The Paralysis of the Security Council in Syria

In this last week, New Zealand took two opportunities, one by Murray McCully at the Security Council and one by John Key at the General Assembly, to deplore the United Nations Security Council for failing to act in Syria. Between Bashar Al-Assad and ISIS/L, the Situation in Syria has become just as bad as, if not worse than, Rwanda in 1994. Last year, the deputy Secretary-General told the UN that a “failure of political will” led to the “cascade of human tragedy” that left between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi Rwandans slaughtered and a further two million Rwandans displaced seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. In Syria, more than 300,000 civilians have been killed (of which more than a quarter have been women and children) since 2011, leading to the current refugee crisis of over four million (registered) refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, and a further six million domestically displaced within Syria.

It’s hard to really comprehend the numbers and the sheer scale of the problem; night after night, the news recites the statistics and we become numb to the reality that a group of people the size of the population of New Zealand is currently trying to find a new home. When it comes to determining why this has happened, the knowledge that this could all have been avoided is crushing. Since the first protests held in March 2011 in the context of the Arab Spring, and the violent response from the government, there have been many opportunities for action. Yet every time real action has been proposed, it has been shut down.

Four Security Council resolutions on Syria have been explicitly vetoed, with many more experiencing the “soft veto” – draft resolutions that never even make it to the debating chamber because permanent members have indicated that they will unconditionally veto. Every time this happens, war crimes and crimes against humanity are implicitly permitted to continue by the global community.

In 2005 the United Nations unanimously adopted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which argues that sovereignty is not an absolute right, and that aspects of sovereignty are forfeited when states fail to protect (or themselves cause) mass atrocity crimes and severe human rights violations. The kicker was that UN Security Council would be the only body that could authorise military intervention. It did so in Darfur (2006), Libya (2011-2012), Cote D’Ivoire (2011), Yemen (2011), Mali (2012-2013), and Sudan/South Sudan (2011-2013). Yet it remains paralysed in the case of Syria, only managing to agree to stop the Syrian government from using chemical weapons against its own people. The Security Council had and still has a Responsibility to Protect, and it has failed to uphold that responsibility thus far.

Many, many proposals for Security Council reform have been proposed over the decades, driven by frustration over the blocking nature of the veto. The situation has only worsened over time, with reports that the permanent members now meet and discuss resolutions in private, essentially pre-determining the outcome of Security Council sessions and locking out the ten rotating elected members. To be frank, the Security Council is currently imbalanced and does not accurately reflect the true power structures of the world we live in today. A structure that allows for entrenched, self-validating authority and privilege will only cause the divide to widen over time.

What looks like the most promising reform proposal at this stage is to prevent the use of veto in cases of mass atrocities or genocide, which would align with the R2P doctrine and the arguments surrounding the “responsibility not to veto”. The proposal is only a small step towards rebalancing the Security Council, but it is supported by both France and the United Kingdom (which only makes it marginally more likely to happen).

However, this is only a band-aid solution. The Security Council’s inaction in Syria is only a symptom of the widening divide and eternal struggle between the West (US, UK, and France) and the East (Russia and China). In 2013 and 2014, a third of the General Assembly called for Security Council and veto reform in their General Debate speeches. More substantial changes will be required in order to clear the blockage that restricts the flow of political will through the Security Council.

Personally, I would support increased utilisation of UNGA Resolution 377A (“Uniting for Peace), which has unfortunately mostly become an idealised plot device for writers (I’m looking at you, House of Cards). In response to inaction by the Security Council to respond to the Korean War in 1950, a precedent was established that allows a special majority (2/3rds) of the General Assembly to override vetos in the Security Council and have “final responsibility” for restoring international peace and security. Of course, a lot of international relations and politics still limit the ultimate utility of this mechanism, but removing the bottleneck of the Security Council may be what is necessary to salvage the efficacy of the United Nations.

As the Prime Minister said: “We cannot afford to let the council go from an institution with failings to a failed institution.” Business as usual does not cut it. Without reform the Security Council will only descend into irrelevancy (and drag the entire United Nations down with it) until someone believes that they have the mandate to try something different. The uncertainty of that is unsettling, but more importantly in the meantime, the deaths continue.

More manaaki needed for our refugee whānau

By Ellipsister (Co-Editor)

On Friday 4 September 2015, the National Party confirmed it would deny leave (this coming week)  for both the Labour Party and Green Party to table emergency legislation in the House that would allow for an emergency intake of, and an increase in the annual quota of refugees accepted into NZ (respectively). Many opposition supporters and media have criticised this decision by the government demanding immediate action to proactively respond to this humanitarian crisis.

