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You may say I'm a dreamer | Sep 16, 2005 02:17

In 1975 my parents witnessed their first real election. Drunk on the exciting freedoms of multi-party democracy, they cast their vote according to conscience not strategy, and as the results came in, they discovered that they were the only two people in Mt Roskill who had voted for ...the Values Party.

Bada-boom CHING!

True story, apparently. It may have just been a partial count that came up onscreen, but every family's got to start their national foundation-mythology somewhere. A secret ballot was something so special and worth savouring that they even kept their votes a secret from each other - it was only revealed when they saw that TV election special scan down to Roskill.

Phil Goff: seventeen million
National Party: not many, if any
Values Party: two.

In the tradition of antidemocracy and unsecret ballots, here are some thoughts on who I think my parents are voting for. No prizes for guessing how I vote - and who cares anyway? I'm totally predictable politically, as is everyone else on Public Address (except maybe Keith). Parents though... everyone loves a story about Tze Ming's parents and their quaint, Southeast Asian Doctory ways - how did they produce a daughter like that, and with their upper-middle-class tax bracket, which way will they go on Saturday?

At about the age of seven, trying to decipher the Herald front page, I asked dad "what's tax?"

"Tax is the means by which the collective will extracts wealth from the bourgeoisie in order to build the glory of the state through monumental architecture!" he exhorted, spittle flying across the room onto the portrait of Kim Il Sung. "Never forget my child, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few!" He thumped the Little Red Book rhythmically on the dining room table to emphasise his utilitarian diction.

Ah, no. Actually he harrumphed and said "Well income tax is a levy from individual income, collected by the government."

Cutting my losses with whatever 'income', 'individual' and 'government' were, I went straight for the jugular with my potent follow-up: "Um... What's a levy?"

Sweating now like Pansy Wong the other week, his comeback was something along the lines of: 'It's... it's a tax!'

Not a great communicator my Chinese-guy dad. After that fruitless experience, I gave up on talking to my parents about politics for at least another seven years. Along the way, ethics were formed through reading the Isaac Asimov Robot series in Mt Roskill Public Library, and socialism and race-consciousness turned up through finding a lot of rich white girls at my highschool to be kind of mean, snobby, spoilt and racist. I think I may have actually assumed during this time that my parents were conservatives... weren't everyone's parents conservatives? Especially Chinese doctor parents?

I should have noticed that my mother, ever an oldschool Chinese pragmatist, would always say her favourite song was Lennon's 'Imagine'. "It's very sensible," she'd say. A rather grounded, kitchen-floor-scrubbing entryway into hippy ideology. She was never a hippy though. Being a hippy was actually illegal in Singapore. One would expect those 70s ideals to have lessened over time. And in fact last night, almost bashfully, apologetically, ma said to me "it's terrible, but as I get older I just get more and more intolerant....

...of conservative right-wingers."

Leftened over time then.

This surely meant I had a good chance of avoiding the tendency of becoming more conservative as I got older, and like her, may become more radical with age. She disagreed, noting that I was a nutbar radical to start with, and would find it difficult to build upon that. "I was much more conservative when I came here," she said, "I came from Singapore, remember?"

Why, how could anyone forget! Oh wait, I'm thinking of that other woman from Singapore.

Given the Values Party punt on her first go at voting, she probably meant morally or socially conservative. Decades of working at the Alice Bush Family Planning clinic on K'Road though, that'll tear you a new moral vacuum. But I suspect she was always left wing. Unlike the situation of Paul Buchanan who chose to immigrate to New Zealand in the late 1990s on the vague impression he gained from a 50-year old brochure that it was a socialist paradise, it turns out my parents came here for the actually existing socialist paradise qualities of 1973. Then, throughout the 80s and 90s, they wished we'd gone to Canada instead, but tried not to mention it.

Ma has just given up her surgery practice, mostly out of 20 years of accumulated reform fatigue. For 23 years, she ran a GP practice in Orakei, on the corner of Kepa Rd and Kupe St. She's giving away the game to the Ngati Whatua marae clinic - they're a better deal for her patients. PHOs may have worn her out, but her view is that the system just needs some fine-tuning, and the results are actually being seen. The people who need primary care most are finally getting it, lots of it, and this is bringing down hospital admissions. My ma, she's so down with the streets that her doctoring acronym is Doctor RAP - look, she even tags it over her own bronze doctor-plaque. Here she is, frontin' all ruffneck on her last day, with Doctor Who, Milford Gangsta.

She was in the doldrums last night with the election odds turning. "The country back into debt!" she groaned, "Not again! It's so depressing!" She was slumped into my couch, reluctantly watching the Leaders' Debate. "Hey look, he's saying Helen Clark's not mainstream!" I mocked, trying to maintain cheer, "Oh, actually he's saying anyone who doesn't want a tax cut isn't mainstream! That's you! Mum, did you know you weren't mainstream?"
"So dePRESSing."
"Oh but if they get in, they won't be able to get the tax cuts past Winston Peters mum, don't worry, they won't be able to do anything. And then their government will collapse in like, a year or less." I don't like seeing my mother unhappy. I'll say anything!
"SO dePRESSing."

She then watched part of the marijuana-is-bad-for-kids'-brains-mkay? documentary and totally agreed that marijuana is bad for kids' brains mkay? She's a doctor, mkay? Then announced she was voting Green. "I think they lie the least," she said firmly.

My mum is cool.

Later, there was a commemorative tear or two watching Jordis (half Tongan! That means she's practically a New Zealander) sing 'Imagine' on Rockstar: INXS. I think it's narrowing down to a two-horse race between Marty and Suzie. Jordis is so great, but - let's just say I've imagined her future. And I'm not the only one.

