Say what you want about US President Donald Trump, it has been many a year since the entire planet has been quite as engaged with what's unfolding as right now, writes Mike Hosking.

Our own PM, Bill English, told me this week that everywhere he goes it's all about Trump. People of all ages are politically engaged, he's never seen the like - and neither have the rest of us.

Sean Spicer enters the White House press room and we take it live on ZB during my radio show. The Herald streams it. Ask yourself how many Josh Earnest briefings you watched or listened to live? Is the answer much larger than none?

What's really brought it to a peak is immigration, and that's an issue for us all. We are all grappling with it.


The first irony in the Trump move is last year's debate over Germany, and Europe in general by year's end, when Angela Merkel opened the flood gates and a million refugees had rolled across the borders.

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It was widely held she'd made a catastrophic mistake, and the polls and several local elections have borne that out. Brexit was in a large way a result of the inability of Britain to control and contain who was arriving and from where. Australia, who you will note this week far from criticising Trump have in fact backed him, do so from a position of strength and experience. The boats are turned around, the problem has gone away.

What remains are the ones who have been let in under other leaders and administrations, and it's that residual mess that bogs them down.

But what we know from the Australian experience is that tough border control is electorally popular. Ask John Howard.

Here, we too face an immigration issue, albeit of a different sort - but also stoked by a lot of the same emotion we see in other countries.

The Government has been reticent to act on the numbers, or "flood" if you want to use the emotive term favoured by many, of people wanting to pitch their tent here.

I am a big fan of immigration.

From a cultural point of view it makes us a better, more international country with a greater, more detailed outlook on the world.

I am a fan through practicality as well. The irrefutable truth is that we need people to do work either we don't want to do, or, more often, haven't trained to do.

The fact we've failed to train enough engineers is a crime; the fact we're hopelessly short of builders is not much less of a crime. We have failed to match students with work.

We've failed to point kids in a direction that has genuine prospect.

We pump out arts degree grads and lawyers, when what we want are people to lay pipes, design buildings and change the world through tech.

I can't tell you how many interviews I've done with industries now recruiting overseas.

The New Zealand Initiative has helped in this area this week with its report into the broad topic of whether the numbers arriving here are good or not - and many say they're not.

Which is interesting, because as popular as the Government seems, it may be that they're out of step with a growing number with their policy in this area. And given it's an election year, it could bite them in the bum.

I hope not.

I hope all the noise and push back I hear on this is the headline-grabbers and attention-seekers, but there is no doubt there is a decent queue of those who think there are far too many people moving to New Zealand.

But you can't beat fact, and the initiative's report provides some excellent examples. Firstly, overall the numbers we have arriving provide more good than not.

There is a net gain to all of this.

So this argument that immigrants are taking all our jobs and driving up the house prices simply isn't true.

It is not dissimilar to that dreadful debate we had over foreign investors buying all the houses and never setting foot here. They were guilty of gouging us - until we found out they made up only 3 per cent of buyers, thus making virtually no difference.

But on houses - and this is the part most people don't get - of the 70,000 net gain "new arrivals" we're getting each year, half are returning New Zealanders or Australians. In other words, there's nothing we can do to contain that number even if we wanted to.

So in reality only 35,000 are your so-called new arrivals, and the initiative's report tells us it's the Kiwis and the Aussies buying the houses and applying the pressure.

So that easy old xenophobic line we roll out blaming all the foreigners also isn't true.

If we debate this on merit and fact we'll actually get somewhere, and hopefully we'll see that having a lot of people lining up is no bad thing, it's an endorsement of our success.

We should be proud of the fact that we have done so well, we shine so brightly, that we are on so many people's radar that they want to pack up and start a new life here.

They don't take our jobs, they add to them. They don't drain our economy, they fuel it. They don't inflate our house prices, others do it.

So, given that, let's deal with the only idea out of that report that doesn't seem to make sense: taxing them. Why, when they provide all these benefits, would you look to blow it by penalising them?