One of the concerns of the National Party will be that a win by the opposition would make the government look ineffective and not in control and this is a perception they’ll certainly want to avoid. There is also the fact that the government can respond to the situation without introducing any legislation into the house, and without conceding a win to the opposition, since the refugee programme is primarily a Cabinet decision and under the current cabinet agreement, the government can already accept 50 individuals as part of their emergency intake programme. I’m unsure, however, whether this would be similar to Helen Clark’s decision to accept an emergency intake of 150 refugees on the Tampa in 2001, where those individuals formed part of the existing 750 annual quota. Regardless, given the slow response by the government, it is difficult to believe that any measures that may be taken will be the result of genuine concern, but rather because of both public and international pressure to take action.

On the basis that there is increasing public interest in raising the annual refugee quota, there is a high probability that the planned 2016 review will simply be brought forward to quell the disquiet. Of note, in 1987 the refugee quota was set at 800 individuals and in 1997 was reduced under a National led government to 750 where it has remained since. There is here then, an opportunity for National to remedy their contemptible 1997 decision to reduce our refugee intake. As others have pointed out also, with NZ holding a seat on the UN Security Council, there are likely expectations from the international community that we take a lead (with the other UNSC member states) in the response to this crisis. The fact that all three confidence and supply (C & S) parties support an increase in the annual refugee intake as well as emergency provisions, is perhaps another aspect that will likely influence whatever action National may take this week.

What I remain mindful of, is how we manaaki refugees on arrival in NZ. At the moment, the primary provider for receiving refugees accepted by NZ is the Red Cross who run a ‘six-week orientation programme at the Department of Immigration’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre’ before resettling refugees in five communities around New Zealand – a decision that is made by the government.

As the Red Cross explain:

Resettlement is a life-changing experience as refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different from their own and much is new to them. It is both challenging and rewarding for these individuals.

There are good reasons for the six week orientation programme that deals predominantly with practical matters such as setting up bank accounts and understanding the local laws, but also physical and mental health checks to determine the care needed (if any). However, often when people talk of resettling refugees it is sadly in assimilatory terms where the things that matter are how well refugees can speak English, and their willingness to walk the Pākehā world.

It is for this reason that I consider Māori could actively participate in resettlement initiatives to help heal the wairua of our refugee whānau, and to awhi their connection to our whenua so that they can rebuild their lives here supported by our enduring customs. Through the principles of whakawhanaungatanga (establishing relationships) and manaakitanga (care, generosity and hospitality) and whakapapa we could ensure that retaining a connection to their whenua and whānau abroad, while rebuilding their lives in this country is an important part of the resettlement process. This could potentially be achieved through multilateral partnerships between hapū, iwi and hapori Māori, the government, (relevant) embassies and local organisations that provide services to and for refugees to deliver resettlement initiatives.

We cannot forget that refugees arrive here through reasons beyond their control and as such are forced to live in a new land and within a culture alien to their own.  As tangata whenua we have an obligation to ensure that people arriving in this country – especially those who were forcibly disconnected from their whenua through the trauma of armed conflict and/or persecution are received with the care, generosity and aroha, that our tikanga demands and are supported to achieve their aspirations.

The Haki Conspiracy

By Ellipsister (Co-Editor)

I’ve written on the flag change already. My position on that hasn’t changed. I’m no nationalist, but I do support giving equal status to the Māori flag as explicit recognition of the status of Māori as tangata whenua and as a positive step toward tino rangatiratanga.  However, this post is about something different. It’s about the tin foil that has rolled out all over Facebook over the past week proclaiming the removal of the Union Jack will a) render the Treaty of Waitangi null and void and b) enable John Key to legally sign the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

 

Its bunk. The writer has either relied on the reader not clicking on the link to the document cited to intentionally mislead the reader, or has not understood how to read the document.

Here is a screenshot from the post:

conspiracy

Note, the writer has insinuated that the document identifies the Union Jack as “core” to our current system of government and this is what he builds his theory around. What the document actually says is:

points 10

And at 12:

Points 12

The Union Jack is symbolic only and removing it from the New Zealand flag will not affect the the status of this country as a constitutional monarchy, i.e. it does not remove the Queen as our Head of State. Moreover, it is the government that manages the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty so changing the symbol will not null and void the Treaty of Waitangi (an issue for another day is actually a discussion about the Māori text and the English text. We often talk about these documents interchangeably but they contain significant differences in the language used and as Ani Mikaere has argued they are not reconcilable despite a great deal of treaty jurisprudence suggesting they could be).