And dad? He's a retired radiologist who used to work on the Shore, so I think he may have never actually met a Maori or a prostitute. And I think he's actually voting Progressive. Now that's retro.

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No-one is illegal: Quality Assurance Programme Overload | Sep 14, 2005 01:29

As welcome as he is to the ranks, Taito Phillip Field should really have quit Cabinet before joining my comrades at the No Border Network. But now he's here, say it with me now bro, no-one is illegal!

And I do believe that. So I stand by the props I gave to Field for actually trying to help someone overcome the institutional (or as some prefer it, 'accidental') racism of the immigration system, while also noting simultaneously that for someone in Field's position, it was badly judged, politically naive, objectively exploitative, and bore the unavoidable whiff of corruption. Philip, you gotta refine your technique. There's some great stuff being done with border camps these days. Failing that, you can get a whole lot of passive-resistance activists together and form a human shield. And failing even that, fly your threatened-deportee to safety, then pay them at least the minimum wage to tile your house. If you were really going to be fair, make sure they weren't actually a tiler to begin with. In fact, the crapper they were at tiling, the more ethical your actions would be.

I don't know, maybe the minimum wage in Samoa is NZ$2 an hour.

I haven't found any actual new information since the TVNZ story broke on Monday, so all the information here on the case comes from that text and video-clip. Field, the MP for Mangere, flew Thai tiler Sunan Siriwan to Samoa to work on his house for $100 a week, while Field supported his application for a New Zealand work permit. The permit was subsequently granted by a Cabinet colleague (Field being Assoc. Minister Pacific, Damien O'Connor being Assoc. Minister Immigration). O'Connor denied knowledge of Siriwan's activities in Samoa.

Does it stink? I might be able provide some useful information, beyond the usual radical-absurdist ranting.

No, really.

In a former life, during the Year of the Tampa and 9/11, I was a Refugee Status Officer for the Refugee Status Branch of the N(no vowel here, no sirree)ZIS, and so, have a passing familiarity with the Visa & Permits system. I'm not a V&P expert, but here's what I can help you with.

Is it remarkable for Immigration Ministers to 'intervene' in visa matters? Hardly. There's a whole section of the Immigration Service set up exactly for appeals to the Immigration Ministers. It's called 'Ministerials', and its entire business is recommending to Ministers whether or not to make exceptions. O'Connor's letter was probably a template. If you don't say to everyone who gets a Ministerial reprieve that it's an 'exception', then everyone will want one.

Do 'personal representations' from MPs make much of a difference in Immigration Ministerials? Possibly not any more than from any other respected members of the public. Or at least, they shouldn't. MPs write letters for their constituents to the Immigration Minister all the time - a letter from your MP may even be a prequisite or de facto standard-issue for a Ministerial appeal, I can't quite recall. They also send them to Immigration Officers and Refugee Status Officers (who shove them down the back of a filing cabinet and get on with their first-instance determination jobs). They do it in their capacity as constituent MPs, and any influence they might have on the Immigration Minister should be nonpartisan. We don't know what kind of 'personal representation' (TVNZ's term) Field made to O'Connor, but based on what I do know, I see no reason to disbelieve O'Connor's statement that he made the decision to grant Siriwan's permit on the facts of the case before him. The fact that specialist roofers are on the NZIS Immediate Skill Shortage List tends to support this opinion, don't you think? Tiles go on roofs, right? Especially in Thailand. If Field was on top of his Immigration Skill Shortage lists (you'd have to be if you were repping Mangere), his ears would have pricked up twofold once Siriwan's tiling-experience came to light. Uncovering that skill would have given Siriwan a good shot at Ministerial appeal on merit alone.

So as little love as I have for the Immigration system (and I have very very little love for it) I don't think it's been abused by Cabinet nudge-winking in this case, at least from the information I have at my disposal. Questions over behaviour here are all isolated around Field. If my hypothesis about O'Connor's clean role in this affair holds up, it is damning that Field didn't disclose his employer-relationship with Siriwan to the Assoc. Minister for Immigration. I can't think of another reason he failed to disclose other than he knew it would look bad and jeopardise Siriwan's chances. Which it has now done, with O'Connor running back to his files like a good clean bureaucrat. So let us judge. Why not. I've determined hundreds of asylum-claims, I should be able to deal with one MP on a Tuesday night.

1. If Siriwan had stayed in New Zealand as an overstayer without help with his permit application, he would likely have been deported, given that the same fate had just befallen his de facto partner and child (NB: Thai marriages tend not to be officially written down, except in the brain of Buddha). As stated in the TVNZ clip, part of the reason why Field thought it would be a great idea to pay Siriwan's way to Samoa was to help him avoid deportation. Nice big softhearted tick.

2. Field didn't pay him anywhere near the New Zealand minimum wage for the job. Lose the nice big softhearted tick. But this is just a cosmetic blemish branching off the bigger badder picture.

3. Which is this: If Siriwan hadn't been a tiler, from what we know so far, Field wouldn't have flown him to Samoa to remove him from the threat of deportation. Consistency breaks down. The supported flight from the deportation threat (a previous deportation being a big black mark in applying for a work permit) was a matter of happy coincidence and mutual benefit. If Field had been just a local businessman, everything he'd done would have been perfectly acceptable. But he is not just a local businessman. The guanxi ghost starts to raise its head and howl. When do happy coincidences start to set precedents for expectations of mutual benefit for any person seeking aid from their MP? Big black mark. Red pen. Quality Assurance Programme Overload. System malfunction. You cannot expect vulnerable migrants from countries that run on guanxi to not make assumptions, to not play along with systems that you've set up for them, unintentionally or not.

