Monday, 19 October 2009

who's exploiting who?

whew, i've just spent the last couple of hours wading through the over 200 hundred emails piling in up in just one of my personal email accounts. although i have only myself to blame for letting this happen, and happily a fair few of them were able to be culled without requiring a response from me.

so, another one of the things i was thinking about but hadn't written on was the rt hon winston peters' speech recently about immigration. i haven't read the speech, and have no intention of doing so. i'd much rather beat myself around the head with a blunt instrument frankly!

but. i was having a discussion about his basic approach to immigration issues over the weekend. obviously he is trying to push buttons to generate some media coverage and support. but the problem is that there are serious issues to be discussed about immigration.

the biggest one for me is the importation of workers who will be prepared to work for worse pay and conditions than local workers, simply to avoid the level of poverty they face in their country of origin. i have a strong objection to this type of thing, and i've written about it previously at the hand mirror, particularly in regards to workers in the aged care sector. the two evils of such an approach is that 1) it reduces the wages and conditions of workers in this country and 2) it just adds to the fact that we do little to resolve poverty in their country of origin (through trade or aid).

now, we need to be having some decent and serious public debate about this issue. but we rarely are able to, mostly because of the dog-whistling and underlying racism of the winston peters approach. the fundamental difference between his approach and the one that i would take is this: he sees immigrants as exploiting this country, but i see this country as exploiting immigrants.

of course, it's not just this country - many others do the same. illegal immigrants keep the horticultural industries of many countries viable. as soon as the picking season is over, there will often be a much publicised raid that captures some number of illegals and deports them. but nothing serious is ever done, because economic prosperity depends on cheap labour.

and it never happens that any politician of note stands up and says "our country is exploiting immigrants". because there's no votes in it, of course. it's a reality that no-one wants to hear. but funnily enough, people are quite happy to hear about and absorb the myth that immigrants are exploiting our country and somehow ripping us off. which is why mr peters has been able to thrive for so many years.

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