocentric world view, and NZ is a good place to lead the way. A 5 million cap will be quite adequate for these islands despite the aspirations of the business community, for whom more people means more profit.
    Think why it could work, rather than why it couldn’t.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-30 19:45:19 +1300
    Maybe TOP needs to require all migrants seeking Permanent Residency to complete (pass) a “Kiwi As” course. i don’t know the technicalities but perhaps what refugee’s get.

    Sorry Roger but I’m going to go all detail on you. Your example of foster parents. Would migrant foster parents be able to instill the appropriate cultural attitudes on their charges?
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-12-30 18:05:35 +1300
    Roger, if you looked at “income” not being limited to a monetary amount, like TOP policy #1 does it for the value provided by one’s home, that would then most likely include immigration candidates like the ones you describe, because their work – paid or non-paid – would add value to New Zealand.
  • Roger Barker
    commented 2016-12-30 17:16:20 +1300
    My thanks to Steve, Oliver and Gordon – I think we are saying the same thing. Sometimes semantics are important. “Assimilation” has a troubled history in the context of Maori-Pakeha relationship – that’s why I would want to avoid using it.

    I wonder how we prepare migrants (as distinct from refugees) for life in New Zealand? Refugees go through a clear process, part of which ( I assume) is a sort of crash course in Kiwi values. But if someone is recruited to fill a skill shortage the emphasis seems to be on that person’s competence, experience, education training, etc – all very relevant, of course – but apart from some sort of Police check, is any attempt made to inform them of our laws, values etc along the sort of lines we have been discussing?

    Which gets me to a new but related point. In the summary of the Party’s policy there is a rather bald statement – “if a migrant can’t boost the incomes of New Zealanders we simply don’t want them”. Let’s think about that for a moment. If a prospective immigrant has a long and proven record of service in the voluntary sector, but no specialist “economic skill” are they automatically rejected as unsuitable for life in our country? We constantly hear about a chronic shortage of foster parents, for example, yet I doubt whether they are on any list of approved “occupations”. Perhaps we need a wider understanding of what it means to contribute to the well-being of our society. Think “good sorts” here – not just economically productive sorts.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-30 08:23:51 +1300
    Hi Roger
    Semantics – my “assimilation” and your “sign up to” are close to being the same thing. But people interpret words differently which can often lead to crossed wires.
    My meaning for assimilation is much as Oliver and Gordon have said: – accept and follow NZ values, keep that part of your previous culture that doesn’t conflict, and definitely get rid of the bits that do conflict.

    I am now going to interpret your “sign up to” as being figurative rather than literal. By literal I mean something like when you go on-line to buy something, enter a competition, etc and there is the little check box with the statement beside it “I agree to the terms and conditions”. And how many people read those terms and conditions? I’m sure your thinking isn’t of a potential migrant just ticking a box.
  • Gordon Ngai
    commented 2016-12-30 05:22:34 +1300
    I totally agree with Oliver Krollmann.

    As an immigrant, I choose which country that has the core values that I want to join. It may be different from my country of origin. On the other hand, I also want to bring with me the wisdom of my country of origin to my new home country.

    We have 4m Kiwis living in a world of 6 billion.We need to trade with other countries. To be successful, we need to understand other cultures.

    Harmony and diversity should be the key objectives of our immigration policy.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-12-29 22:30:56 +1300
    Very well put, Roger, and in my opinion a reasonable and viable approach.
    Immigrants of different cultures, religions and ethnicities add to and enrich our diversity, however, they have to adapt to New Zealand laws and values, even if that means changing or giving up a part of their identity, particularly if it is in conflict with principles like freedom, equality, and human rights. It’s a fair price to pay for being granted the right to live and work in the most prosperous country on Earth.
  • Roger Barker
    commented 2016-12-29 20:18:13 +1300
    I think we are getting ahead of ourselves when we start throwing actual figures into the mix. We need to set our general principles of a population policy, and invite debate about those. Once we try to be specific people will naturally start arguing about the detail without addressing the far more important issues of principle. Thus, we might propose a measured annual increase of population over the next ten years to be determined in accordance with the capacity of the country to meet the increased demands that would be placed on our infrastructure, social services etc. The increase would be made up of: Kiwis returning home (there cannot be any limit imposed here); refugees up to our agreed quota; and immigration in the ordinary sense.

