Act on behalf of Asians
Lincoln Tan's report raises so many issues. What the Act candidate complains of seems to have some substance, but - just like the Onehunga antics in the infamous recount/challenge of 1993 that National took against Labour - these things primarily stem from partisan paranoia and are difficult to prove even if a fraction of what they suspect is actually true.
Labour have always driven people to polling stations and there must be electorates where National does the same thing. But given the very high numbers of recent immigrants who are not conversant in English - many from fascist countries - there is a legitimate concern that their ignorance of the NZ system could be used to dupe them out of a free choice. Note the reply:
"I said I wanted to wait until June 13, but he told me that it is safer to vote now, because I will be breaking the law if I missed voting on polling day. I agreed, because I didn't want to become a criminal," said Mr Li in Mandarin.
He's wrong. The fact the article doesn't mention this is disturbing. If you are not enrolled it is an offence - but voting is not compulsory. It's compulsory in some countries like Belgium and Australia for example, but not here. Telling fibs to mislead people into voting is a totally unacceptable campaign practice. Then again he may be confused - and because the reporter does not correct Li's mistaken impression it leads me to believe that Lincoln Tan is also confused - and his English is just fine.
The background issues that aren't discussed in the mainstream media remain: why is it that foreigners can vote after only two years residency? It is possible to vote in NZ without having ever experienced or been in the country for a NZ election. It's compulsory for them to be on the electoral roll, but it isn't compulsory for them to be able to understand or communicate in an official language. No wonder some voters are confused.
Why is it that a foreigner, a non-citizen, who does not understand a word of either English or Maori, can after a period of time shorter than a single term of parliament be entitled to vote - having the same voting rights as citizens? Now there is not a single urban electorate in Auckland that has less than one third of its population born overseas. Mt Albert is over 40%. Some electorates over half.
There seems to be little done in the way of encouraging foreigners who live here to communicate in our official languages. But there does seem to be more done in the way of encouraging foreigners who live here to not bother about ever having to communicate or understand anything other than their own language. The government and local authorities are helping as much as they can with this. Went down to the local library and the Chinese language book section was bigger than the Maori subject (English and Te Reo) section.
The Act Party itself - I'm assuming - still has an Asian Chapter. They were the first party that I've seen put Chinese language on their campaign billboards - that was in 2002 I believe. I guess they raised a bit of money, but the top Asian candidate Kenneth Wang (the very thickly accented Chinese man who briefly took over as MP 2004-5 when Donna Awatere-Huata imploded under the weight of her own intestinal realignment) spat the dummy at the last election over his list placing and missed out altogether. Wang was the front man for the Asian Chapter - at least back then.
Act, via the Asian Chapter, once had a petition that called on the government to lower the English language requirements for residency. This petition was in two formats - Korean language and Chinese. It was signed by thousands - many just in Korean or Chinese. Immigrants in the country not long enough to understand English, petitioning the government to change the immigration rules so they don't have to learn English - communicated to parliament in a manner that no-one in parliament (beyond Pansy Wong - at the time) could understand who they were or what they wanted. Was it ever presented, or was it just another cynical (albeit effective) campaign gimmick?
So if Boscawen wants to reflect on any use, misuse and manipulation of Asian voters he should remember his party's own interesting history.
Labels: Mt Albert by-election