4. But ultimately, laying low and laying tiles in Samoa was not what got Siriwan the work permit. If Siriwan had been a viticulturalist, an occupation also on the Immediate Skill Shortage list, and Field had no jones for a Samoan vineyard, he would have left Siriwan hiding from Border & Investigations in a Mangere garage. But there's nothing to suggest that Field wouldn't have written to Ministerials supporting Siriwan's work permit application as any MP doing their job would - nor that the permit wouldn't have been granted in accordance with skill shortage requirements. Would he have done so? It's impossible to answer. But if my faith in the despicable system holds up, no points lost here.

5. If Siriwan had absolutely no skills required by the NZIS Skill Shortage lists - if he like so many other seasonal or illegal Thai workers in hock to their moneylenders had been a goddamn paddy farmer - Field's support would probably not have been enough to qualify him for a work permit even if the character-reference was just as convincing. So it's impossible to even construct a hypothetical test here. By default, no points lost.

6. No disclosure to Immigration in Field's support for the work permit, that he was also employing Siriwan. Extrinsic justification of benefit to deserving migrant outweighed by instrinsic dishonesty and damage to transparent process. No excuse (even if he hadn't hired him yet). Heading for the shredder.

Application declined. Taito Phillip Field you have failed as a responsible politician and MP, while weirdly enough, in concrete terms, proving yourself a better friend on the ground to Asian migrants than Steven Ching has been. You fucked up big-time, but I don't quite yet believe you're a bad guy. Too bad for you that it's three days 'til the election. I doubt that even a human shield can save you now. Is it time to say fa?

Update: new article in Herald today, but not online, has Clark backing Field as "trying to be helpful", and Field stating that there was no formal employment arrangement. He comes off looking 'nice'. No human shields required for now.

Additional notes:

1. Why, as I asked Idiot/Savant, is the government wanting to deport tilers during a skills shortage of specialist roofers? As is clear from the TVNZ story, Siriwan needed Keith Williams (the other tiler) to help him even speak to Field, and also to help him fill out his immigration application. Siriwan was probably in no situation to understand what his rights were, what he was eligible for, or that he actually was just as good as the people that New Zealand is spending big bucks on trying to attract from non-Asian 'traditional' (white) sources of immigration.

2. Policymakers are paid to think and have many competing ideas, and I hope that the concept of regularising and giving real rights to the illegal migrants who are actually already here and who are already working in those shitty jobs we can't seem to lure 'proper' immigrants to come and do, soon starts to get traction in NZIS policy as an alternative to recruiting European holidaymakers to pick apples ... or at least gets as much traction as the idea of derogating from the asylum-provisions of the Refugee Convention currently does. They think about everything down there, even if they know it's really really wrong.

3. Among other things it damaged, my time in the Immigration Service also destroyed my writing style, so apologies if this flashback post seems like it's been written by a lawyer whose hands are in prison and whose head is down the toilet.

4. Ironically, my theme for the May '06 issue of Landfall I've just started guest-editing is 'Borderline'. If you start wondering about any long Yellow Peril silences, blame poetry. Fucking poetry.

5. Or blame the election.

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Voting with your shoes (plus bonus political-journalist lookalike snap) | Sep 13, 2005 09:02

A core-periphery economic microcosm formed with the queue outside Loaded in High Street last Friday - young male Koreans, Japanese, Taiwanese, Hongkies, lining up from 8am. At 5pm the doors opened on 40 pairs of a new line of Nikes likely made in Mainland or Southeast Asian sweatshops.

The boys were pretty, but the shoes were kind of ugly.

Across the street at a cafe, four girls of a more typical sweatshop-worker demographic laughed their asses off in horror. Young women, two Southeast Asian Chinese, a Guji and an Afghan (we really needed a Mainlander to fit the sweatshop bill), three of whom happened to be current or former workers for the New Zealand Immigration Service. I don't know if the boys heard us bitching at them from across the street...

- Oh man, that's not hip-hop!
- D-d-don't believe the hype!
- Some call it street style, I call it... ignorance.

We also recalled the Singaporean Hello Kitty Riots of 2000.

The burgeoning sneaker-freak scene in Auckland has been building an interesting network of young east-Asian guys, some of whom are feeling their way towards a new intercultural political and cultural consciousness. But pan-Asianism for rich Asian boys built around exploitation of poor Asian women? Hmm... nah sorry guys. Try again.

Then again, is Nike getting a bad rap? Since they 'fessed up to sweatshopping and started listing their factory locations earlier this year, here's what the last Corpwatch report said.

What they've eliminated is super exploitation, and now they're just down to plain exploitation.


Here is an overview of the current labour standards in Nike contract factories.

Look, let's be real here. It's not just foreign corporations who benefit from turning a blind-eye to undemocratic labour conditions in undemocratic regimes. The hosts themselves benefit in return. For example, multinationals actually collaborate organically with certain developing-world regimes to put troublesome dissidents away - bonus! Glutter dropped me a line last week - she has been busy with Reporters Sans Frontieres busting Yahoo's sorry snitching ass on this count. It's been discovered that Yahoo collaborated directly with the Chinese government to incriminate cyberdissident Shi Tao, who was imprisoned for ten years in April. Says RSF:

We already knew that Yahoo! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well. Yahoo! obviously complied with requests from the Chinese authorities to furnish information regarding an IP address that linked Shi Tao to materials posted online, and the company will yet again simply state that they just conform to the laws of the countries in which they operate. But does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free it from all ethical considerations? How far will it go to please Beijing? ...It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government's abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate.

It's as good a time as any to close down your Yahoo account. Will Gmail and Google be any better? As previously discussed, Will it really do no evil?

It can be quite a complicated and lengthy affair to ask a human rights worker who also happens to be Chinese, who has lived in China, and has family there who don't work in sweatshops, but who have doubtless benefited from the economic growth that has been built upon those sweatshops, what they think of Free Trade agreements with China. There's an election on, and you are probably wanting to skip to the Mark Sainsbury gag. So I'll keep it brief.

Screw free trade with China. And if you're interested, though my Mainlander associates are doubtless unconventional, they don't want the West to support China's sweatshop culture either. They also don't want to be named. It's too dangerous.

But it's not as if any of us expect that we can stop it. Even Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights didn't hold out much hope when she was asked her opinion on the agreement, on her visit to Auckland earlier this year. Business gets its way, we know that.

Her angle was interesting, in that she seemed to believe that New Zealand would be able to drive a hard bargain with China on labour and human rights standards, if it only goddamn tried. She said that a country like New Zealand can make a difference precisely because we are not America or the UK. If we voice criticisms of human rights and labour conditions, China will accept that they are genuine and not about political points-scoring - because New Zealand is not waging an illegal war, has nothing to gain from standing up for what it believes, and has no power. It's just like the UN! And from her experience, the Chinese government respects that, oldskool style.

The Chinese government's behaviour though, is a constant, it is a given. What the Yahoo collaboration shows is that the behaviour we should be most concerned about, and which we should actually have a shot at changing, is that of businesses from the holy democratic West.

While mulling this sorry state of affairs and watching the lengthening Nike line, Dr Drasnor dropped by, affirmed that the queue for the Nikes was 'out of it', and then made my night at the Food Asia foodcourt downtown when he said: 'See that white guy behind you? Isn't that the guy who hosted the Leaders Debate?'

You guys do all look the same!

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When a policy isn't written down, is it still a policy? A conversation with Pansy Wong | Sep 08, 2005 09:15

She came to the country at the same time as my family, is New Zealand's most left-wing Chinese MP, has an electorate office around the corner from my flat, and tries to talk down to me like she's my mother - yet somehow, Pansy Wong and I just don't click.

But when you've a bee in your bonnet about National Party policy on immigration and 'race-based funding', who you gonna call? Or at least, who's gonna take your call? It took her three weeks of silence and time-switching on me, but the Panzer finally picked up the phone two nights ago, and immediately started scolding me for being disrespectful. Made me feel right at home.

It's hard not to feel some sympathy for Pansy Wong. While the National Party has promoted its 'four year probation period' for migrants as examples of them being tough on immigration issues, I gathered during our interview that Pansy has been sent out to communities to convince them that there will be no change in the existing policy with regard to deportation for criminal offenses. However, the actual party policy does not say this. The actual party policy says very little, but is phrased both bluntly and vaguely. "Those breaking the law will be swiftly returned to their homeland." The question is not whether Pansy Wong's guarantee can be trusted, but whether her interpretation which appears nowhere in the actual policy, will hold any power when the man on the cross-benches starts folding his arms.

On the 4-year probation period, aka 'provisional residency'

TMM: The four-year probation period is something that really struck a nerve and made people feel shocked and betrayed in a lot of communities. Now, you've fought for these communities, you've represented these communities, you must have known that this would have had that effect. What kind of input did you have over that policy issue?

PW: If you look at our policy, 'probation' was never in the policy.

TMM: It's called provisional residency.

PW: Exactly. If you look at the current permanent residency holder, it always come with condition. Okay? ...The [conditions on] criminal offences ... is ten years in the existing law. For the first two years if one commits an offence, that attracts a three month prison term, or commit a crime that attracts a two year imprisonment within a five year period, or a five year period within a ten year period, then your permanent residence will be revoked… We are maintaining that. The four year one is substantially to do with the benefit standdown, that's the only thing that has changed.

TMM: So there is no extension of 'provisional residency'?

PW: only on the benefit standdown, from two to four years. ...The only thing that's changed is really the benefit standdown would be from two to four years.

TMM: Can I clarify, the press release, the original immigration policy press release says in the first sentence, "immigrants will be put on probation for four years" and then that "those who break the criminal law within those four years will be sent home immediately." Does the currently existing law allow for immediate deportation of people who commit a criminal offence?

PW: I'm not too sure which press release you've got.

TMM: This is the one released ninth of August from the New Zealand National Party, 'Brash announces immigration policy'.

PW: Yeah, okay, but…

TMM: The New Zealand National party: "those who break the criminal law will be sent home immediately." Immediate deportation for anyone who breaks the criminal law. Is that not the policy?

PW: As far as the imprisonment one, it's the existing one. The four years has always been linked to benefits.

TMM: There's a separate policy line for that, which is that immigrants will not be able to qualify for welfare benefits for four years.

PW: That's right.

TMM: But the other policy is that: "Immigrants will have to satisfy good-conduct requirements for four years before they can qualify for permanent residence. Those who break the criminal law will be sent home immediately." Will they be residents or not? And will they be able to be deported immediately if they are convicted of a criminal offense, any criminal offense?

PW: Basically it will be in the current law that I'm telling you is first two years three months imprisonment [allows for deportation], first five years is two years imprisonment and first ten years is five years imprisonment.

TMM: But this says anyone who breaks the criminal law. It just says "those who break the criminal law", it doesn't specify how long they have to be charged for, it doesn't say anything about sentencing. It just says if you break the law you'll be deported. Are you saying that's not the policy?

PW: We have on our website, my immigration spokesman should be on the same wavelength on this one. For the good conduct that we always talk about is on two grounds. One is what I told you about, ten years existing criminal offence and the other is the four year benefit standdown.

TMM: Okay, so this apparent threat of deportation, are you saying it's been overstated in the press release, and it's not actually policy?

PW: I have always concentrated on the policy. So I have to go back and reflect on that.

TMM: Well I'll just have a look at it now. Googling New Zealand National Party. [pause as TM accidentally clicks on the tax-calculator and is unable to find a way back to the main party page] I can't find it, where's the policy bit? Where's the policy on the website? Do I have to go backslash-policy?

