The politicians have waded in to complain (again) about how many foreigners are coming to live in New Zealand.  There’s Andrew Little, claiming that if Labour was in Government they would “turn down the tap” of inflow of migrants until economic conditions improve.  The implication is presumably that the increased numbers entering the country are driving local people out of work.

Then Winston Peters picks up and runs with on Mr Little’s comment that we should be hiring Kiwis to work in ethnic restaurants rather than importing them by the thousands from China and India.  The stats do apparently show that we hire tens of thousands of immigrant chefs.  But Peters went further in a Morning Report interview today, alleging that the restaurants down Dominion Rd are merely fronts for immigration fraud, the sale of false job offers, and that Immigration is doing nothing about it because it is “the most corrupt immigration system in the world” or words to that effect.

Peters asked how so many Asian restaurants could compete successfully in the same area.  He concluded that they must be making their money from something else behind the scenes.  But perhaps he hasn’t wandered down there for a while.  Our offices are of course just up the road from the strings of ethnic food outlets all the way to Mt Roskill.  The fact is that usually they are full of people.  There is a high demand to eat out, including the many overseas students who live in the inner suburbs.

The leader of New Zealand First was also notably vague about how Immigration New Zealand was so corrupt.  He suggests that INZ and the Labour Inspectorate sit back and do nothing about fraud and exploitation.  That’s hard to reconcile with recent cases of successful prosecutions of employers for failing to pay proper salaries to their immigrant employees, or hiding dubious workplace practices , such as those against the Masala Indian restaurant chain.

Yes, there is migrant exploitation.  Yes, there is bound to be “job selling” going on.  But that is a matter of enforcement of standards and of the law.  It is different to the question of whether policy settings should be changed to stop the flow of migrants.  If you make it harder for people to get visas to work in a Chinese kitchen, will that stop the fraud and exploitation?  No, the increased pressure is likely to increase it.

Really, what this is all about is Parliamentarians trying to score points before the next Election.  Andrew Little has been throwing his weight about this week to show that he’s the voice of the average voter who thinks, for instance, that banks should be forced to shift their lending rates in step with changes in the OCR.  Never mind what happens when the OCR goes up again . . .   And Mr Peters?  Well, it’s the same old story.  His catchment is the conservative “heartland” New Zealander who fears losing the Kiwi way of life (whatever that is nowadays) because of a tide of overseas workers and investors.

What they both trade upon is ignorance and fear.  The same sort of currency, interestingly enough, that is winning Donald Trump more support than anyone expected 6 months ago.  The question is, can the New Zealand public demonstrate more intelligence than the American voting population?