NZ First MP rejects party's tough Asian line (+video)
The Dominion Post
Friday, 04 April 2008
NZ First MP Dail Jones has bucked his party's tough line on Asian immigration, saying Kiwis have nothing to fear and warning it could harm Asian New Zealanders.
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Mr Jones' surprise break on such a central issue came as Green MP Keith Locke labelled NZ First deputy leader Peter Brown a “white supremacist” for saying a projected increase in Asian immigrants would cause friction.
But Mr Jones' reaction caused the biggest stir, raising questions about his commitment to what will again be a key plank in NZ First's election campaign. It comes less than a month after he replaced retired MP Brian Donnelly and follows actions putting him at odds with colleagues, including questioning the conscience vote on the smacking ban.
Mr Brown fired the first shot of an expected immigration barrage on Wednesday when he branded as “folly” a projected rise in the number of Asians from about 400,000 to 790,000 by 2026.
He said the rapid increase would leave New Zealand “inundated with people who have no intention of integrating” and would cause “division, friction and resentment”.
Such statements are standard election fare for NZ First, but Mr Jones appeared keen to distance himself, highlighting a speech to Parliament on Wednesday when he praised Asian educational performance.
He told The Dominion Post he did not believe Asians failed to integrate. They were making a “great contribution”.
“I think the older generation finds it difficult to slot in, but in New Zealand, the younger generation always slot in. They go to school, they speak with the same accent, they're all the same . . . the younger generation always integrate in New Zealand, in my experience.
“I've often found with New Zealanders of Asian ethnicity that they have as many problems in this identity thing because they often bear the brunt of the complaint themselves when they're fifth and sixth and seventh-generation New Zealanders and they're the ones who often experience the most problems because people just look at them and they think, 'Oh gosh, you're an Asian'.”
Mr Locke said Mr Brown was “stirring the racist pot” to win votes.
“I think Peter Brown's showing pathetic insecurity by being scared of people speaking a language he can't understand, and I think we must reject Peter Brown's white supremacist policy of treating European culture as superior to that of other nations.”
Mr Brown initially laughed off the “white supremacist” tag, saying “flattery” would get Mr Locke nowhere, but then said he resented it. “I'm not happy, but I'm not going to respond to that sort of crap.”
He insisted he was right to warn that a big increase in the Asian population in 20 years had risks. “My concern is about people coming to this country who are culturally different, different attitude, integration.”
He also brushed off Statistics NZ figures that show 40 per cent of the projected increase in people identifying as Asian by 2026 would be born in New Zealand.
NZ First leader Winston Peters who as foreign affairs minister is in a delicate position days before New Zealand signs a free trade deal with China said there was nothing inconsistent in what Mr Jones said. Though “tens of thousands” of Asian immigrants had integrated well, NZ First's concern was for the future.