COMMENT:

There's no more thankless job in Government than that of the Immigration Minister. It's thankless because Immigration New Zealand makes decisions off its own bat, within the law set by the politicians of course, and the Minister's expected to stand by them.

It's fair to say Iain Lees-Galloway sucker-punched himself over the Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek, who's fighting to stay in New Zealand after finishing his six-year jail stretch.

But it would seem the Beehive's become something of a boxing ring after the minister told the bureaucrats to relax the rules and allow Indians involved in arranged marriages to begin their married lives in New Zealand, rather than living together for 12 months first.

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In one corner is Lees-Galloway, who's used to being a punch bag, and in the other is THE rambunctious Shane Jones, who's being towelled by the man he calls his rangatiratanga Winston Peters, that is when he can drag himself away from his courtroom punch-up with the National Party.

Peters lays claims to tightening the rules that prevented most Indian New Zealand citizens from arranging a marriage and then bringing the spouse to this country to live. However Jacinda Ardern disagreed, saying relaxing the decision had nothing to do with Cabinet, it was made by the bureaucrats off their own bat.

Why such a fundamental change, affecting people's lives, is left to officials to make would seem to be an abdication of governmental responsibility. But it seems they're free to bend the rules and the politicians seem happy to live with it.

By the end of August just 10 out of 87 arranged marriages this year were given permission to co-habit here once the knot was tied, in the previous four years almost half the applications were approved.

The system has been abused in the past, by scurrilous immigration consultants seeking to get clients residency here. There have also been reports of drug-addicted Indian men being married off to educated women who have their education here paid for by the son's grateful parents.

That's why Jones has lauded the tighter rules, telling what he describes as the Indian activists who don't like our immigration policy not to hang around, to catch the next flight home. Rather than dialling back his rhetoric, this self-described retail politician says he'll be taking a population plan to his party's caucus this weekend.

And he promises this will be an election issue like no other. Now where have we heard that before?

So what's all this about? Next year's election, that's what. Immigrants essentially avoid New Zealand First like the plague while Labour courts the Indian vote which makes up five per cent of our population.

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