Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Immigration II

Section 4 of the document covers the visa and permit system: in other words, the bureaucracy by which arrivals and stays in NZ are regulated.

To me the key principal here is that the system should not only be fair, open and transparent, it should place the absolute minimum burden on travellers to New Zealand consistent with a reasonable level of border security. That isn't just a question of being nice to travellers, it's also of economic importance.

One of the main impediments to NZ's growth is our geographical position. Tourists and business people (or "customers" in commercial terms) need to endure a minimum of three hours on a plane, and mostly much longer. We shouldn't add to this by slowing things up at the airport.

It's to be noted that our major trading partners have much quicker and more efficient border controls than we do. Generally, a scan of a passport is all that's required, even for non-EU citizens entering the EU (and "Schengen" borders within the EU, which one could reasonably regard as similar to the Australia/NZ "border", consist of a roadsign, as shown below).

Border between Germany and Holland

The document asks the following questions:
4.1.1 Should the single term "visa" be used for all travel, entry and stay authorization granted to non-citizens?
4.1.2 Should the system continue to allow for exceptions to the standard requirement to have authorization to travel to, enter and remain in New Zealand (for example, through the equivalent of visa-free arrangements or permit exemptions)?
4.2.1 Are all the current permit exemptions justified?

I would say yes, yes and yes.

I'd go on to argue that the Act should put an obligation on NZIS to justify and minimize compliance costs and times at NZ airports. We could look at the following:
  • Recording most, if not all, visas and permits electronically rather than through passport stamps and stickers.
  • Removing the arrival and departure card requirements. According to this Guardian article most UK landing cards pile up unprocessed in a warehouse, and I wouldn't be surprised if this happened here as well. Almost all the information on landing cards can be (and mostly is) obtained from the airlines electronically. Having travellers sign to say that they have no contraband might be useful (but doesn't have much legal force).
  • Replacing the departure counters by spot-checks and automated scrutiny of flight manifests.

Wiki failings

Good article from Russell Brown on the various failings of Wikipedia, including the tendency for various NZ wingnuts (and others) to try and convert it into a propaganda board for ACT.

It does occur to me, however, that the GFDL allows anyone to take a snapshot of all or part of Wikipedia and run with it. For instance, one could envisage a system of expert (or at least unbiased) editors who can approve and lock copy. The difficulty is that such systems can eventually logjam and become (more or less) useless (like Open Directory).

One day, technology will allow articles to be checked, referenced and approved by a neutral software program!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Immigration I

No Right Turn has a good article commenting on the NZIS discussion document on changes to the Immigration Act, on which comments are currently being sought.

I thought I'd add some of my own thoughts, starting with Section I - Purpose & Principals.

They ask the following questions:
1 Do you agree with the suggested purpose of New Zealand’s immigration legislation?
2 Do you agree that New Zealand’s immigration-related interests are those suggested?
3 Should a purpose statement be included in the legislation?

To me, there is a philosophical objection which any immigration legislation has to address - such legislation is inherently discriminatory (Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits discrimination on grounds of nationality, although this is qualified elsewhere).

The argument for such legislation is that it is necessary to prevent uncontrolled and excessive migration from poor, unstable countries to wealthier and more stable states. It's worth noting in passing that the EU has had no controls on intra-union migration for over 25 years and that such migration has been relatively small - even though there are quite wide wealth disparities between, for instance, Portugal and Germany.

Assuming however, that we accept the principle that immigration controls are a pragmatic necessity, it seems to me that they should be constrained to the minimum required to prevent economic and social damage. The document lists the following interests that NZ has in maintaining immigration controls:
  1. maintaining the safety and security of New Zealand
  2. generating sustainable economic growth
  3. establishing strong communities
  4. fulfilling New Zealand’s role as a good international citizen, and
  5. promoting international cooperation.