Changing the flag also does not legalise “John Key’s” ability to sign the TPPA. The Executive already has ‘the power to take binding treaty action (that is, ratification, accession, acceptance, approval, withdrawal or denunciation or, in the case of bilateral treaties, signature)’ provided it can pass the legislation to implement the treaty in New Zealand’s domestic law.

As you can tell, I am wholly unconvinced by the haki conspiracy. What I  will make clear is that:

  • I oppose the signing of the TPPA and a raft of other multilateral treaties that seek to meta-regulate the trading environment, in such a way that advantages multinational corporations at the expense of small business owners and entrepreneurs, especially in their local markets.
  • I consider that the rights of Māori as tangata whenua are not packaged up in The Treaty (whichever version) but are sourced from our continued relationships with our whenua that have been shaped over many centuries pre- and post-colonisation and as such I support the building of alternative social institutions that will render statist institutions obsolete and would champion this country asserting its independence by cutting ties with the monarchy.
  • I am increasingly suspicious of the motivations of any person that suggests the symbol of the Union Jack in this country represents anything other than the colonisation of Māori and the devastation of our culture.

Why is the TPP being negotiated in secret?

By Andrew Chen

“You don’t go into a poker game with your cards laid out on the table.”

– National MP Chris Bishop (at the AUSA politics week debate, 14 August 2015)

Apart from the obvious issue of comparing trade negotiations with gambling, this response creates an interesting train of thought. The proponents of the TPP have long argued that “international trade agreements are always negotiated in secret”, as if tradition can never be challenged. They argue that this is because negotiators cannot do their jobs effectively if their every move is questioned by the public. They argue that negotiators cannot achieve the best outcome for their respective countries if they reveal too much information. Maybe two months ago I would have agreed with them, but over the last few weeks I thought a little bit more about why those arguments might not hold up.

There are two key flaws with these arguments that rely on traditional models of negotiation. Firstly, international trade negotiations are a vastly different beast to confidential business-to-business negotiations, because so much information is available in the public domain about each of the parties. It is no secret that New Zealand wants better access to sell dairy in currently highly tariffed or subsidised markets. It is no secret that the United States wants to extend intellectual property protection on medical drugs in order to better incentivise pharmaceutical development. It is no secret that Vietnam and Malaysia want to keep their state-owned businesses that provide lower cost services to the majority of their populations.

These negotiation positions and bottom lines are known because we have a multitude of data with which to understand the background and context of each country. Each party to the negotiations is a government that debates in their respective houses publicly about the trials and tribulations facing their countries almost every day. It’s difficult to see how any of the parties to the negotiations could have secret bargaining positions that are unknown to the others. At a broad level, everyone knows what everyone else wants. Everyone knows what the overall goals of each state are, and everyone knows what the bottom lines of each state are. There may be some details left to quibble over, but what a state is willing or not willing to give up is largely known, and therefore not worth trying to keeping secret from the other negotiators. The lack of commonality between the bargaining positions is probably what is causing the negotiations to endlessly go on (they were started in 2009), which leads us to the next point.

The second key flaw is the assumption that there is something to be won over the other parties. When there are so many people in involved, and so many eyes scrutinising any deal, any party is going to know if they’re getting shafted pretty quickly. In traditional models of negotiation, the goal is often to come away with an agreement that is a win for you, even if that means less of a win or a loss for the other party. You can rely on underhanded tactics, from psychological manipulation to lying in order to convince the other party to take a deal that is in your interests and probably not really in theirs.

These tactics are much less likely to work when entire countries are involved. A government that agrees to and signs a deal that is detrimental to their country is likely to get hit with a referendum or voted out, and the legislation required to ratify any agreement would be not passed or later repealed. Government and trade negotiators know this – they have to push very hard not to lose in these negotiations. So there are two endgames here. One is that we follow the traditional model, and everyone pushes for their self-interest in order to “win”. If we follow that strategy, then perhaps withholding information to create an asymmetric situation to hold power makes sense. But with twelve rather diverse parties, it seems increasingly likely that this means that there are areas with no common ground, making it difficult for all parties to win.

