Refugee Quota Conversation

Let me state from the outset that I think New Zealand should be taking more refugees. New Zealand’s refugee quota has been set at 750 since 1997 and in that time our population has grown about 20% so at the least we should have kept track with that. I think today we can do more than that but both the Labour Party of last decade and the current National Government have stalled this and have not yet increased numbers. This problem is not about Mr. Key and ‘the right‘ it’s about politics in NZ from the political spectrum ignoring the issue for nearly two decades even though there is a review every three years.

Now in saying that I firmly believe that the quota of refugees to NZ should be increased, I also want to bring some accuracy to this conversation. If any of you have ever heard me on talk-back before you’ll know that I have an almost militant desire to be factual and fair and I think a fair point to make right now is that we seem to do more for refugees in NZ that other countries.

We were challenged on Q&A on Sunday morning that if we to step up to the refugee plate even as well as Australia did, then we’d be taking 3,000 refugees. I thought I’d look into that.

Currently Australia takes 13,750 refugees pa with the Federal Government budgeting nearly $143 million for settlement. New Zealand takes 750 refugees with the Government budgeting $20,190,000 in the 2015 budget. NZ takes one refugee for every 5,900 citizens whereas Australia takes one refugee for ever 1,700 citizens so they appear to be much more open and welcoming, however NZ spends $27,000 per refugee whereas Australia spends just $10,400, on average, on each refugee.

John Key claimed that one of the reasons we accept fewer refugees is that we provide full wrap around services and it would appear drawing the unspoken conclusion that other countries don’t do that. I think that there is validity in that claim if, like Australia, other countries are spending far less per refugee than we do in New Zealand.

So whilst I want to state again that we should definitely be taking more refugees I don’t think we’re having the correct conversation. Assuming that the budget remains the same for settlement of refugees in NZ, what we should be asking is “should we take more refugees and give them fewer services and help, or should we continue to provide the full wrap around services we have for the refugees we are currently receiving?”

Or, of course, we could all open our wallets, Government included, and give more to help those in need.

By 4pm today NZ will be at war

John+Key+Prime+Minister+John+Key+Welcomes+taXx7-vF6yhlBy 4pm today New Zealand will be at war, not ‘possibly’, not ‘figuratively’ but literally at war and it will not be by consensus of the New Zealand Government.

The National Party of New Zealand, under the Prime Minister will have decided to put our troops in harms way without the approval of the people of New Zealand, or the majority of our representatives in Parliament.

There are many things that concern me about this, and to be clear the least of them is retaliation on home soil by an extremist group, but one of the most concerning issues is that even John Key doesn’t seem so clear on the issue.

This morning Mr. Key was on TV 3’s Firstline talking over what is to be announced today with reference to sending troops to Iraq. Mr. Key made a flimsy comparison to what Helen Clark did when she sent engineers to Iraq. This is a practice that the National Government uses often, which is saying “well they did it, so so can we.” It’s an attempt to block attacks from Labour and to try to paint them as hypocrites if they criticise the National Government’s moves. This is a valid manoeuvre if the comparisons are equal and opposite but unfortunately for Key in this instance they are not.

The Helen Clark led Labour Government sent “two rotations of 61 engineers [to spend] a year in Basra from September 2003, performing engineering and humanitarian tasks.” This can hardly be compared to training soldiers to kill in combat circumstances.

The most concerning issue is that Mr. Key claims we are not going to be war, but then also acknowledges that he is not sure if this is war or not.

From the interview when asked if we are going to war.

…on the basis that we provide training neither would we be [going to war]. So, you know, if you’re out there and you’ve got your soldiers running around involved in fire-fights and, y’know, your bombing people or whatever the ‘Yup’ you’re at war, but I’m not sure that’s the same case if you’re providing training.

I’m not sure that’s the case” are the six most concerning words to me in this whole debacle.

There is every chance that NZ soldiers are going to end up in fire fights (whilst training Iraqis) and be killed…and John Key is “not sure” if we are at war or not.

To me it sounds like how Vietnam wasn’t a war but a ‘Police Action’ and my vote is to stay out of it.