PW: It should have individual different categories.

TMM: No, it's just taken me to taxcuts. There's no policy, it's just taxcuts! Oh dear. Oh, here we go. You're saying it's not as harsh as that in the actual policy, but seems strange that it has been sold so harshly in the actual media. Let's see 'Brash announces immigration policy', this is the original press release, it's on the site.

PW: Tze Ming, I have always based on substance. There's all sorts of things being sold.

TMM: Yes, there's all sorts of things being sold, so why…

PW: it's not being sold by me!

TMM: It's not being sold by you, it's being sold by your party. So I'm not saying that you're at fault, but there's obviously a certain interest within your party to sell things a certain way to a certain demographic. In this particular case…

PW: Why are you using 'demographic', let's…

TMM: Well I'm talking about New Zealand First voters. This is what I'm talking about.

PW: No, no, let's debate about that, put it in for what. So they don't like migrants.

TMM: Yes, they don't like migrants. On the 9th of August, NZ First was looking like the only viable coalition partner for National, the National Party released an immigration policy that basically threatened to deport immigrants who had broken any criminal law within the first four years of their residency in New Zealand, and they wouldn't be full residents within that time, and that was in the first line of the press release, and Don Brash delivered a speech that talked about fear and resentment.

PW: Well that is what reporters say.

TMM: No, this is in the National Party press release.

PW: National Party wouldn't say on the 9th that we're trying to appeal to NZ First supporters or whatever, that's your interpretation.

TMM: I guess that's the interpretation. It's a pretty unanimous one among Asian commentators I have contact with, journalists, academics, media people and so forth…


PW: Are you trying to say this one is gunning at Asians.

TMM: No, I'm saying that we expected better. And people in the communities are feeling betrayed, they've said it in the Migrant News, "why did Pansy Wong let us down? I will now vote for another party. We migrants find it hard already, this National Party policy will make it more difficult for us."

PW: This is democracy. As far as I'm concerned, all we change is a benefit from two to four years and I'm comfortable with that position, because I think ultimately a country's immigration policy has to balance, with consideration for the country, and also to remove some stigma, because there are a lot of talk that migrants come here on benefit, and a great majority don't, and great majority when we consult with them and say they're comfortable that it's a four year benefit standdown.

TMM: Okay, just looking at the policy now… "those breaking the law will be swiftly returned to their homeland." Well that's even less specific.

PW: Yes, within those ten years, your PR will be revoked [as] under the current situation.

TMM: If you've been here for just under four years, you can only be deported now if you're sentenced to five years prison. Your policy just says "those breaking the law will be swiftly returned to their homeland." Do you think they should make it more specific?

PW: The immigration spokesman and I are saying the same, and we've put it out, there's no difference to the existing law.

TMM: But it's been marketed in a strangely xenophobic way, and that's why it shocked so many people.

PW: For people who choose to be very defensive and sensitive.

TMM: Okay, so you don't think it's got anything to do with cosying up to New Zealand First, because [Asian] people, you know, they don't like to see you being humiliated in these kinds of tradeoffs.

PW: Tze Ming, I have not trade off anything.

TMM: There's this gap between what you're saying the policy is, and what it can be interpreted as, because the gap hasn't been filled in. Anyone who breaks the law, any migrant who breaks the law will be "swiftly removed."

PW: Tze Ming I have filled in the gap, if you refuse to accept it I'm not sure what I can do.


You could be forgiven for misreading the previous sentence as "Tze Ming I have filled in the gap, if [Winston Peters] refuse[s] to accept it I'm not sure what I can do."

Is there such a thing as a verbal election policy? When a policy isn't actually written down, is it still a policy? What consistency can a verbal policy-filler maintain? If a deportee slips through the gap between the pollyfilla and the policy wall, will they make a sound?


On race-based agencies - aka 'the Population Ministries'

TMM: Do you support the disestablishment of Te Puni Kokiri, Te Mangai Paho, the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, the Ministry of Women's Affairs, the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's funding of the Asia New Zealand Foundation?

PW: Nobody talking about the disestablishment Office of Ethnic Affairs, but we're not talking about establishing a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs. My stand on the OEA has always been my preferred way [is] education, the big departments adopt a multicultural framework. Because ultimately if various community wanting services [the solution] is not having a small team of people trying to produce reports and do catchup, and [it] is actually changing the psyche and culture of those departments, like Education, like Health.

TMM: So that's race-based. Not that race exists exactly, I mean ethnicity is what we're talking about, but you know Don likes to call it race.

PW: It's actually not race-based. The issue that why people want Ministry of Womens Affairs, Ministry of Pacific Affairs or Ministry of Maori affairs stems out of the dissatisfaction that they don't feel they were getting services.

TMM: Don't you feel they'd be even more dissatisfied if you take their Ministry away?

PW: Well that depend on how strong you can factor in your framework. …Ultimately if you want services to be deliver, you have to get people into the departments, for example I've always encouraged Asians or Chinese parents, and say look, instead of just encouraging them to be doctors or business people, it's okay to branch into other areas. It's always about getting into those main areas.

TMM: The reason behind the - threatened I guess - review of TPK, TMP and MPIA is because they are race-based funding and Don Brash is against race-based funding. But why isn't OEA considered race-based funding, why isn't the Asia New Zealand Foundation considered race-based funding?

PW: Because it's not a sort of ministry, it's a part of a bigger department.

TMM: But they're being funded.

PW: We- I think the Ethnic Affair…

TMM: And they're being funded for the same reasons. They're like a little mini-Ministry. The rationale is the same.

PW: We will be looking at what services, at what services they are looking at.

TMM: So OEA is going to be reviewed?

PW: We'll be looking at what they are doing, but certainly we have been upfront in saying establishing a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs would not be on our agenda.