The other endgame is that everyone pushes for compromise, in order to achieve the best deal for all parties involved. This utilitarianistic thinking would mean that some parties (probably the bigger ones) take more of a hit than others, in order to create an even and fair agreement that benefits everyone a little bit, rather than benefitting a few parties a lot. This is ultimately what should really be happening if the parties want to be able to pass a deal, because they know that a deal passed with all parties involved is much stronger than a deal passed with only half the parties on board. To do this, the parties have to co-operate, much like an anti-competitive cartel. The parties have to trust each other, and work together to find the solution that optimises towards a good deal for everyone. In this case, it doesn’t actually make sense for negotiators to withhold information from each other, because it makes it harder to achieve that optimal deal if they don’t know what each party wants.

Lastly, there’s one more important point to bring up. It is argued that if the trade agreement is not negotiated in secret, if the public is able to follow the negotiations, then the deal will fall apart. This can be argued ideologically, but to see if this stands up we only have to look at the reality. The fact that chapters of the draft agreement have been leaked has already at least partially compromised the secrecy of the agreement. The fact that the public is talking about the agreement, and that there are rallies and protests in the various countries, means that the secrecy surrounding the agreement has not been effective at preventing the public from scrutinising the deal and challenging their governments. Most importantly, despite the failure to keep the TPP out of public discussion, the negotiations have gone on undeterred. The main asserted harm of losing the secrecy of the negotiations has not eventuated.

I am not necessarily opposed to there being a trade agreement. I am not necessarily opposed to free trade, and like many TPP supporters, I will withhold judgement on the actual deal until we have seen it. But the secrecy surrounding the deal is something that I have issue with, and I am yet to read or see a good reason why that secrecy should continue. If the benefits of secrecy have not accrued, then what is the real reason for keeping the negotiations secret?

The Beginning and the End of the TPPA

Jordan McCluskey, Co-Editor. 

We are a nation of traders. New Zealand is a country that has, since its colonisation, been dependent on foreign trade to support our economy. Extractive industries came first for the Kauri, then gold, then whale oil, and finally seal furs. Following colonial wars of dispossession against Māori, the land was then transformed, through large foreign borrowing by the Vogel government in New Zealand from London, into being suitable for a nation of smallhold farmers. A severe slump in the 1880s and continuing economic boom and bust in the 1890s lead to what James Belich calls the ‘recolonisation’ of New Zealand for the production of meat and dairy for the market of the British Empire.

This system of imperial trade saw Britain take almost all our meat and dairy until the mid-1960s, when it signalled that it wished to join the European Economic Community (The Pre-EU economic organisation). Britain would stop taking all our mutton, wool, and cheese at guaranteed prices for New Zealand if it gained entry. The New Zealand government spent years lobbying Britain to back out, but in 1973 Britain entered the EEC, causing New Zealand to lose its largest market for its goods.

New Zealand pivoted to Asia for trade from the 1970s out of necessity and became highly respected around the world as tough but fair, innovative trade enthusiasts. The Kirk government recognised the People’s Republic of China in 1972. The Muldoon government assiduously courted fellow Commonwealth nations in Asia, trying to improve trade flows.

The crowning economic achievement of the Muldoon government (yes, they exist) was signing the CER free trade agreement with Australia. Following the Rogernomics reforms of agriculture, almost all tariffs and subsidies were removed from the New Zealand economy out of pure necessity, as we are told that the country could no longer afford them.

New Zealand’s reputation in free trade became one of the best in the world. A country with no tariffs or subsidies. A small unthreatening nation on the periphery of the globe. A country seeking to improve its trade to improve its economic livelihood, with no hidden agendas. With this context in mind, may surprise you that the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is not something being forced on New Zealand, but was in fact the creation of New Zealand trade negotiators. It is not an American invention.

Initially between the Pacific Rim countries of Brunei, Singapore, Chile and New Zealand, it gained the interest of the United States, leading to excitement of our government.

The TPP is not the world’s first RTA (Regional Trade Agreement). The European Union is a customs union with a shared currency and no tariffs between member states, though with the kind of incredibly distorting agricultural subsidies that New Zealand has long since abandoned. NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) created a free trade zone between Canada, Mexico and the United States under Bill Clinton. Mercosur has created a free trade zone incorporating most of South America.

