NZ First policy makes headlines in Asia

By Lincoln Tan

At a time when the US elections are hogging international headlines, New Zealand's election got a mention in newspapers in Asia yesterday - and the credit must go to Winston Peters.

From headlines "Suspended Minister turns on China, Immigrants" in the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong to "China, immigrants unwelcomed" in The Straits Times in Singapore, papers across Asia reported on Mr Peters' immigration policy and his description of the free trade agreement with China as "foolish".

Speaking to the Weekend Herald at National's ethnic campaign launch in Auckland yesterday, party leader John Key said the overseas media reports on Mr Peters' anti-immigration plans were "unhelpful" for New Zealand, especially given that countries were competing to attract global talent to ensure progress.

Mr Key, who has ruled out Mr Peters as having any role in any future National coalition Government, and Prime Minister Helen Clark both separately said yesterday that they disagreed with Mr Peters' plans.

Mr Peters wants to reduce the immigration quota from 50,000 to 10,000 and limit the family reunification policy to only immediate family members.

He said the China free trade agreement - which the Government had "foolishly" signed with Beijing - would allow Chinese companies "to set up here and bring their own labour".

Helen Clark says the current immigration quota is fine, and if unemployment went up, cuts would likely be made to work permits rather than the skilled migrant category.

When asked about her concerns on the need to protect jobs for New Zealanders, she replied: "If there is less work around then there needs to be fewer work permits."

However, Helen Clark said the story since she has been Prime Minister has not been "where are the jobs?" but rather "where are the workers?"

Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter is expected to further comment on this at Labour Party's ethnic campaign launch this afternoon where he will also be announcing Labour's ethnic affairs policy.

Richard Howard, chairman of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment, said any drop in immigration could prove detrimental to the New Zealand economy.

"Immigration may well be one of the few opportunities left for the next government to kick-start the economy," he said.

Mr Howard said New Zealand is "effectively uncompetitive in the international market place" to attract skilled migrants - and its family reunification category "was one of the few drawcards left to bring in the skills we need".

Between last July and June 2008, there were 85,240 (including 23,040 returning New Zealanders) permanent long-term arrivals, but 80,510 (including 58,330 New Zealand citizens) permanently left the country - resulting with a net migration gain of just 4730.

- NZ Herald

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