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Friday, September 23, 2005

Immigrant-centric NZ: The colonial relic just keeps on taking

Only citizens should be able to vote in our elections. To my mind that is the definition of citizenship: the exclusive group constituting the political body of a nation state.

We allow permanent residents to vote, and even dogs to be voters (if the latest stupidity is to be considered at face value). This is part of the reason why this country is so politically dismal. It is just one of many colonial relics that continue to haunt us: an immigrant culture. The mythological status of the immigrant is prevalent.

With "We need immigrants" as a core doctrine of the country along with other facile notions like "We are all immigrants," is it any wonder that non-citizens - immigrants who have no sworn loyalty to the nation - have an equal say in determining the tennets of our sovereignty? Is it any wonder that people who have no understanding of an official language, have no intention of staying in the country more than a few years, are given - and the authorities go out of their way to facilitate - their "right" to vote. What sort of a country would do that? Would let those not committed to the destiny of the country determine it's fate? A self-destructive one. A foolish one. One not confident enough to trust themselves. One who values foreigners so much they are prepared to surrender their rights to them. One forever seeking the approval of the outsider for validation, for guidance, for instruction. One who sees improvement coming from outside instead of from within. One who is so quick to empower outsiders, and yet so ruthless in supressing natives. A colonial regime.

These non-citizen voters are courted by political parties and politicians. Promises are made. Deals are done. Ministers assisting law-breaking overstayers to get back in the country, Act's Chinese and Korean petition to abolish the language requirements, one dodgy person being able to bring in a dozen or more, potential Labour candidates (allegedly) selling offices of state to his own community... the list goes on. If you do not need the votes of foreigners then we can stop giving them undue influence over the affairs rightly determined exclusively by citizens.

We have a devalued citizenship.

As for the usual idiotic arguments about taxation and representation etc. they can be found on this blog on which I am temporarily banned. These are typical of the comments; many of whom are not citizens and yet, so empowered, currently have a right to tell citizens what to think. They seem to have absolutely no understanding of the privilege they have been given as non-citizens.:

I strongly approve of us allowing permanent residents to vote. The validity of a democracy partly comes from its inclusiveness - and people with permanent resident status are living and paying taxes here like everyone else. - Beagle

I would point out that permanent residents of which I am one pay taxes the same as citizens. I don't get off paying taxes because I am not a citizen. Why should I not be allowed to vote. There are many reasons why residents choose not to take citizenship but contribiute just as much as those born here. -Bob Howard

I'm too a permanent resident and been living 99% of my last 8 years in NZ. I've been working in the last 4 years and pay tax just like NZ citizens. Why shouldn't I vote? -Scott

and it's the same in England. I spent most of the 90's there, never became a citizen but paid my share of taxes. I took part in several elections. Why not! -Gatoh

There is some benefit to having residents vote. It's a country built on immigrants so sure they should have a place in the political system. -Stef

On taxation: Foreigners start paying tax even before they are out of the airport - so what? Some fine citizens might end up the year in a net tax surplus - should they have their vote suspended? To equate political rights with one's monetary contribution is rather an obsession of American proportions.

So if a politician wanted citizen-only voting they run the risk of being defeated by Permanent Resident voters, esp. those wanting to get the rest of the extended family in. Is this "inclusiveness"? This is a disgraceful situation that we should not be in. We have not so much lost control of our democracy, but given it away.

Immigrants "have a place in the political system" once they stop being immigrants and have become citizens.

We need a shake-up.


At 25/9/05 12:30 pm, Blogger Krimsonlake said...

The problem with the argument on permanent residents is that if you exclude them you're not just excluding newcomers to NZ, recent immigrants. Technically I'm an immigrant, I only hold permanent residency, yet I've lived in NZ since I was a 3 year old child. On what grounds can you really justify that exclusion? In the case of people like myself the majority of their cultural and political identity is invested in NZ. I think it would be more inappropriate for me to vote in British elections, despite being a citizen of that country.

At 25/9/05 1:05 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

KL: Hardly a problem: become a citizen. You haven't for some reason - why? Because you can already vote, perhaps? Because our retarded system makes almost no distinction whatsoever between a citizen's rights and immigrants'? Does it jeopardise your status as a Brit?

Make an effort, if you've been in the country since 3 years old. Or perhaps swearing allegiance to the Queen disturbs you as much as it does me.

At 25/9/05 5:08 pm, Blogger Krimsonlake said...