TMM: Yes, you've said that quite consistently for a while. So OEA would be reviewed, but just on a slightly lesser scale because it's not a full ministry, but the same kind of review?

PW: Actually to be fair, we have not put a policy out on the Office of Ethnic Affair.

TMM: Why have you not done that?

PW: Well mainly because at election you just looking at some of the sort of you know main area, and I think the main area you're looking at is the five key one plus immigration, that's a lot of work.

TMM: Yes, but race-based funding is race-based funding surely.

PW: I'm not too sure we have a policy out on Ministry of Pacific Affairs. Tze Ming, we are running an election at this time.

TMM: Yes, and people are just sort of coming up and saying stuff. You may not have a policy on it, but the leader of your Party has said that MPIA will be reviewed the same as TPK, because it's a race-based ministry and it's race-based funding.

PW: And the other thing is you've got to look at whether they are being effective and they are doing the job what they are doing. People are ultimately wanting services.

TMM: You could ask that of every department.

PW: Yes, true, and they're always under review. Every department is under constant review.

TMM: But you're not going to review every department. Just the ethnic minorities. It's a particular ethnic minority review round he's been talking about.

PW: As I say I'm not aware that we have put out anything about review of Ethnic Affairs or Pacific Affairs. It's not just ethnic minorities, Don has an opinion about Women's Affairs, and that's not about ethnic minorities.

TMM: No, but it's about a 'non-mainstream group'.

PW: [pause] Women cannot be non-mainstream.

TMM: Well it's good to hear it from you.

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Mt Roskill will take over the world I: The Brethren Wing | Sep 07, 2005 10:12

The mysterious Exclusive Brethren - where do they come from, who are they, and where did they get all that cash? Of course, I am eminently qualified to answer all three questions, because I am from Mt Roskill.

Where do they come from? They come from the Brethren House on the corner of Rogan St and Sylvester Road in Hillsborough of course, dummy.

Who are they? They are three very pale flaxen-haired pigtailed girls I went to primary school with, who shall remain nameless. They dressed like they were gathering twigs in the forest of a Grimm brothers fairytale, while the rest of us were in stirrup-pants, bubble-skirts, trackies and, well, rags. I don't know if they were preternaturally pale or anaemic, but they stick out in my memory as being the whitest girls I'd ever seen. It could have just been relative, as my primary school was pretty brown, and even the white-trash part had dirty faces compared to those well-scrubbed cherubs. I walked home with them quite often, as they seemed to live somewhere round the Brethren House. Smart, cheerful girls, and freakishly disciplined. Once, two of them rounded on the other, falsely accusing her of having taken the Lord's name in vain, until she cried. Well, girls are mean. The one who cried, the frecklier, mousier-haired one, about seven years ago I was sure I caught a glimpse of her with an uncovered head, pageboy haircut and jeans, dashing through the university quad, looking stressed. I don't know. If it was her, no wonder she was stressed, because she would have been excommunicated from her entire community and family to have been there that day.

Where did they get all that cash? They didn't have televisions, which would have been less amazing had other kids also not had televisions because they couldn't afford it. I suppose they were squirrelling away their TV money for political leaflets twenty years down the line. Twenty years of television money - it builds up you know! And twenty years of wardrobe allowance. Also, pulling those three bright girls out of school after intermediate, putting headscarves and ankle length skirts on them, and putting them to work at home must have saved a hell of a lot on school fees and university tuition. My older brother's favourite girl at intermediate was an Exclusive Brethren - they always topped the class together. She got pulled out of school before puberty, thwarting geek love.

Imagine all the productive female brain-power being tucked away with regularity, into the Brethren House. That place must be an intellectual powerhouse. There's a perception that all those girls are being cloistered and brainwashed into subservience, but how do we know all that repressed braininess is not, in fact, powering a Pinky and the Brain-style global terrorist takeover to prepare for the coming Rapture?

So maybe it's their time. Their new leader Bruce Hales has apparently thawed the 'excommunication' policy slightly on access to family members, but has also thrown this otherworldly community into politics. He has:

told members before George W. Bush and Australian PM John Howard were re-elected that if they were not returned to power, "the rapture", or end of the world, would be near.

If those girls are being trained as terrorist revolutionary suicide bombers inside the Brethren House, like the womenfolk in other apocalyptic hellfire sects of other religions, at least it'd be more exciting than needlepoint and cleaning the oven. It'd even be more exciting than having a television or the internet.

Because no Exclusive Brethren is privy to the inane delight of Public Address:

Members are not allowed to have televisions or radios and they are forbidden from using the internet, because the book of Revelation tells them that the devil is "the prince with the power of the air". Although some run computer businesses, the technology is frowned upon for private use because it has the power to employ the satanic number 666.

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Naked fear | Sep 05, 2005 08:46

Don Brash looked up 'feminist' in the OED, and decided that he is one after all, even if he isn't a woman. But is his wero-phobia Victorian prudishness about naked natives or confusion over whether he might also be Maori as well as a feminist?

PRESENTER: What about the haka before an All Black rugby test? Is it a good look?

BRASH: I'm very comfortable and relaxed about that. I'm more relaxed about that than I am about some of the official welcomes that foreign visitors get. They must wonder what kind of country they get when the only official welcome they have is? is a Maori New Zealander jumping around half naked. I mean, I think there is a place for Maori culture but why is it that we always use a semi-naked male, sometimes quite pale-skinned Maori, leaping around in, you know, mock battle?

I've had a wee jibe about this already in the No Right Turn comments box. Quoting, um, myself now, out of laziness not self-importance:

Is a pale-skinned Maori not a real Maori? Does he think it would confuse the visitor if their 'half-naked savage' was obviously also part 'European'? Is it not even a real wero if the Maori performing it isn't dark enough? I don't get it. Or maybe if they're a bit of a tub, Brash finds the big white wobbly belly aspect of it distasteful.

To me this all just seems like Brash is making some kind of subconscious appeal for hotter, sexier, well-oiled half-naked wero-performers.

Either that, or he genuinely wants international visitors to think they've arrived in England rather than New Zealand.

Having previously attempted to craft race-relations solutions for the psyche of Don Brash here, I thought I might keep going.

1. Comfier, Sexier, wero

Taking the first angle, we needn't look far to find the perfect hot sexy oiled-up pale-skinned half-naked jumping Maori to make Brash "comfortable and relaxed" in representing New Zealand to international dignitaries through either a traditional wero, or in the spirit of compromise, a half-naked rendition of the Te Rauparaha Haka.

Ah, Carlos. He might have to twink out his sexy tattoos though. They look a bit too Maori.

I'm hoping that if Brash can accept this, then in the spirit of reciprocity (which he should be familiar with because he has a Chinese wife) he would also agree to adopting an election platform of demanding the All Blacks perform their international test-match haka topless also, thus raising the National Party's appeal with female voters, pouring on more of that 'feminism' stuff.

2. Returning to New Zealand to the rule of the British

Both my parents saw the independence of their countries from Britain when they were growing up. Can you imagine what it was like to be a teenager in the decolonising third world of the fifties and sixties? It was a time for the birth of rock n' roll, for the collapse of Empire, the birth of freedom. Malaysia has Merdeka Day. That's Freedom Day to you bub. Singapore's National day likewise is a celebration of their Independence day. Back then everyone looked up to India, which threw off the oppressive shackles of colonialism first of all the colonies. Britain sucked! Except for the Beatles and the Animals and the Stones. And maybe Herman's Hermits, and Gerry and the Pacemakers. But the Empire, the Empire, people hated the British Empire like they hate the American Empire now. Brash's desire for a return to the cold British handshake-on-arrival and Knighthoods and OBEs seems to me not just personally irrelevant, but historically backward. I mean - where does he think we are?

But it's not about me. It's about Don Brash. When did New Zealand declare independence? Does the date stick out for you? I can only recall that it was offered independence and didn't take it to start with. How lame is that. Awww, poor widdle country doesn't want to gwow up and leave home. Yes, our national day is closer to marking the start of colonial rule than the end of it. The day that people really think of as the cutting of the apron strings, the kicking of the adult offspring out of the basement bedroom and into the real world after too long spongeing off the parents, was when the UK joined the EEC and ended New Zealand's open access to British markets. I don't think they're really going to want us back, are they?

But waaiiit a minute, if Turkey can join, why can't we? Eh? Eh? New Zealand is more 'European' than Turkey, isn't it? It's more 'European' than Bosnia surely? I mean, Bosnia is white, but they're, like, Muslim! Who let them in? Eh? Okay, for Don Brash's sake, say we manage to join the European Union as a clip-on to the United Kingdom, through virtue of being about 75% white and kind of talking like Cockneys who got sent far far away from East London two hundred years ago... where would we find ourselves? In a place with... oh... ongoing devolution to indigenous regional parliaments and increasing protection of indigenous languages, culture and even accents through television channels, radio and arts support... and regular celebration of a history full of half-naked savages jumping up and down. Such as this one:

Bugger. But if it it was all happening in 'Europe', then this sort of cultural policy would actually be a 'European' way of doing things, right? And then Don would be more comfortable and relaxed about it. Hooray!

3. Assuaging Don's fears that he might actually be Maori.

In Brash's wero-discomfort, he seems openly confused about what a 'pale-skinned' Maori representing Maori and New Zealand culture, might actually signify. It seems a kind of fear. What is he so scared of? That he might make a racist joke in front of someone he assumed was white? Wait a minute... His entire Treaty policy is a racist joke, told in front of a nation who he assumes is all white. No, that can't be it.

Consider this. Said Don to Dallow after the 'not a feminist' debacle:

"[A]pparently a feminist can be a man or a woman, I didn't know that."

And as he is newly quite keen to point out:

"[A]pparently a Maori can have both Maori heritage and non-Maori heritage, I didn't know that."

Actually, he didn't say that second bit. But this sense of duality, of miscegenation and the messiness of self-defined and hybrid identity, seems to seriously disturb him. He said it during the leader's debate when he declared it ridiculous that someone who looked "no different from you or I" might actually claim to be Maori. Now, he didn't go so far as to say, as Winston Peters has, that these pale-Maori who claim to be Maori are actually fake Maori. But one can only conclude Don Brash's discomfort stems from a secret worry that he might be Maori, but that he never even knew, because he looks just like "you or I."

'No different from you or I." Says it all really. When he said that, he meant a person who looked "no different" to himself or his interviewer Mark Sainsbury, because for him, the gold standard of mainstream identity is a pair of middle-aged to elderly white men (hair and moustaches optional). 'You or I' for Brash simply could not include the variegated masses of the New Zealand public to whom the debate was being broadcast as part of a national political discourse.

Fair enough though, that if 'you' are, say, Keith Ng, and 'I' am me, it is still possible that someone who 'looked no different from you or I' could still sneakily identify as Maori. For example:

One of these people is Maori, the other is not. Feel free to lay bets. The fact that my Maori-Chinese friend Maryann 'looks no different' from myself or Don Brash's Singaporean wife, and yet has a strong Maori identity, disturbs Don Brash. The fact of her very existence disturbs Don Brash. The fact that he is disturbed by this, disturbs me. Given Brash's penchant for East-Asian lovelies, I get the feeling that if Maryann and I stripped half-naked and jumped up and down in greeting, he might become a bit more comfortable and less disturbed about Maori ceremonial displays and racial mixing.

