Why Trump’s immigration policies are an opportunity for NZ

I’ve had a lot of people asking me what The Opportunities Party’s (TOP) response is to the volley of executive orders issued by Donald Trump in his first week of office. Like many, I guess I have been surprised that he is moving so fast to “honour” the campaign promises he made, many of which seemed outrageous at the time – and of course he seems to have run into legal walls already, trying to ban residents from even returning to the US. Not bad for just one week in office.


More seriously, like any progressive person I wouldn’t think twice about disagreeing with the regressive and prejudiced policies Trump promotes. Migration, when managed well, is unreservedly a bonus for any country. But migrant profiling, based on what country a migrant hails from, could be seen as purely a political play to incite the basic instincts of fear and bigotry that reside in some of his target audience.

I don’t believe for one moment that is what underlies the Trump dogma. No, Trump is reflecting the fear that has seized America - fear of job loss, fear of mass killings in America, fear of losing sons in silly wars in foreign places, and fear of terrorism from ISIS et al spreading throughout Western democracies (rather than just being in far flung, foreign places like Istanbul etc).

So I suggest it is way, way too simplistic to describe these actions as being driven by bigotry and racism. No, this is the result of the reality that since 9/11 of 2001 America has not “won” its war against terrorism. So he has said “let’s close it down - shut the rest of the world out”. Donald Trump has a similar view on world trade, he feels it has lost America jobs and I expect him to follow a similar isolationist approach in that area.

Like any group, Muslims and Mexicans are incredibly broad cultures that reflect predominantly wonderful people and of course include a few bad apples. Any group of migrants brings positives and negatives with them, but tarring everyone with the same brush is just wrong and it will feed the worst instincts within an American population that is not that long from the days of Ku Klux Klan and other extremism.

Trump might argue that by banning everyone from a certain country he’s really just ensuring the worst don’t enter America. But the loss from banning the innocent will be significant, and the message he’s sending to Americans that it’s okay to attack the innocent all in the name of excluding the guilty, is just horrendous.

To me the more interesting question is now that Trump is showing his hand and we have a taste of the disruption to come, what this means for New Zealand? In my view it presents an opportunity to make our country the place where talent wants to live. That is why Trudeau’s response was so powerful – while it focused on refugees it sent a powerful message to the globe about Canada’s values, that include being open to migrants from all countries. The subtext for economic migrants is clear; if you are good people, you’ll be welcome here.

Of course any country has a limited capacity to absorb migrants and in New Zealand our view is that we have a moral obligation to refugees and we should set quotas that correspond to our capacity to absorb them, while with economic migrants the criteria should be centred around whether their presence improves the well-being of New Zealanders. Take it as read that the number wanting to come to New Zealand is infinite.

An Opportunity to Trump America

Part of what made America great (in the past) is that it was able to call on the best talent from all around the world. Researcher Richard Florida credits growth in the age of Information Technology with what he calls the 3T’s: Technology, Talent and Tolerance. Simply put, his theory is that tolerance attracts talent, and when combined with technology you tend to get rapid progress; just look at Silicon Valley.

Under Trump that looks to be no longer the case. Instead of taking the best talent, irrespective of where they come from, Trump is desperately trying to make it harder for terrorists. It is a simplistic approach, that risks backfiring. As Britain closes its doors on Europe, Trump is closing America’s doors to the world. By becoming less tolerant societies they will no longer attract the top talent. Trudeau sees that as an opportunity for Canada, and so should we.

Labour and the Greens have condemned Trump’s prejudice, and we agree with their position. Our PM remains silent, presumably because he thinks it is in our best interest to stay on Trump’s good side. Such is the additional weight of being in Office.

My message to our leaders is this. Regardless of your stance on the morality of the Trump card, we should be leaping at this opportunity to reaffirm that New Zealand is open to the best talent from around the world; we remain a tolerant, progressive society.