From what I've read it will cost me $460 to become an NZ citizen, and quite frankly I don't have $460. If I did have $460 I probably wouldn't spend it on citizenship because I think the fact that I would be required to pay is obscene. Sure I could almost accept the concept of payment if I had made the choice to emmigrate to NZ, if I hadn't spent all my formative years immersed in NZ culture, but I didn't choose and my cultural identity is firmly entrenched in NZ.

I do also have a problem with swearing allegience to pretty much anything, be it the Queen or some retarded concept that an oath is going to make me any more valid within any culture. If there's one thing I've learnt being a British citizen brought up in NZ it's that something like citizenship is quite trivial when compared to the realities of cultural exposure, etc. Citizenship has so little to do with identity and societal social investment. Which is why I'm not overly fussed about my lack of NZ citizenship, and why I disagree with the idea that Permanent Residents shouldn't be allowed to vote. I just don't respect the idea that a piece of paper would change any actual reality. I could buy myself citizenship but that wouldn't make me any more part of NZ culture than I already am. It is also logical to consider that one could easily become a citizen and still act in 'immigrant interest'.

So the point you're making seems weak from my point of view. You're focusing on a simplistic bureaucratic issue of paperwork, rather than looking into the issue in depth. I would personally suggest that the issue should be more about how immigrants participate in NZ society, the varying degrees of that, and so on. To say 'you have spent your entire life in a country but it's that document that counts' seems a little trite.

P.S. I don't think it would effect my british citizenship so long as I applied for dual citizenship.

At 25/9/05 11:45 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

$460!? I wonder how they came up with that amount? Paying money sort of cheapens the concept. Perhaps bringing a plate to the ceremony should suffice.

You say "If there's one thing I've learnt being a British citizen brought up in NZ it's that something like citizenship is quite trivial when compared to the realities of cultural exposure, etc." - yes it is trivial in this country - it shouldn't be - but it is. We have laws pertaining to "the public" but not citizens. Non-citizens have a right to strip our resources (eg. fishing) etc. that should be citizens-only. There are no distinctions - that is my whole point: "I just don't respect the idea that a piece of paper would change any actual reality" - well it should. The commitment to the political order should have some real tangible differences. eg. voting.

I agree that one could buy oneself a piece of paper and still continue to operate at the fringes of society with no understanding of, or still holding values or behaving contrary to, the standards we would expect of citizens. I also agree that my post was restricted to a mainly bureaucratic analysis of the issue.

"Looking into the issue in depth": There should be some formalised initiation into political society and assumption of adult rights and duties etc. that many societies and countries have. It need not be 3 years military service, but it should be a hell of a lot more than emailing minimal details to some govt. department and then without any checks, scrutiny or support having something turn up in the mail within 10 working days. It's a joke. It says we don't take citizenship seriously.

Immigrants making the transition to citizenship have a ceremony performed by local officials. That is a good start. And it should apply to everyone - not just immigrants. At least people who have taken citizenship have done so thoughtfully, actively and with some pride, while people born here are given no such choice or ability to make an act of inclusion and responsibility. These things need to be done at a local level but sanctioned by the State.

We tend not to value the things that are allocated to us without effort and we tend to neglect our duties when the responsibility is not formerly declared.

It still stands that for someone to quite comfortably live in a country and can live their entire life in a country where they are not a citizen with no aspiration to do so and no requirement to do so is perverse. The sort of nation that would allow that is a weak nation with low standards. A country where people of low expectations find each other and acquiesce to do nothing. To these sorts of people it's paradise. I think it is immaturity.

And if our system is the case in the UK too, then they are also immature.

The story of our citizenship is one of particular quirks:

1840- Maori being British subjects with rights and privileges but not duties and obligations has meant Maori have avoided conscription over the years. But treated very differently than white subjects esp. property like last year's confiscation.

1947- White Commonwealth countries get summoned to London and told they're not British anymore. NZ passes Act following year claiming "British Nationality" and NZ citizenship.

1977- British Nationality abandoned and NZ citizenship clarified.

1981 (?)- Western Samoans stripped of NZ citizenship.

2005- Time limit to get citizenship increased from 3 to 5 years. (I think that's right - also a spouse of a NZ citizen could get it in 2 years - that is now 5 years (?)).

At 28/9/05 3:23 am, Blogger Psycho Milt said...

You have a good point I think. I was in the same position as Krimsonlake - turned up here from the UK when I was 2, don't have any memories of the place at all. I never even realised I wasn't a citizen until I applied for a passport, and at that point I ended up getting a British one because becoming an NZ citizen cost a fat fee. I eventually became a citizen a few years back because travelling between Aus & NZ on a British passport got old real quick - but I would have done it way back in 1981 if I'd tried to enrol to vote and been told to sod off, only citizens get to elect the govt.


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