New Zealand First's 25th anniversary bunfight wouldn't have been complete without a nostalgic swipe at foreigners.

On Monday morning, I woke to the dulcet tones of an "I'm not a rashist" delegate on National Radio insisting that "arrogant" "disrespectful" and "downright ignorant ... not really New Zealanders" from Pakistan and India should adopt New Zealand values or go home.

This followed a vote of support for a "Respecting New Zealand Values" law. Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told reporters later that if people coming here to live "didn't want to salute this country's law" they shouldn't be here.


It's hardly new. Ten years ago, then deputy leader Peter Brown - a British migrant himself - was ranting about the "real dangers" of a flood of Asian migrants heading this way with no intentions of integrating into our society. But there is a certain irony about the timing of this latest twitch of the party's xenophobic instincts.

A few weeks ago, Peters, as Foreign Minister, was berating Australia for employing similarly draconian anti-migrant legislation against errant Kiwi migrants in Australia.

In a major speech in Canberra, labelled "Fair suck of the sav," Peters pointed out that "many New Zealanders question the deportation of Kiwi passport holders to a country they may never really have known because they left at such a young age. And our attention cannot but be drawn by the deportation of people who have not yet been found guilty of crimes in an Australian court".

Referring to New Zealanders' sense of injustice at Australia's deportation policy he argued "the case for giving them a fair go - or as Australians sometimes put it - giving us a fair suck of the sav, is very strong indeed".

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

The Australian Home Affairs Minister at the time, Peter Dutton, gave him the two-fingered salute, pointing to his discretionary powers under the Migration Act to boot anyone out who broke the law or who, in the minister's opinion, could pose a threat to the community or was not of "good character".

Having criticised the Australian law, Peters seems to have used it as a draft for one that is even more appalling, in that it requires migrants to sign up to vague "rules" respecting New Zealand "values". These include respect for gender equality, sexual preferences, freedom of religion, and oddly, a vow not to campaign against alcohol consumption. It's not clear whether you can still be expelled for failing to get legless at an All Blacks game even after attaining residency status or citizenship.

Fortunately for our reputation as a civilised society, such finer details will never have to be resolved. There's no signs of New Zealand First's endemic anti-Asian itch having infected the body politic as a whole.

The concept of a whole class of new citizens, whose residency is permanently bound up by an oath to live by "New Zealand values", signed as they entered the country, possibly fleeing from tyranny, is not, as Peters put it, a fair suck of the sav.

The NZ Firsters still live in the ye olde world of the authors of the 1946 Dominion Population Committee Report, who were assigned to find new citizens for post-war New Zealand. At the time, there were around 1.57 million of us of whom just 6976 were "race aliens" - people of neither European nor Māori ancestry. Of the race aliens, 2943 were Chinese, 1261 "Syrians" and 1200 Indians.

With fierce competition for first choice, British migrants from other white British colonies, the committee felt "northern European" lookalikes were next best. Southern Europeans were "itinerant" and to be avoided. As for the rest of the world. Wash your mouth out and join NZ First.

Last week I referred to the scooter company Onzo as Chinese. I was wrong. It is a New Zealand-based company, owned by a Chinese citizen, who is a NZ resident.