On using Breakfast TV to announce immigration policy   18 May 2012

Gordon Campbell

Evidently, Breakfast TV is now to be considered an official arm of government. It happened like this: on 10 May, the government formally announced its plans to change the rules about citizens or residents being able to bring their parents to New Zealand. Submissions on the process would close five days later, and the new system would begin in July. Immigration lawyer Frank Deliu has now filed High Court proceedings on behalf of the Supreme Sikh Council to stop the process, RNZ reports:

Mr Deliu says only three working days notice of the changes was given, there was no consultation and hundreds of people have been caught out by the change

The problem isn’t whether government has the right to change its immigration policy. As Deliu explained to RNZ this morning, that right isn’t in question. The issue is whether it is changing the policy in a fair and reasonable way. The people likely to be affected, Deliu said, could have to access documents from abroad, which would take a lot longer than three working days – a response that seemed to conflate the ability to comment on the scheme in general terms (which seems to be what the government had in mind with its ridiculous three working days time frame) with the ability to establish the eligibility of particular people, which would clearly take far longer. This possible confusion will no doubt be sorted out in June at the court hearing. The amusing part of the saga was the response by Immigration Minister Nathan Guy – who said that the changes had been made public in March.

Really? That would have been on Breakfast TV on March 6, when Guy reportedly said:

“The plan is to ensure that those that are coming in can hold down a job and ensure that they perform in our economy. Hard working tax payers of New Zealand need to know that their money is being invested, not spent on benefits."

But even TVNZ reported on March 31 that the issue was still proving controversial, and that the “changes surrounding family immigration policy are expected later this year.” Since the new policy being proposed would also involve changes to legal entitlements and the ability to re-constitute one’s family and begin a new life in this country with proper family support, one would have thought that a formal announcement of what was intended would be necessary bare minimum. Three working days seems an absurd time frame even for a comment in general terms on what is being proposed.

Not to this government, which seems – in this respect and in the way it uses the urgency provisions to push its legislative agenda through Parliament – to be interested only in token adherence to democratic process. According to Guy, the immigration lawyers working for the people affected were meant to take his Breakfast TV statement of intent as all the notification they needed. It will be interesting to see if the High Court agrees that all Prime Minister John Key and his Cabinet colleagues need to do is chat about their hopes and dreams and plans over the teacups on morning television, for that to be taken as formal advice to the public of a change to the law.

Obama, the metrosexual black Abe Lincoln?

Depressing story in the NYT about the attack ad campaign that a bunch of wealthy Tea Party thugs are planning to launch during the upcoming Democratic Convention. The ads will, apparently, seek to resurrect the spectre of Obama’s radical former pastor Rev Jeremiah Wright, a figure whom everyone else has long forgotten. And more:

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

Being the black metrosexual Abe Lincoln is the good part – he’s really much, much worse. Barack Hossein Obama, no less. And before one puts this down to the ongoing take-over of the Republican Party by its nutjob wing, keep in mind the ‘Swift Boat’ ad campaign of 2004. That ad blitz managed to slime the Democratic Party candidate John Kerry about his Vietnam War record. It managed to make a genuine decorated-for-bravery under fire John Kerry look like the dodgy candidate, in contrast to the rich kid from Texas who used his connections to avoid serving in the combat zone altogether.

Which raises an interesting question – at what level of money input does a lie cease to be a lie? And furthermore….if you avoid Morning Report like the plague, and use Breakfast TV as your soft arm of PR outreach, does that mean you can treat it as an official branch of government? If the High Court buys Nathan Guy’s argument, we’re really in trouble.


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