    I am a little suspicious of terms like “vital skill shortage”. No doubt we are supposed to think of medical professionals, etc, but in practice the term seems to mean anyone any employer wants to employ.

    One final point for now. I understand what Steve’s concerns are about the willingness and ability of immigrants to integrate into our society, but I would be very wary of using a term like “assimilation”. By all means require immigrants to “sign up to” a statement of basic NZ values, but anything that suggests that immigrants cannot bring their culture, faith, etc with them would lead us down some very dangerous paths.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-28 17:50:48 +1300
    Hi Paul
    As of today Statistics estimates our population at just under 4.75m. And by the time we have our discussion about it, plus the commission of inquiry and the parliamentary inquiry we are probably going to be over 5.0m.
    Keeping my tongue still firmly in my cheek we would then be confronted by opponents of a population ceiling arguing: –
    a) But that will stop NZ taking all those refugees we should already have taken.
    b) What happens if we have a vital skills shortage, but we’re full up, and
    c) Will returning Kiwis be allowed back in if it puts us over cap.
    So we will all agree to an aspirational goal of x.y million that everyone will ignore. And all immigration officials will receive copies of the inquiry reports to use as a door stop.
  • Paul Elwell-Sutton
    commented 2016-12-28 10:12:07 +1300
    Yes to a cap on NZ’s population. This is a discussion the whole country needs to have. I don’t think overpopulation problems in other parts of the world are our problem and should be imported to NZ. 4.5 million is enough if we are to collectively enjoy the space NZ provides, and give space to the other plants and animals we share this land and ocean with.
  • David Masters
    commented 2016-12-28 01:25:28 +1300
    I agree with almost all of the immigration policy but i do have a problem with the restrictions on Working Holiday Visas. WHV are generally a reciprocal agreement. I, like many Kiwis for a number of years, have benefited from these. They are a great opportunity for young people to see the world and I would not like this opportunity to be lost.
  • Roger Barker
    commented 2016-12-27 20:17:05 +1300
    Thanks for your responses, Steve. I think we’re agreed that we need a population policy, and a good starting-point is for a real debate around the “ideal” size of population that NZ can sustain and provide a reasonable standard of living for. Big questions like that must come first before we tackle subsidiary but still important questions about the rate of increase, source of immigrants,, age profile, etc.

    My second issue is, I agree, much trickier, and I certainly don’t have any detailed suggestions to offer. But I’m not sure there is much difference in principle between the old forms of colonization whereby rich countries took physical resources from poorer countries and the newer form whereby the rich countries buy up the best human resources from the poorer countries. To take an obvious example, if we are concerned about an in-balance of access to health services between different parts of New Zealand, should we not also be concerned about a similar in-balance between rich and poor countries?
  • Seann Paurini
    commented 2016-12-27 09:03:18 +1300
    Hi Oliver Krollman, thanks. I do like the way TOP is communicating its policies; taking a “scaffolding” approach is so helpful.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-26 14:24:46 +1300
    Hi Roger
    You are worried about taking skilled migrants from countries that may need those people more than us.
    I feel we cannot turn such migrants down if they want to come to NZ because there may be a perception of racism. We will be turning them down because of where they come from, not their talent.
    Perhaps instead we should be looking at our own education system? Are we producing enough of this skill? If so, are a significant number heading off overseas? Are there better prospects for them overseas? Are our employers underpaying them (maybe because they can get migrants cheaper)? Can we bond these skilled people to stay in NZ for a period of time as repayment for their training?
    Lots of questions with different answers for different skills.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2016-12-26 11:43:00 +1300
    Nice and positive response, Seann, and pretty much the same way that I feel about it.
    Really looking forward to the remaining five policies in the new year.
  • Seann Paurini
    commented 2016-12-26 11:22:37 +1300
    Another promising policy. I’m glad I’ve joined The Opportunities Party. I like to be able to separate ideology and real life when thinking about political realities right now. I think looking at some of the ‘big’ questions that face us in a more detached/reasonable way – putting the ‘bread and butter’ issues under a microscope – focused on the most pressing problems – has way more potential than joining the inefficient, wasteful, lowly games of the ‘mainstream’. At this point – where so much unproductive chaos drives the political situation of this country; I’m giving TOP a chance to see how we go and I’m going to encourage as many folks as possible to really think about this incredible country’s future – we can do so much better for more of us in ’God’s Own’. Thanks Gareth and co.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-23 16:59:24 +1300
    Hi Roger
    if I may comment on the population policy part of your comment.
    Several years ago Russel Norman said the Greens thought 4.5 million should be NZ’s maximum population. They now mention no number other the Ministry of the Environment’s carrying capacity estimate of 5.7 million. At our current rate of immigration we’ll be past 5.0 million in five years or less.