Maryann and I however, would be traumatised.

What about if the 'you and I' he referred to included 'Maori-looking' people? How about if 'you' were Carlos Spencer and 'I' were... no this is tricky daydream-digression territory. How about if 'you' were Georgina Te Heuheu and 'I' were... no, no, I have to give up this tortured analogy, because I'm not confident Don Brash can ever relate to Maori as actual people like 'you and I', no matter how hypothetical they are. No wonder he's freaking out that Maori might be able to blend into normal society like 'you and I'. What if his first wife was secretly Maori? what if his children are secretly Maori? What if Je Lan is secretly Maori? Then who is he? If identity, history and blood really are the maelstrom of confluences that our late-modern-slash-post-modern-slash-postcolonial nation would have it, Don Brash is in serious trouble.

All we can realistically do to reassure him on this point, is that he is as white as whitey can get. Even if he were Maori, he'd still be really really white.


P.S. I have given up cutting-and-pasting macrons from Che Tibby's posts. One of these days I'll figure out how to make them myself.

P.P.S. How many posts in a row have I gone hammer-and-tongs at the National Party over race? It's not very balanced. I have to say at this point, that over the return of the ghost of Orewa, the Labour Party has been utterly pathetic. Intellectually barren, cowardly, and pathetic. For all that Jordan Carter says nice liberal things at the right moment, what kind of a party record here could he possibly defend?

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Dragon In | Sep 02, 2005 09:30

In the spirit of election lolly-scrambles, here is a random and never-to-be repeated Yellow Peril giveaway, worth actual money even. But with social responsibility inevitably worked in to the equation. You gotta learn before you earn.

In part also to make up for my embarrassing, but self-corrected, Chinese-name confusion between Jet Li and Jackie Chan, I present a Dragon-Lee quiz.

Here we have three Li-something-Dragons.

1. 李小龙
2. 李先龙
3. 李成龙

Which of these Dragon-Lis is:
a) the Prime Minister of Singapore
b) the top ping-pong champ of Hunan Province
c) Bruce Lee

Match the numbers to the letter-choices correctly, and the first eight (count'em) EIGHT correct answers which include a compelling anti-hegemonic disruptive geek justification for breaking into the high-buffer testosterone-zone of Les Mills, as well as a convincing needs-based argument (for example, I am a destitute student at risk of diabetes due to poor diet and unaffordable gym memberships), win a voucher for a free Les Mills membership until the end of October, worth $170 each apparently. If you're in Auckland I'll name a pick-up spot, if you're in the rest of the country (wherever the rest of the country is meant to be), include your postal address.

I scabbed these babies from the tables of the EEO Trust Work and Life Awards last night, having somehow scammed my way in for a square meal and glass of wine or three. There were plenty going spare - corporate fatcats are, you know, proud to be fat. Mt Albert Pak n' Save were the favourite winners of the evening. If you're from anywhere in the vicinity of Southwest Central, you'll know what that's about. Aleikum salaam, fly those flags.

I plan to attend Les Mills in my Free Ahmed Zaoui cut-off muscle-tee, and sing loudly along to Bikini Kill on my walkman, while strolling on the treadmill and watching music videos without having to listen to them, then hog the sauna afterwards, reading my Harpers. Unless of course I'm too lazy to go at all. Hmm... rather like some people's attitudes to voting.

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The feared end of Singaporeanwifeisms | Sep 01, 2005 11:45

One big personal downside for me if National loses this election: it will render obsolete my overused device of transitioning seamlessly from making fun of Don Brash's Singaporeanwifeisms, to making fun of Singaporean politics.

You might just have to put up with a lot more anecdotes about my mother. Liddat also can.

Although I barred his nomination for last month's Asian Freedom Slag Awards, Singapore's Mr Brown has just linked to me as part of some grober culture thing called Blogday. I worry for all those S'poreans who clicked through and wondered fruitlessly, like Don Brash undoubtedly has, just what a 'Maori' is. They may also be wondering who the hell 'Brash' is, whether you can eat a 'Brownlee', if this 'Treaty' is something to do with free trade agreements, and what's an 'election' anyway?

Dear S'poreans: New Zealand is having one of its free and fair general elections campaigns. We have them every three years, and they are loads of fun, honest! Politicians get heckled, mud gets slung, race cards loaded, policies get made up on the fly, people decide on the fate of their country, usually by voting for the person they despise the least, and best of all, no-one gets sued, imprisoned or bankrupted. We have this thing here called 'healthy disrespect.'

Most relevantly for all of you in Singapore, the leader (Don Brash) of the main right-wing party (the National Party) uses his Singaporean wife as a symbol of his... uh ...I dunno, international-banking commitment to human rights and free speech? Preference for a one-party corporate state? Or... um... a love of pretty secretaries?

Depending on how the next few weeks go: that may be one of the last gasps of this torturous motif, or the beginning of a longstanding tradition.

Director of Singapore Rebel Martyn See was interviewed on Radio New Zealand this morning, and chose his words very carefully. It's very likely that he is facing prison or an enormous fine for producing a 'political film'. He said he's trying not to think about it, as stressing too much about becoming a political prisoner would really interfere with his daily work routine.

Linda Clark: Is there anything in this film that is seditious or dangerous?
Martyn See: Not at all, I was very careful of that, the defamation culture in Spore is well known...
The film does not contain a single mention of the Singapore Democratic Party at all. It was basically a portrait of an opposition politician going about his work. [...] It's [beyond] censorship, it's like I'm making pornography now. [Also illegal in Singapore by the way.]
Clark: What does [the way you've been treated] say about your government?
See: If you ask me these questions off the air, I can answer you honestly.

Singapore Rebel is receiving a free screening in Christchurch, next Wednesday. Or you can just download it here.

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