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John MacDonald: The Government should be cringing

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 11 Jul 2023, 1:54pm
Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

John MacDonald: The Government should be cringing

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Tue, 11 Jul 2023, 1:54pm

The Government should be cringing.

Not wincing, not shifting uncomfortably in its chair, not trying to avoid eye contact with us. It should be cringing.

Because after all the talk about apologising for the dawn raids on suspected overstayers - which began in Auckland in the 1970s - and all the sorrow and all the tears, they just kept on going.

The strongest words the Acting Prime Minister could say this morning was that she was “disappointed” that Immigration New Zealand did nothing to change its ways, and that the raids just kept on happening.

She seems to think it was good enough that the Government asked for a review to happen when it eventually discovered that the raids were still going on. Which was well after the apology.

And she seems to think that the Government has done everything it could’ve done and it’s all Immigration New Zealand’s fault.

But, I’m sorry, Acting Prime Minister, that doesn’t wash with me. And it will not wash with the people and their families who went through those awful dawn raids which can only be described as state-sanctioned home invasions.

Racially motivated, state-sanctioned home invasions because, while about a third of overstayers back in the 70s and 80s were Pacific people, they made up 86 percent of prosecutions.

While people from the United States and Britain, who were also about a third of all overstayers, only made up about five percent of prosecutions.

So they were racially motivated, state-sanctioned home invasions when they started in the 70s. That’s what they were when they continued into the 80s and 90s. And it’s what they continued to be under the watch of this government.

State-sanctioned home invasions under the government that went through all the pallava of apologising that they happened in the first place - but then just kept on allowing them to happen.

Or, as the Acting Prime Minister said on the radio earlier, the government that went through the pallava of apologising for them, but no one at Immigration New Zealand thought that perhaps they might want to actually stop doing them.

Either way, the Government should be cringing.

Not brushing it off as a disappointment and, “hey we’ve done a review - aren’t we brilliant?”.

And it’s not just the Acting Prime Minister trotting out the weasel words.

Immigration Minister Andrew Little says he is sorry and very regretful that action wasn’t taken to change guidelines and update guidance given to Immigration New Zealand.

"It is something that I think, with the benefit of hindsight, we’d say should have happened,” he says.

What does that mean? With the “benefit” of hindsight? More like the embarrassment” of hindsight, don’t you think?

The language used in the review, by the way, which came out yesterday is a bit more animated than the Acting Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister.

Mike Heron KC says in his report that the Government’s apology “created a reasonable expectation within the Pasifika community that dawn intrusions into houses would cease (or at least would be a very last resort)”.

But, “there does not appear to have been an attempt to implement the principles of the government’s apology or alter out-of-hours visits in light of it”.

But here’s the sting in the tail. Mike Heron concludes in his report that the Government’s dawn raid apology was “hollow”.

Not an oversight. Not unattended life admin. Hollow. Which is probably as bad as it gets when you think back to former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the current Deputy Prime Minister - and others - turning up and trotting out the apology and promising a new dawn.

The question now, though, is: What’s worse? The dawn raids themselves or the fact they continued after the government’s apology?

From my perspective, for me personally, continuing the raids after the apology two years ago was worse than the raids themselves.

But then, I never went through the ordeal and trauma of having Immigration and Police turning up on the doorstep in the dark.

3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock in the morning. Storming into the place. Demanding answers.

But if you are unlike me - and if you or your family have been targetted by the Government and its immigration department - what’s worse, as far as you’re concerned? The dawn raids themselves or the fact they continued after the Government’s apology?

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