Sunday, April 27, 2008

Accidental Policy

Here's an interesting theory for you; what if the immigration rant from New Zealand First last month was a balls up in a way you would never expect?

What if Peter Brown's position on future Asian population figures was never supposed to happen?

It requires one hell of a suspension of belief but the weird thing is the theory might just have some legs.

Let me explain. It involves a convergence of different events occurring within the party.

The thing is in recent months NZ First has seen some pretty significant changes within its Leader's Office. The main one being the departure of Winston Peters SPS Graham Harding and the retirement of Ernie Davis. That left a pretty large hole that needed to be filled quick smart. Because the party needed someone with campaign experience it saw the return of one Frank Perry. Now Frank was a stalwart press secretary for New Zealand First during the 1990's and earlier this decade and we all know what that period was famous for as far as immigration and Asians are concerned?

Don't we?

So here's the scenario as it's been explained to me by someone who is in a position to know. Frank Perry saw the figures in the Department of Statistics release and automatically treated them the way he always had. He saw the immigration angle, pumped it for all it was worth, and sent out the release with Peter Brown's name on it. We all know what happened next.

Ok, that's one part of the theory. Part two is the contradictory statements made by New Zealand First MP Dail Jones who pretty much immediately defended Asian immigrants and the role they have in New Zealand. He made a speech to that effect in the house and then went around the Press Gallery the next day handing out copies of it. If New Zealand First had deliberately chosen to play the race card why was one of its MPs (and a former Party President) challenging it?

To me it suggests they had no policy whatsoever, or even a tacit strategy not to use immigration as an issue this election. Or at least not yet.

Here comes the next part of my theory - The China Free Trade Deal.

New Zealand First opposed the deal on the basis it wasn't good enough. If you look at the arguments put forward by Peters they were based on economics, trade, timing of tariff reductions, and dealing with a low wage economy. You'll note immigration and the labour clause, while mentioned, was pretty much skipped over. It'd be fair to assess New Zealand First as choosing to oppose the FTA on dollars, not race. At least that was the position Peters seemed to take.

Now if we take this at face value (and given the Party had predetermined its stand on the FTA some time in advance we almost have to) wouldn't deliberately embarking on an Asian immigration bashing crusade just a week or so previously seriously undercut the arguments they'd later make against the FTA?

Consistency might not be Winston's strongest point but he's not a political idiot.

The immigration statements from Peter Brown got the party labelled as racist, and that perception carried over to its stand on the FTA. Winston Peters is savvy enough a political operator that you can bet your life he would have moved heaven and earth to avoid such a situation.

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