TOP’s Immigration Policy

When we released our TOP Policy #2: Smarter Immigration, most of the focus went on the problems in our immigration system that have been letting in low skilled migrants. However, our policy is to increase our access to international talent and clamp down on low skilled migration. In other words, given New Zealand’s limited capacity to absorb migrants, our immigration policy is about improving the quality of our migrants overall.

What does it mean to be a Kiwi?

As we set out in our migration policy, new citizens (or new New Zealanders) need to be signed up to the Kiwi values and way of life. What are they? Each of us probably has a fair idea, but what do we give to new migrants for them to sign up? This is one reason TOP thinks we need to start developing a Constitution, making it clear what kind of country we want to live in.

We’ll be talking about this more as part of our TOP Policy #4: Democracy Reset.

Showing 21 reactions

  • Steven jones
    commented 2017-02-08 10:56:07 +1300
    David Lange I think had many NZers behind him, these days too many only stand behind their wallets and BE knows this IMHO.
  • Nikki Phillips
    commented 2017-02-08 09:33:43 +1300
    Re Donald Trump, I think Trudeau has got it right and what Bill English lacks is the spine of David Lange.
  • Nikki Phillips
    commented 2017-02-08 09:32:17 +1300
    This last paragraph doesn’t appeal to me. “New citizens (or New Zealanders) need to be signed up tot he Kiwi values and way of life. What are they?” If that was the case, New Zealand would be filled with speakers of te reo Maori practicing tikanga Maori. Instead, it seems that the “Opportunities Party” wants people to sign up to the imported European/predominantly English values that migrated to New Zealand some time ago.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-02-04 15:22:52 +1300
  • Steven jones
    commented 2017-02-01 15:07:58 +1300
    “Concerns me it is to easy to end up letting in people with money” indeed, I agree with you both. Too many people seem to be getting money via “high” finance which is really parasitic in natuer and damaging to economies and ordinary people. Hence really for me these are the very people we want kept out of NZ at all costs.
  • Tim Watson
    commented 2017-02-01 14:40:55 +1300
    If we want to attract the right kind of immigrants then we need to protect the things in New Zealand that attract these people. Namely the environment and the quality of life. We have been taking these for granted for far too long and we risk losing the things that make this place special.
  • Philip Lissaman
    commented 2017-02-01 12:19:54 +1300
    Agree with Brian Beuke"s comment. So very very true and so very very seldom said.
  • Steven jones
    commented 2017-02-01 08:36:21 +1300
    Simon Williams, yes marketing, the capitalist tool to make us buy more and more so we’ll be happy, long term as a species marketing is proving detrimental to our continued existence. I do think it is indeed per capita as true wealth is our resources which are limited in production and finite. I mean a paper dollar is an IOU for work/energy so when we get more “valuable” migrants who generate more $s its an illusion IMHO the dollars cannot be cashed there isnt enough energy to underwrite them all. Sadly it seems even an economist like Gareth Morgan seems to think we can grow for ever.
  • Gordon Ngai
    commented 2017-02-01 05:15:54 +1300
    I agree that Technology, Talent and Tolerance are the most important components to be successful in information age. Without tolerance, there will be no diversity. Diversity was what made America Great. Both Google and Microsoft are now run by non-native born Americans.

    Pichai Sundararajan is the current chief executive officer (CEO) of Google Inc.
    Satya Narayana Nadella is the current chief executive officer (CEO) of Microsoft.
    Both were born in India.
  • Jeff France
    commented 2017-01-31 22:54:15 +1300
    While it is true that the American University system has pulled the brightest, talented and richest kids from around the world to fuel it’s tech industries, it is notable that Trump’s isolationist policies are just turning it up to 11. The U.S. began suffering a loss of brain power since 911 and the policies that followed. Countries like NZ, Australia, the UK and Germany have all benefited since.
  • Simon Williams
    commented 2017-01-31 21:33:52 +1300
    Steve Jones. You’re right. Ultimately, the more immigrants we take in, the more we will need to sacrifice for ourselves. And yet, ultimately, isn’t that what giving IS? Isn’t that the important lesson we’re all forgetting here in our first-world, twenty-first century selfishness? Isn’t that what our consumerist brainwashing of “more, more, better, better” has led us away from?
  • Steven jones
    commented 2017-01-31 21:01:31 +1300
    Grow for ever on a finite planet Gareth? mathematically it cannot happen.

