The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helped Promote Hate for Immigrants

Many media outlets are drooling over New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour government. They seem to praise her for giving the right response to a terrorist who merged left-wing views with anti-immigrant nationalism. In public Ardern calls for a “global fight to root out racist right-wing ideology” but she has given racist right-wing political power in New Zealand — something we warned about last December.

Hamish Rutherford said Ardern’s response to the horrific attack was New Zealand “putting its best foot forward” but warned “mainstream” political movements were harnessing racist sentiments for their own benefit, including Ardern’s Labour Party.

Only a few years ago Labour linked surging Auckland house prices to Chinese sounding names, on the basis of quite flaky data.

Even though the episode prompted a storm, just months before the 2017 election, former Labour leader Andrew Little promised to reduce the number of immigrants by “tens of thousands”.

But the real scrutiny is likely to fall on the response of NZ First, which has made concerns about immigration a core part of its political appeal since the party was named.

Around 15 years ago, leader Winston Peters said the country was being “dragged into the status of an Asian colony” by immigration.

In the wake of the London bombings in 2005, Peters claimed “moderate and militant [Muslims], fit hand and glove everywhere they exist” with an agenda “to promote fundamentalist Islam”.

Jacinda Ardern sign agreement giving bigoted Winston Peters (left) what he wants.

In November, 2017 — long before the nationalist anti-immigrant terror attack in Christchurch — the Washington Post published a Kiwi columnist warning “the far right is poisoning New Zealand.”

It wasn’t about the terrorist or alt-right neo-Nazis, it was about Ardern’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, the man she appointed, who has run bigoted, hateful, nationalist campaigns for years. In truth Ardern’s government is one of the few that actually has the sort of schizophrenic combination of left-wing economics and right-wing nationalist xenophobia espoused by the terrorist. The reality is Trump’s agenda isn’t really Trump’s at all; Arden’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters beat him to it years ago. Peters was banging the racist drum long before Trump even considered running for office.

New Zealand Herald columnist Ben Mack authored the Post piece and said: “On the surface, New Zealand’s new government sound likes a progressive dream… But for all the excitement around Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her new government, the real power lies with the far right. Mack is referring to Ardern’s government being a coalition of the far left and the extreme right. She put the Donald Trump of New Zealand, Winston Peters of the bigoted New Zealand First Party, in as her Deputy Prime Minister, in spite of his party receiving a paltry 7% of the vote.

Ardern loved power more than principles and she could form a government if she got in bed with the devil. So she did, caving in to most his anti-immigration demands.

Mack notes Peters has repeatedly “made racist comments toward immigrants and people of Asian descent and Trumpian abuse of the press.”

In typical Trumpian form Mr. Peters didn’t like a newspaper article on immigration numbers so he attacked the authors for being Asian and claimed it was fake news. The editor of the Herald, Murray Kirkness, described Peters’ attack as “a statement from the Trump playbook.” TVNZ reported on it:

Mr. Peters yesterday sent out a press release questioning the accuracy and alleged bias of an article by New Zealand Herald journalists Lincoln Tan and Harkanwal Singh, inferring that because they are of Asian descent they had somehow skewed the data.

“New Zealand Herald propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters stating the top five source nations for work visas are not Asian is completely wrong and based on flawed analysis,” the release read.

Member of parliament David Seymour, libertarian leader of the ACT Party, responded to the Peters tirade:

Who cares if the journalists are Asian, or immigrants? Winston Peters could have just focused on the content of their article, but instead he brought race into it. Nothing’s changed: he’s an old-fashioned racist.

…As MP for Epsom I know people who have been victimised and singled out for their race. It’s harmful and mindless. Winston Peters’ attack on these two journalists, and Asian immigrants in general, runs completely opposite to values of egalitarianism and freedom….

This was in 2017 when Bill English was Prime Minister and Peters was NOT party to the government. English called Peter’s racist attack predictable. This was during the election when Ardern was seeking power so she knew what kind of bigot she was inviting into the government. She consciously chose to ally herself with a racist, far right nationalist.

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley responded on TVNZ:

I think the fact that he called something that the Herald had carefully researched ‘propaganda’, and he referred to the ethnicity — which was Asian — of the two journalists, absolutely disgraceful.

Mack notes Ardern “had kowtowed the most to his [Peters’] increasingly extreme demands. He itemized some of these demands:

Amid pressure from New Zealand First, the government has vowed to slash immigration by tens of thousands by making it harder to obtain visas and requiring employers to prove they cannot find a qualified New Zealand citizen before hiring a non-citizen. They’ve also put forward legislation banning non-citizens from owning property, the new minister for immigration has equated increased immigration with increased unemployment (while also failing to denounce his party’s claims that immigration is a factor in New Zealand having the highest rate of youth suicide in the developed world) and proposed a plan that would require people receiving welfare to work.

Like American white supremacists in the age of Trump, bigots in New Zealand have also been emboldened by New Zealand First’s success into taking action beyond ranting on Internet message boards and social media. In late October, clashes erupted when white supremacists rallied in front of Parliament. Threatening fliers have also appeared in public, calling on white people to “unify” in order to “preserve identity.”

Mack said while Ardern is “the public face” of the government “it’s the far right pulling the strings and continuing to hold the nation hostage.” He questioned whether Ardern is sincere in her alleged left-wing agenda.

“If she truly wants New Zealand to be a more tolerant place for all and to set a worldwide example that hate is not acceptable, it would be best for Ardern to end her unholy alliance with New Zealand First and the far right, even if it meant she might not return as prime minister. As long as the far right has power, bigotry and hate will continue to fester in Middle-earth.”

Mack was certainly prophetic and the festering he warned about burst out into an explosion of violence, hate and murder.

Truth be told, there is much New Zealand First and Labour have in common. Unions run Labour and they don’t like immigrants.

Ardern was already running on Labour’s platform, which was promising to reduce immigration. The Christchurch terrorist claimed the problem for society was population growth due to immigrants—these non-whites moving into the country. Labour’s party platform damned the previous National Party government because “in recent years our population has been growing rapidly as record numbers of migrants arrive here.”

From Labour’s party platform promises to cut immigration

Ardern and Labour listed precisely how their policies would reduce immigration. It’s a litany of how a Labour government will go after immigrants. The target was to cut immigration by about 25%.

Labour will stop issuing student visas for courses below a bachelor’s degree…

Labour will also limit the ability to work while studying to international students studying…

Labour will limit the “Post Study Work Visa — Open” after graduating …

Labour will remove the Skilled Migrant Category bonus points currently gained by studying or working in New Zealand …

For jobs outside of skills shortages lists, Labour will ensure visas are only issued when a genuine effort has been made to find Kiwi workers.

Labour will remove the Skilled Migrant Category bonus points currently gained by studying or working in New Zealand…”

Ardern knew she was giving a rabid racist, in the form of Winston Peters, the reigns of power, but she didn’t care, she wanted power herself too much to give a damn. She isn’t this principled progressive shown hugging immigrants at the site of the terror attack. She’s an unprincipled politician implementing many of the same policies promoted by the terrorist while smiling for the cameras.

Peters loves nothing more than immigrant bashing. His party has always had a racist agenda. He regularly called immigrants “invaders” and spoke of an “Asian Invasion” in his campaign speeches. Peters thought he was being witty when the told voters: “Two Wongs don’t make a White.” William Han wrote:

Peters and his New Zealand First party have returned again and again to racist refrains around election time. Take for example the party’s deputy leader Peter Brown, who emigrated to New Zealand from Britain. He complained in 2008 the country was accepting too many Asians and was in danger of being “inundated with people who have no intention of integrating into our society”.

In 2013, a member of parliament from the party, Richard Prosser, argued that young Muslim men shouldn’t be allowed to travel on Western airlines, because “most terrorists are Muslims”. He also described Muslim men as “misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan”.

Prime Minister Ardern may claim she wants to “weed out” far right racism, but maybe she should till her own garden first and end her alliance with Winston Peters.

One resident of Christchurch wrote the New York Times: “Worse, the white supremacists were surely valorized and galvanized by politically opportunistic xenophobia. New Zealand’s current deputy prime minister, Winston Peters, has made a career out of mocking, intimidating and excluding Asian and Muslim migrants. …This kind of racial derision and nationalistic rhetoric certainly fed the hate that led to the Christchurch massacre.”

Ardern and her apologists are trying to paint the Prime Ministers and her coalition government as tolerant. But even the Wall Street Journal in 2017 saw through that and tweeted “she’s more like Trump on immigration,” which was not well received. The reality is Ardern has given power to bigoted nationalist of the same genre as Trump. Her government is unique in that their official policies are closer to policies of the terrorist than any other I can think of.

She may hug the victims, but she is also complicit in giving Winston Peters an official sanction as Deputy Prime Minister to spew his hate. Just as Trump has fed the fevered hate of the nationalist right so has Winston Peters, and he is the man Ardern chose to crown as deputy leader of her government.

This is part of a three part series. Part one The Demented Politics of the New Zealand Terrorist covers the doctrines and hate espoused by the Christchurch terrorist. Part two, Trump, Hate and Terror covers the rhetoric of Donald Trump and how he and the terrorist are echo chambers using the same language. Part three is New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helped Promote Hate for Immigrants, which shows how Labour entered a coalition with right-wing anti-immigrant nationalists.



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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.