    If we look at most western nations we can see they have whole suburbs of immigrants and/or un-assimilated descendants of immigrants. This results in anything from mild discontent to riots. If NZ continues its current 1.5% population growth through immigration we run the risk of creating our own version of this. Then we get the backlash of a Brexit, Trump or …

    Whatever other aspects are developed around an immigration and population policy it must also question if the number of migrants are capable of being assimilated into NZ society. We should expect migrants to become Kiwis and not create their own little home away from home.
  • Roger Barker
    commented 2016-12-23 15:42:23 +1300
    Let’s try to be clear what our principle is in any policy area, without getting too hung up on the details of how it might be applied in practice. Those details are important, of course, but only as a secondary consideration after we have stated the principle. For example, the principle of a living wage is one of human dignity before it is one of practical economics. To pay an employee less than the living wage is to deny that person’s full worth as a fellow human being. If that is agreed as a principle then employment law must prohibit the payment of wages at any lesser rate, whether or not we have a U.B.I.

    On immigration, it seems to me, we first need an agreed population policy. What is our desired population number for, say, 10 years time? What sort of age profile do we want? What sort of annual increase do we envisage? How will we meet the increased demands for housing, health, education etc?

    And here’s an issue that is beginning to nag. Yes, we want highly skilled, educated immigrants, but should we be concerned if we are recruiting them from countries where their need is greater than ours?
  • Chris Blythe
    commented 2016-12-23 13:49:37 +1300
    Back to Rick. I don’t think the evidence here is strong. Correlation does not imply causation. I would like to see the proportion of migrants in low income jobs, how many kiwis in low income jobs etc. I also have a concern that there is a tone of migrants causing low wages. Migrants are responding to opportunities created by a ruthless market economy. NZ has an aging population and low birth rate, the working population is decreasing. Migration is needed to ensure we have a workforce to drive the economy. If low wages are an issue,don’t blame the migrants. Blame the economic system that exploits them. Keen to see where TOP sits on this. Sounds like a regulated market economy is being proposed? I’m OK with that, just trying to place the party in economic context,
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2016-12-23 12:42:34 +1300
    Hi Paul
    Back when Michael Cullen was Finance Minister there was a call by companies to reduce the company tax rate to match the Australian rate. Cullen agreed that he could do that, But he would have to introduce a Payroll Tax just like Australia had. The silence from companies was deafening – this was the last thing they wanted.
    So UBI and Minimum Wage. On the introduction of UBI announce that the minimum wage was to drop from the current $15.25 to $10.00. But this 35% reduction had to be matched by ALL salaries and wages being reduced by 35% because, well, everyone is getting the UBI.
    Now all I have to think of is how to stop certain of those salaries being boosted back to what they were a before the cut.
  • Susan Jones
    commented 2016-12-23 12:35:04 +1300
    I agree that Immigration needs attention. The last ten years has been disasterous for low paid workers, and can only get worse with no action being taken to remedy it. Paphaps now John Key has gone TOP will be a stronger voice for change
  • Paul Elwell-Sutton
    commented 2016-12-23 11:48:33 +1300
    Hi Steve,
    Yes, I agree that employers will see UBI as a subsidy to push wages down, and that is something we need to brainstorm about and devise a means to short-circuit such moves.
    I don’t have a ready answer.