    Peak oil means we’ll produce a lot less food as the oil output per day declines, ergo we cant keep taking in migrants.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-01-31 19:35:09 +1300
    We have this failing in NZ that our rules are not enforced and/or don’t have any enforcement mechanism.
    i would like to see it that when we give someone access to NZ there are requirements depending on the type of access.
    If the OIO allows land to bought under certain conditions then those conditions have to be met. If after, say 5 years, the conditions are checked and haven’t been met then the OIO’s initial position should be “Sell the land and go away”. It falls to the land purchaser to prove (in court – no back-room deals) that the failure to meet the condition was beyond their control.
    Similarly an entrepreneur has to show they’ve done something here in NZ.
    If they come to NZ with a valued skill then they have to show they used that skill here. A software programmer who instead opened a back-packers scores a fail. Although if he was a programmer for three years till his employer went broke then … maybe.
    To achieve this though the legislation needs to be stronger and the relevant agencies better funded to do their job.
  • Simon Williams
    commented 2017-01-31 18:06:52 +1300
    I don’t envy Bill English in this situation, but nor do I sympathise with him. I’m sure he is very aware of the potential damage that Trump could cause New Zealand, so he is perhaps naturally being a little cautious about sticking his (our) neck out at this stage. What I think he needs to recognise, though, is that Trump would be just as dangerous to our small country if we approach him sycophantically (as his counterparts in Britain and Australia seem to be doing so far) in the hopes of some kind of trading relationship as he would be if we were to overtly reject what he stands for, as Canada appears to be doing.

    I don’t like bullies. Never have. And Trump is a bully. So the real question is how do we, as a nation, respond to a bully, even if it is likely to cost us. In fact, the question is how Bill English will choose to respond to a bully. I hope, I really do, it will be with principle over pragmatism.
  • Frances Palmer
    commented 2017-01-31 17:23:36 +1300
    Agree – if we don’t know what we stand for, we’ll fall for anything (someone said this long before me) Sir Geoffrey Palmer/A Butlers current book discussing the NZ Constitution is well worth a read for a wider view also. Available now via Victoria Uni Press Enjoyed this post, thanks
  • Steve Cox
    followed this page 2017-01-31 17:02:56 +1300
  • Saxton Dearing
    commented 2017-01-31 15:48:33 +1300
    By quality I presume you mean well healed with the belief they are in someway special? Enough already!
  • Brian Beuke
    commented 2017-01-31 15:25:13 +1300
    Concerns me it is to easy to end up letting in people with money, instead of those with skills ambition and drive who will create somthing money can’t buy.
  • Tom Test
    followed this page 2017-01-31 13:42:05 +1300
  • Louise Laws
    commented 2017-01-31 13:31:04 +1300
    New Zealand has an uncodified constitution. The New Zealand Constitution Act 1986 gave our nation the power to govern our selves through the principles of democracy (MMP) and, therefore no longer be governed directly by England’s parliament which was necessary for the genesis after the invasion on Maori.

    Many of my ancestors signed a codified constitution with the British Monarchy but my ancestors contract was not included. Today my ancestors are disappointed that the ‘wairua’ of Te Tiriti O Waitangi is lost within the laws of our current parliamentary Westminster system and consequently our constitution comprises of written and unwritten laws and conventions which are dominantly pakeha principles.
  • Chris Skilton
    commented 2017-01-31 13:04:40 +1300
    Spot on!