Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Imagine the cheek of wanting a say

Kiwis have always had fun with politics, such as with 2008 contenders the Bill and Ben Party. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Kiwis have always had fun with politics, such as with 2008 contenders the Bill and Ben Party. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Immigrant. It's becoming something close to a dirty word in this country.

Immigrants are driving up Auckland's house prices. Immigrants are taking our jobs. Immigration should be stopped.

Now, immigrants are starting up a political party just for themselves and that's arrogant, if you listen to Winston Peters. The New Zealand First leader used his party conference last week to go full noise xenophobic and attack the "immigrant party".

The People's Party is being set up by Indian businessman Roshan Nauhria. He moved to New Zealand 44 years ago and has since made a lot of money - judging by the fact he runs a huge building supplies business, and earned a lot of respect - judging by the fact he's a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Last month he announced the People's Party would represent Chinese and Indian migrants who are worried about crime, especially violent attacks on dairies.

But, that party is not welcome here because, according to Peters, we are "getting sick and tired of people who think they can walk into our country and now demand to have a say in the political system".

The New Zealand First leader reckons it's a cheek. Immigrants should be happy they're allowed to vote. I can't decide if Peters believes this or whether he took a long, cynical look at Brexit and Donald Trump and thought this kind of immigrant-bashing will be talkback crack to disaffected working Kiwis.

Of course immigrants should be allowed to set up political parties in this country. We've hardly set the bar high ourselves. Remember the Bill and Ben Party, set up by two comedians as a joke?

Then there was the Join Australia Movement Party, set up to advocate political union between New Zealand and Australia, not as a joke.

And, who can forget the McGillicuddy Serious Party, which wanted to return to a medieval way of living, but instead gave us one of the co-leaders of the GreenParty.

If we applied Peters' anti-democratic hatefulness, up to a quarter of our population wouldn't be allowed to set up political parties, given that's how many of us are immigrants.

What's more, being limited to simply voting clearly isn't working for people of Indian and Chinese descent if you look at the numbers in Parliament.

One in eight New Zealanders identify as Asian or Indian. Proportionally, there should be 14 Asian or Indian MPs. There are five. Try naming them. Don't worry, I can't either.

And still, dairy owners suffer the violent attacks that the People's Party wants to stop. Just this week, 6-year-old Sarah Patel tried to stop an attacker from hurting her dad in his North Shore store.

You have to wonder if Winston Peters would take the same hard line on immigrants wanting to improve their lot if those immigrants were expat Kiwis getting a hard time.

In Australia, Kiwis have lost basic rights over the past decade and a half. They pay for it, but they can't claim their equivalent of ACC. They can't get the dole. They can't really become citizens. They can't even vote.

Our Government's hardly arguing their case. The expats don't have their own political party to lobby the Australian Government.

Their best chance is a bit of help from Kiwi-born Senator Derryn Hinch, whose most notable contribution in his month-long career is falling asleep on his first day on the job, or notorious racist Pauline Hanson who only wants Kiwis to stay in Australia because she prefers them to Muslims.

Rather than knocking these immigrants for getting political, expat Kiwis should think about doing the same thing.

Because, it turns out immigrant is now a dirty world all over the world. Even when the immigrants are Kiwis.

- NZ Herald

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something living between Auckland and Wellington. She has more than a decade's experience hosting and reporting on TV and radio. Heather's worked in Parliament's Press Gallery, covered the 2012 London Olympic Games, and reported from as far afield as Antarctica.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

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