I have no problem with 2, 4 and 5 as far as they go. Item 1 is slightly more problematic, since "safety and security" can be expanded to cover a multitude of evils. Indeed, the chosen examples lead straight away to a very broad interpretation of "safety": "ensuring that non-citizens are of good health" is cited as one restriction justified by this clause. The current measures affecting the health of immigrants are primarily concerned with avoiding cost to the health system (an economic ground) than restricting the transmission of infectious disease. Indeed, there are no controls on the health of returning citizens and residents, who would seem equally likely to have picked up something nasty overseas. I'd suggest this clause be replaced with the simpler "prevention of crimes and hostile acts".

Item 3 I fundamentally disagree with. I don't think the government should be engaging in "social engineering" to try and force the nation's development down a certain path. New Zealand appears set to remain a basically Anglo-Polynesian society - if it takes in other influences, then that is a Good Thing. I also don't believe in the idea that immigration by groups with different ideals (e.g. Muslims) will lead to the erosion of our tolerant society: firstly, I believe our instutions are (or should be) robust enough to resist such erosion; secondly, most immigrants move here because they actually *like* the way things are.

I would add a further item: "protecting the rights and interests of migrants". This would cover activities such as preventing the exploitation of migrant workers (and indeed students).

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter bunny

Christ Easter is boring here! England used to make the pubs close at 1030 on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, which was bad enough, but at least they opened.

I don't quite get the labour protection argument. Lots of workers, from the duty shift at Huntly to Mick Jagger, and including the Department of Labour's own inspectors, have to work Easter.

I argued elsewhere that all public holidays should be replaced with an increased annual leave entitlement, giving workers the right to holidays of choice rather than on days ordained by the church. If this is impossible, and the government reckons a relaxation on Easter opening wouldn't pass the Christian element in parliament, then there is another option, which could be implemented without legislation: Give the DoL inspectors Chocolate Egg Day and Hot Cross Bun day off.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ciao Berlusconi

Looks like Berlusconi has lost the Italian elections - depending on whether the Prodi-led coalition has enough seats in the upper house to form a workable coalition.

So Bush just lost another satellite state!

It's also interesting to consider whether there might be further prosecutions - he has wriggled out of rather a lot of accusations.

Friday, April 07, 2006

My fake sheikh brings all the boys to the yard

George Galloway has been in court again - the News of the World has been trying to suppress images of it's investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood. Quite what legal grounds they could have for this I don't know - images taken in a public place are generally the copyright of the photographer, not the subject. I can't believe he'd be entitled to a "Mary Bell order" - those have only ever been given to protect a child. Anyway, this is what he looks like:

and in his highly believable Sheikh costume:

So if you're a celebrity and he tries to stitch you up, then beware!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Random jottings from Europe

I'm away in Germany and England for a couple of weeks and I thought I'd just post a few random comments from my travels:

Singapore: I was briefly in transit through Singapore, as you do. It does seem to be impossible to fly from NZ to Europe without transiting at least one authoritarian fascist state - but at least the Singaporeans are efficient fascists and don't make you spend most of your two hour stopover in line at immigration. I read the Sunday Straits Times on the plane out, and it worries me - it's ostensibly just like a normal Sunday paper, but with this Orwellian overlay to everything. Just about every article in the paper is slated to the national "model" of how people should live and behave - scary.

Germany: I was staying in a city in the Ruhr, which is what the Americans would call "rustbelt". Most German cities provide a constant reminder of what authoritarian government leads to - very few buildings older than 50 years (for obvious reasons). I think this leads to a sensible skepticism for authoritarian measures - one example of this being the German attitude to motoring - my taxi driver heading for the airport got up to a brisk 160km/h on the autobahn - in NZ that would practically be considered attempted murder!

Britain: I'm informed that drinking on the street outside a pub has been banned. All the time I worked in the City, this was traditional on sunny days (yes - England does occasionally have them) - you'd get your pint and stand out on the pavement and drink it. I *never* saw any trouble. Now they've decided to ban it - no doubt part of Blair's "Respect" (= social control) agenda. Next thing they'll ban chewing gum!

I just don't see how this slide into authoritarianism can be stopped - part of the reason is that societies don't have the big problems like depressions and world war that they used to, so governments feel they have to solve every tiny issue. Bah!