Tuesday, 30 July 2013

housing policy becomes a race debate

i'm once again moved to write about non-local government issues, & the thing that has got me going is the new labour party policy regarding the restriction on property ownership by non-residents.

i'm not opposed to the policy itself.  i'd be happy to have such restrictions, to put a curb on speculation by people who never intend to live here.  those people come from countries around the world, they often have enough wealth to drive prices up & making owning a home unaffordable for those of us who are living here.

i'd also like to see some restrictions on local speculators as well.  a capital gains tax is a start, but won't make much of a difference to house prices.  getting to keep 85% of your capital gain is still makes ownership of rental properties a good option.  i'd also like to see ring-fencing of losses on rental properties, so that the loss can't be offset against other income.  but no party is pushing that as a policy at the moment, at least no that i'm aware of.

no, the thing that has annoyed me about the non-resident ownership policy is that it becomes an excuse to bash immigrants - even though the policy is specifically not targeted at immigrants.  and even for those who understand that difference, there is still a tendency to focus on asians to the exclusion of others.

i've written before about the notion of visible & invisible migrants - it's something i became aware of through research conducted by some friends of mine at waikato university.  visible migrants are those of a different skin colour, and very often, the terms "immigrant" & "migrant" are used as synonyms for people of colour living in this country, other than maori.  and even in that group, the terms are even more specifically used to refer to asians, africans, & those from the middle east.

invisible migrants tend to be white people from europe, canada, america, britain, australia & africa (especially south africa & zimbabwe).  when people use the terms "immigrant" & "migrant", they tend not to mean this group of people (not everyone, but many people).  and so this policy, though it applies to non-residents, is taken to mean predominantly chinese & other asian people.  even though they aren't specifically targeted by the policy.

it doesn't help that there are no concrete statistics so that we can know the parts of the world that current non-resident owners come from.  in the absence of actual data, stereotypes prevail.  and such stereotypes are exacerbated by an opposition that wants to turn the whole debate into one about race instead of one about housing, to hide the fact that they have very few policies aimed at making housing more affordable.

as a result, what i've seen, particularly on facebook, are comments directed at various asians, be they chinese, japanese, indonesian or thai, & none of those comments are particularly flattering.  even if they are neutral, the fact that asian non-resident owners are being identified while white non-resident owners remain invisible, in itself creates a racial dimension that is unnecessary & in face harmful.

i believe facebook pages are the responsibility of the people who created them, & i really do expect politicians to be strong on challenging racial stereotypes and challenging the process of making some non-residents more visible than others on their own pages.  to be silent is to be accepting, especially when it's a space that you have total control of.  strong leadership can certainly help to reduce some of the nonsense that's coming out as the discussion goes on - it can't be stopped altogether, but it certainly can be reduced.

it's the least we should be expecting.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

a privileged birth

so it's been a very long while since i posted here, as i was reminded by someone i met at a meeting tonight.  it's not that i haven't been writing posts, it's just that i'm writing them at my website.  so please feel free to check in over there regularly - almost all of those posts are related to either to local body issues or to my campaign, but there are some interesting wider issues that come up as i work on the campaign.

i'm moved to write here today about how much i'm over the birth of the royal baby.  i've been avoiding most media in the last 2 days, particularly any news bulletins on tv & radio.  i just can't bear any more of this coverage.  while i wish the baby & his family well, i can't get into the hype around royalty & privilege by dint of birth.

as many long-standing readers of this blog will be aware, i do have an on-going campaign of sorts, to become the queen of nz.  i can report that two people have agreed to be my subjects.  i'm not sure how many more i'll need before i can displace the foreign royal who is nominally our head of state.  but i can promise fewer scandals, and there certainly will be no baby-having by me.  so you can be a little more confident that your news bulletins would focus more on news than on royal antics, should you accept me as your sovereign.

i think i'm especially annoyed by all of this, because it's happening during ramadan, a time when i've been more focused on the have-nots.  to be continually reminded of just how much the haves have just makes that reflection even sadder.  we can never create a world where everyone is exactly equal, but we can work towards one where there is a lot less inequality, and a lot more financial security for everyone.

one of the ways we could do that is to stop glorifying privilege by having this kind of blanket coverage in the media - & particularly that part of the media that purports to be giving us the news. a 30-second clip is more than sufficient to let us know the baby is well & all family members are overjoyed.  anything more is just free advertising for the commercial enterprise that is the royal family.

if you happen to be one of those people who are of a similar mindset, consider countering all this royal baby news by making a donation to a charity of your choice that deals with issues around poverty.  or, if that's not a possibility, you could consider a submission against the latest changes to our employment laws which will further drive down wages, or consider supporting the living wage campaign.  concrete action is the only way to counter this kind of hype.