The bells are tolling
It is the hottest issue in international politics, and now it is knocking at our door too.
Immigration. Yes, across Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, porus borders are taking their toll.
Locals are tired of watching the values they grew up with erased, the traditions they cherished replaced, and the culture they saw their parents work hard to build constantly denigrated.
They are tired, too, of politicians who skirt the issues over fears of sounding racist. If you want evidence of that just cast your eye across Europe.
In the Netherland’s the Party for Freedom has just won an the second-highest number of seats in Parliament, and joins an assortment of right-leaning parties that stole votes from the left and sent it to an historic defeat.
The same is happening in France where the National Front may yet win the election with Marie Le Pen at its head. Meanwhile, the Alternative for Germany Party leader says immigration guards may have to turn guns on illegal immigrants, while his party continues to ride high in the polls. Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Law and Justice Party in Poland, the Sweden Democrats – the list goes on.
That’s not to mention the seismic shift that was Brexit in the United Kingdom, or President Trump’s win in the United States.
All of these parties and people have swooped into their respective Parliaments with growing numbers of seats or into the public consciousness with increasing effectiveness.
And all share the common thread of nationalism. All have picked up on an under-estimated public sentiment against unfettered immigration.
I know, I know. New Zealand is slightly different. We don’t have boats arriving or borders rammed up against another country, and we certainly need many of the immigrants who choose to make our country home (I’m even married to one of them).
But even so, after two years of the words “record immigration figures” appearing most months, New Zealanders are growing wary.
Towards the end of last year polls started picking up on a growing public discontent with New Zealand’s endless run of record-breaking immigration figures.
And now the latest numbers are out, with at least one bank saying our population could hit 5 million in three years, thanks to the influx of 60,000 people a year.
It is the fifth straight month of record immigration gains.
And those figures aren’t just made up of returning Kiwis seeking refuge from the political storms or sluggish economies around Europe.
They are made up of “a real mix of people coming for different reasons”, according to economist Daniel Snowden.
That means any slowdown in the numbers will take time, “because if one factor changes and falls away, you’ve still got four or five groups of people coming.”
Already New Zealand has had political parties dip a toe into the voter sentiment these numbers might create -but it wasn’t on the far-right. It was the Labour Party calling foul on the number of immigrants sweeping into the country. In October last year Labour Leader Andrew Little said Government efforts to reduce New Zealand’s record runs of immigration was overdue and under-played.
He cited concern over immigrants taking local jobs.
He said there were “a number of growing issues”, calling them “acute”.
That follows his suggestions that people with Chinese-sounding names were behind Auckland’s high house prices in 2015 – an issue he pegged as being about foreign investors, but which the Chinese community in New Zealand saw as being about race.
But after Trump’s immigration policy scandal, Andrew Little suddenly back-tracked. And he has been quiet on immigration ever since.
And that leaves Winston Peters of New Zealand First mining anti-immigration voter sentiment, which is stock standard New Zealand politics.
Still, let’s hope the government hears the warning bells before voters start looking for Europe-styled solutions here.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz