Andrew Dickens: So much for an open and transparent Government

Andrew Dickens,
Publish Date
Thursday, 20 December 2018, 11:53AM
So much for being the most open and transparent government ever.

Yesterday Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced New Zealand will support the United Nations Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration after receiving legal advice from Crown Law. We voted for it at the UN overnight along with 149 other countries. Five chose not to vote and we had a handful of nations including the US and Australia who pulled out of the process well beforehand.

Now I agree with the Crown Law summation and it is broadly similar to the editorial I wrote about the Compact three weeks ago. I have said repeatedly there is nothing to fear in the compact. We already comply and if the compact ever compels us to take any migrants against our will and our laws, or supplants our sovereignty, I’ll eat my hat. And I’ll eat yours too.

Speaking about the compact this morning, Winston Peters said there had been unwarranted fear mongering over the thing and he blamed the alt-right. Well, he got that wrong. There were plenty of lefties freaking out too. My thought is that the opponents co-opted the compact as part of their personal political battles against immigration and the UN in general.

But as I said yesterday, my beef with the Government is that they have failed to lead us through the debate. In fact, they just did just the opposite and ran away from it, saying they were thinking about it.

So I’ve looked at other countries who like us have supported the compact. Let’s look at the UK. A country who pulled out of the EU with one of their major concerns being migration. But the UK has voted for the compact.

In the UK a petition was raised against it which gained 100,000 signatures, out of a country of 67 million. Nigel Farage has railed against it and has been the go-to for Fox News. There he said what the UN wants to do is to make migration a human right. Countless people have rubbished that including the UK government itself who said, “It does not establish a ‘human right to migrate’ or create any new legal categories of migrant.” Rather it says migrants have human rights. It's called English, Nigel.

Mr Farage also claimed it makes refugees and migrants the same thing. The Government reminded Mr Farage that Refugees are defined by the Refugee Convention of 1951. Which is, by the way, legally binding. The compact changes nothing.

Meanwhile, the UK's International Development Minister Alistair Burt has been arguing for the compact for weeks now. He’s said the UK was a leading voice in the negotiations and their interests were paramount.

Five weeks ago he said the compact has a clear differentiation between refugees and migrants; it recognises a state’s right to control their borders. It has proposals to help states build capacity in controlling their borders. And there is an explicit acknowledgement of states’ responsibility to accept the return of their nationals who no longer have the right to remain elsewhere.

In other words what he’s saying is, the compact is going to affect the countries where the migrants are coming from, not where they’re going to. Which is the complete opposite of the argument you’re hearing from opponents like Nigel Farage.

One side has been telling fibs in the debate and I’m pretty sure I know which one.

But here in New Zealand, we’ve had none of that from our politicians.

The Foreign Minister, Winston Peters revealed the Crown Law legal advice and our support for the compact simultaneously giving us no chance for public debate.

He did so in the last hour of the last day of Parliament, denying debate in the House.

The Government led us to believe that they hadn’t made up their mind until the last minute and then presented a fait accompli.

I found that untenable. So much for being the most open and transparent government ever. They’re starting to look a bit tricky dicky and devious.

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