The problem with RTAs is that they tend to be dominated by the interests of the larger states. The EU as we have seen in the unfolding Greek tragedy is dominated by Germany, NAFTA by the United States, and Mercosur by Brazil. There are also weaker and more dysfunctional customs unions in Africa and the nations of the former Soviet Union. The WTO (World Trade Organisation) actually frowns on RTAs, and prefers that states work towards bilateral (state to state) trade agreements, in order to work towards the WTO’s overarching goal of a completely free trade world.

So a small, relatively niche RTA gained the interest of the United States. Following them Australia, Vietnam, Peru, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, and Canada entered negotiations. China also wants to be part of TPP negotiations, but the United States is resisting them, in another episode of the adversarial symbiosis which plagues the two great powers of our age.

New Zealand has allowed the United States into the TPP negotiations to try and gain the holy grail of our trade negotiators for four decades: Free Trade with the USA. Policy Officers of MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) are conditioned from entering the Ministry, that Free Trade with the United States is something that must be attained no matter the cost, even if really does not make economic sense any more.

Previous attempts have been derailed by David Lange refusing to allow nuclear ships to enter our waters, and Helen Clark refusing to invade the Middle East with George W Bush. The TPP is our silver medal, a backdoor way to try and get free trade with the United States. It is a quest to fulfill the yearnings of the only Ministry in New Zealand besides the Treasury to resist long overdue concerted change. MFAT was formed in the 1940s, and its strategic outlook remains stuck in the 1940s.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the politics of Anglophone world were riven by debates on tariff policy. The two major political alignments in Australia were even know as protectionist or free trader. The benefits of Free Trade are so well known, they are almost a cliché. More trade, more jobs, more economic growth. If the TPP was purely about the reduction of tariffs, and the elimination of subsidies, it would have my full support. But it is not. The TPP has a dark side.

The TPP contains provisions introduced to the United States relating to intellectual property, pharmaceuticals and investor-state arbitration. There are also complaints that as trade negotiations go, the TPPA has set new standards in terms of secrecy and lack of disclosure to the citizens of states who may enter into it. I don’t agree with this complaint because trade agreements have always been negotiated in secret due to commercial sensitivity. However, fragments of leaked text continue to leak.

They show that Intellectual property changes would make it easier for members to sue each other in the other nation’s courts over issues such as copyright and patents. The provisions relating to pharmaceuticals would require New Zealand to disestablish the state pharmaceutical purchaser, Pharmac, in favour of American drugs which may be more effective, but also far more expensive.

Of the potential negatives of the TPP, the investor-state arbitration is perhaps the most damaging. I would preface what follows next by saying I am not a lawyer, and I apologise in advance if what I state next is not technically perfect. If a government changes the law in a way that disadvantages a product, say for example tobacco, the tobacco company or its host government could then sue the offending country’s government for hundreds of millions of dollars in that country’s own courts.

This is without a doubt, a damaging attack on the sovereignty of the nation state. The freedom to regulate and legislate for our own people would be seriously harmed by entering into the TPP. The TPP would also have a destructive effect on how New Zealand manages its environment, regarded as one of the most pristine biospheres left on the Earth. Water quality, energy usage and oil drilling decisions could all be challenged under investor-state arbitration provisions.

New Zealand is a nation of Free Traders, with an economy built on the lifeblood of international trade. Without trade our country would be a poor, third rate Kiwifruit republic. We have however become so invested in our reputation as the world’s most ideologically pure free traders that we have lost sight of the reason our country pursues free trade; to make our country richer, not poorer. I would argue the primary reason our country is pursuing the TPP is gain back door entry to free trade with the United States. There is no need to accept a trade agreement with the kind of huge gaping flaws the TPP has in it.

China is now the world’s largest economy according to the IMF. We already have free trade with them. We are a small country of nearly 5 million people trading with a country of 1.3 billion. This is already seeing New Zealand beginning to reach the edges of its biological and environmental limits. There is only so much land that can be converted to dairying, and cows can certainly not be stacked on top of each other.

The counter argument is that by being so locked into the Chinese economy, we risk recession if China experiences economic turmoil. So would the entire planet. There is only so much we can produce, we are quickly reaching the absolute peak of that, and having a bigger market to sell it too would probably not make much more than a marginal difference.

So we come to the point where we should try and view things coolly and dispassionately. What is the point of Free Trade? To mutually increase the wealth of nations engaged in trade with each by the reduction of barriers to trade. What is not Free Trade? Reducing barriers, but inserting fish hooks into a trade agreement so the economic gains are offset by new costs. What would New Zealand stand to gain from the TPP? Greater access for agricultural products. What would New Zealand stand to lose or pay? Greater costs for medications, greater environmental degradation, lawsuits against our government costing the taxpayer millions of dollars.

