We currently have the sight of the New Zealand and Australian governments arguing over very small numbers of refugees. In New Zealand we have National and Labour vying for the moral high ground.
We know from the experience in Germany last year that the moral imperative of not torturing refugees, quickly runs into the problem that the goodwill of even the most generous recipient nation is exhaustible.
Angela Merkel took the heroic decision to let in as many immigrants as made it to Germany, which resulted in around 1 million immigrants in 2016. In 2017 the anti-immigration party AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland) won 94 seats in the Bundestag, and now Germany has no government.
Australia has a humanitarian program with a cap on numbers for 2105-16 of 13,750 immigrants, plus an additional 12,000 visas available for refugees from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Hopefully that puts the 170 being discussed from Manus and Nauru into perspective.
The argument is not really about 170 people. That number is so small that no one really thinks it is any kind of problem. The problem is that we are no closer to knowing what is the right maximum number. Germany has demonstrated the truth of the old adage that “taking all the people from poor countries and putting them in rich countries does not solve anything”.
Maybe the New Zealand government can play a role in moving this debate forwards, but poking the Australian government in the eye with a sharp stick is not going to get us there. By playing politics with the lives of truly desperate people, the New Zealand government is no better than those anti-immigration forces that it disparages.
The Nation, a weekly political roundup on New Zealand TV, had an article last weekend reviewing Donald Trump’s year since he was elected. They started with a montage that would have made the BBC proud, including a piece on “the crowd size” at his inauguration. They even showed the now famous picture comparing crowd size at the Trump inauguration ceremony itself, compared with that at Barak Obamas first inauguration. They then interviewed Teen Vogue Columnist Lauren Duca who said “the president has lied, literally thousands of times”, and allowed that comment to pass without challenge.
Here is the link to Sean Spicers statement. As you can see he refers not to “crowd size” at his inauguration, but to the audience that witnessed the inauguration “both in person and around the globe”.
I have not seen reliable figures for audiences around the world. It must be all but impossible to produce such numbers. However; given the rising world population and spread of technology over the intervening eight years, it must be highly likely that Sean Spicer had it absolutely right.
Trump critics have rolled out Sean Spicer’s audience claim, relabelled as a crowd size claim, again and again. They give the convincing impression that this is their best shot at proving that Donald Trump disseminates fake news. Well, their best shot is itself fake news.
That the liberal, establishment, elite in New Zealand buys into this narrative may explain why the policy platform of the new Labour-led government in New Zealand is devoid of any radical ideas. Maybe they felt they simply could not get a fair hearing? They will spend a bit more and tax/borrow a bit more than the previous administration, but their policies are versions of the policies that they say have failed.
Is it really true that Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn can have radical ideas, but not this NZ government? There is a saying about what happens – If you keep doing what you’ve always done . . .