Time for John Key to admit he has mislead the country

Key press conferenceIn the light of revelations today that John Key admitted in a press conference that he was “told me that [Warren Tucker] had released them because he has to tell me that under the ‘no surprises’ policy.” Earlier in the press conference he also made comment about having information whilst in the United States about Phil Goff and speaking about it while over there. This also obviously puts into question Mr. Key’s claim yesterday that he wasn’t briefed about Cameron Slaters OIA request because he was on holiday. Mr. Key obviously was active with conversations with ‘someone’ when he was on holiday to get the skinny on Mr. Goff, why would we then believe that the SIS didn’t inform him about this bombshell that was about to come out?

A couple of things

If Mr. Key did, or didn’t lie, it actually makes no difference as he is 100% responsible for the actions of the SIS and his office, he is responsible and therefore needs to take responsibility.

Section 3.5 of the Cabinet Manual states

Ministers decide both the direction and the priorities for their departments. They should not be involved in their departments’ day-to-day operations. In general terms, Ministers are responsible for determining and promoting policy, defending policy decisions, and answering in the House on both policy and operational matters. 

I bring your attention to – Ministers are responsible for defending policy decision and answering operational matters. 

So whether Mr. Key did, or did not know what was happening in his office whilst he was on holiday in Hawaii he cannot claim “I wasn’t informed” as he was still responsible…not just ethically, but according to the rules of Parliament

Secondly, if we take for a moment that Mr. Key had no knowledge of the meeting, and we choose not to hold him accountable for what should be his responsibility, then his department is failing in its duty. A department that he still needs to take responsibility for.

Section 3.16(a) of the Cabinet Manuel states

In their relationship with Ministers, officials should be guided by a “no surprises” principle. They should inform Ministers promptly of matters of significance within their portfolio responsibilities, particularly where these matters may be controversial or may become the subject of public debate.

The section states that officials should inform Ministers, not the Ministers office, not the Ministers aides, not ‘don’t worrying about not informing them if they are on holiday”. John Key was the Minister, this was the release of a document to a blogger which was going to be “controversial” and “become the subject of public debate”, therefore if John Key wasn’t informed, it’s a catastrophic failure in his own department…for which he is responsible. 

John Key needs to now fess up and tell the public of New Zealand the truth. If I was advising John Key I would say, ‘front foot this, tell them you lied, ask them to forgive you, and state that you still believe that you, and the National Party are the best option in this election.” If he doesn’t take control of this situation now, he could well be sitting in opposition as I predicted 18 months ago.

So where we are at is either Mr. Key has lied, or his office and department are incompetent, it must be one of the two, and neither situation sits comfortably with the office of any Prime Minister.

It’s about much more than just policy

Since the Nicky Hager book Dirty Politics came out seven days ago we have heard the catch cry “let’s talk about policy.”

Whilst the idea of talking important is extremely important, I’ll move away from the pack a bit and offer the suggestion that it’s about a lot more than just policy.

Let me explain.

I believe that policy is incredibly important, but likewise the calibre of those implementing that policy is equally important and that’s why the revelations in Dirty Politics are incredibly valuable to the voters of New Zealand.

I have talked about this before with the Len Brown debacle and challenged Don Brash in 2011 as to how important it was to understand what happens ‘behind closed doors’ where we asked him acknowledging his two affairs and asked how could the people of NZ trust him when his closest relationships couldn’t? He responded that it was a fair enough question. It matters.

If you disagree with me let me ask you these questions. Would you vote for a known tax avoider? Would you vote for a wife beater? Would you vote for a paedophile? Whilst I acknowledge that the last example there is extreme, what it demonstrates is that we all have our lines within the calibre of a person, that we find important enough to influence our vote. The question here is not that Nicky Hager’s book is irrelevant to the election and we should be talking about policy, the question is if the accusations and issues in the book cross that line of importance for you to influence you vote as it’s shows the calibre of the person/people.

I do hope we don’t only hear about Dirty Politics from now until September 20th, but I have to be honest with you, if you think that it doesn’t matter at all when we talk about the calibre of the person making decisions that effect us all, then I believe you are either being disingenuous or naive.

PS – We have a chance to speak with Nicky Harger for 20 minutes of this weeks Slightly Correct which you can check out here