The government argues that the benefits to dairy, among other sectors would see the increased wealth filter down into the wider New Zealand economy offsetting the potential negatives of the TPP. I disagree. This is not the case. For this reason New Zealand should not sign the TPPA. The maths does not, and will not, stack up.

Housing Crisis: Targeting Chinese people isn’t what Olivia Pope would do

By Lamia Imam

The current National government stopped recording the number of overseas residents buying houses in New Zealand. There’s actually no way for us to know the extent of damage non-residents are causing by buying up houses that apparently are rightfully ours. The way the Herald chose to present the problem in yesterday’s story is not only xenophobic but statistically unsound. The story is about a large chunk of buyer’s name being “Chinese”. Basically we have resorted to racially profiling buyers to explain why Kiwis are unable to buy their own homes? This is particularly heinous, given other surveys show that British and American buyers also make a chunk of the foreign purchase of Kiwi homes. And on top of that, Labour’s solution is really not a solution but rather an idea with little policy merit.

Keith Ng over at Public Address has broken down the actual number, addressing the fact that the data used is completely unreliable and the resulting conclusions completely false (on that note, there are some folks who desperately need to take a maths/statistics refresher course). Thomas Lumley at StatsChat has also done the same. And Minister Nick Smith also pointed out in the original Herald article that the data is sourced from one agency and looks at a specific time period. But I want to address how we talk about this and other ways to address the apparent problem of high house prices.

A number of people on Twitter tried to tell me that if the foreign ownership numbers end up being true, then this way of doing data analysis is accurate. These people are grossly mistaken and do not seem to understand that data itself without context is hugely problematic from a race perspective. This kind of data analysis would be akin to the FBI providing figures related to domestic terrorism in the United States from July 2001 to September 2001 based on last name analysis. Do we see how misleading and problematic that is? Just because it is true that a more “Muslim sounding” names would probably come up, does not mean we should racially profile all Muslims with those names, which would include a large chunk of non-Muslims and non-terrorists.

housing

Labour has a policy proposal – it is to ban foreign residents from buying NZ homes. It is an interesting policy, one I do not necessarily agree with for a number of reasons.

  • The first being, we can’t actually ban all non-residents because of various trade agreements (like the CER) so exceptions will have to be made. Although Kiwis can’t buy houses in China so there might be some specific possibilities based on a two-way relationship rather than race.
  • The second, their impact analysis does not tell me how much of an effect it would actually have on house prices given similar policies exist in other countries that still face high house prices.
  • The third, it does not take into account our domestic situation of high-income Kiwis owning multiples houses for investment reasons because we do not have diverse investment opportunities that are also low risk.
  • The fourth, cost of living in New Zealand compared to wages. If wages do not allow Kiwis to buy a modest home in the area that they work, then perhaps there needs to be a discussion about how businesses can be incentivized to raise wages.
  • The fifth, comprehensive capital gains tax policy. We can restrict foreign ownership all we want but that alone probably will not fix the problem just like capital gains will not fix the problem if it is narrowly applied. Labour has effectively abandoned this policy for the moment as well.

The housing crisis is not a simple problem. One policy solution will not fix this problem. A policy that targets Chinese owners will absolutely not fix the problem and will create an additional political problem for Labour. For more on the political fallout, see John Palethorpe’s excellent post.

Labour’s Kiwibuild policy has some merit in my opinion. It could be further tweaked to make it restrictive in the following way –

  • Available for purchase by those living in New Zealand intending to buy a house as a first time buyer for the family; and
  • Only for those who have a certain income (for low to middle income families); and
  • They are sold at near cost price (so the government doesn’t make a profit but is essentially providing a service and in the process easing the pressure on the property market)

I don’t believe that Phil Twyford is racist, having dealt with him personally at work. I don’t think Labour believes that all Chinese folks are non-Kiwis but this was a terrible error in judgment on their part.  And, given the extent to which Kiwis can be racist, this is an uncomfortable policy for all minorities living in Aotearoa. Chinese folks will feel particularly uncomfortable and unwanted in their own country.

In conclusion, a policy that addresses the five concerns above and also allows low to middle income folks to access the housing market is a policy I can get behind. A policy that uses data analysis of people’s ethnic last name is an inherently racist policy and should be rejected. Just because the government will not collect adequate data does not mean we get to make up our own.