Tighter laws needed on licencing immigration consultants


A racket run by a Whangarei restaurateur and the boss of a Wellington based immigration consultancy is the latest example of why New Zealand needs to significantly tighten up the licencing process for immigration consultants.

Gurpreet Singh and Graeme Ryan are possibly going to face criminal charges as a result of a scam that saw 17 Indians get residency through a fake consultancy that Mr Ryan established. They would get jobs in return for paying significant fees to Bite Consultancy/BC International, such as a non-existent I.T. job that Karamjeet Singh (no relation)applied for. There was just one problem. The job never existed and Mr Singh lost $35,000.

There are two parallel sets of tasks that need to be happening at the same time in order for this kind of behaviour to stop. First, the authorities need to make clear to migrant communities that scams are a criminal offence in New Zealand and that organizing or assisting one will carry heavy penalties. Second, the authorities need to make clear cut examples of the consequences for those who do run such rackets – heavy fines are not enough; jail time and deportation for those who are not New Zealand permanent residents and citizens is necessary.

Tough talk? Yep. Necessary? Unfortunately, quite necessary. Scams amongst migrant communities we should not be so surprised about as many do not understand that the New Zealand authorities are among the least corrupt in the world, and may be inclined to think that they can get away with such conduct. But to have people who should have a good idea of New Zealand law or least western law such as Mr Ryan involved in such activity suggests that those who know the risks and decided that the illegitimate gains to be had are worth the consequences, tells me clearly that the law needs tightening.

This is by no means the first immigration scam to hit New Zealand and nor will it be the last. Just a few of the more recent ones to have occurred can be seen listed below:

  • In October 2019 red flags were raised over websites purporting to enable Electronic Travel Authorizations or visa’s to New Zealand
  • Numerous scams including some made public in March 2019 have been linked to study visas

New Zealand Defence Force might return to Iraq


I have heard a suggestion that the New Zealand Defence Force might have to return to Iraq.

If the New Zealand Defence Force does return to Iraq, what are we going to do? Are we going to continue training Iraqi soldiers who might then go shoot dead civilians in the street as they have been doing these last few weeks? Are we going to be there in a monitoring capacity? Are we going to be peace-keepers/makers?

Historically New Zealand was involved in the crude British operation in 1916 that lead to the formation of Iraq as a Western geopolitical construct with no regard for ethno-geographies. One might argue on that basis that therefore we should be involved in Iraq because we helped to make the mess that led to Iraq’s formation, we should be a part of the solution to its re-establishment as a nation state.

But I am not honestly sure Iraq is destined to survive as a nation state. When it was founded, the borders cut straight through ethnic groups. Thus some found themselves in Persia (which became Iran). Some found themselves in what would become Turkey after World War 1 ended and others wound up in the French construct that ultimately became Syria. The treaties that were brokered following World War 1 did initially for example acknowledge the Kurdish people in northern Iraq and Syria as well as Turkey and accepted that an independent Kurdish state might be necessary.

Unfortunately all of that unravelled, which is a shame because in the post-Saddam Hussein mess that Iraq has descended into, a Kurdish state in the north of the country would help bring some stability to the Turkish and Syrian border regions. As the Kurds are one of the more progressive ethnicities in the Middle East, the relatively advanced social status of their women would go some way towards being a guiding beacon that Middle East women can understand.

But back to the New Zealand Defence Force. I personally would be reluctant to send them back – I had doubts about their original mission in light of the apparently aimless U.S. mission which went from Operation Iraqi Freedom to general war for the sake of war.

Could/should the New Zealand Defence Force risk getting its hands soiled by trying to keep the peace between Shia, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, whose rivalry goes back hundreds of years? The rules of such conflicts are generally messy, and New Zealand is constrained by the Geneva Conventions in terms of what we can and cannot do. Were we to find ourselves in breach of these, it would be hugely damaging for our reputation as a country that prefers peaceful outcomes, but which will fight a hard clean fight if we have to.

And what would Iraq say to the idea of a Kurdish state covering much of the traditional lands of the Kurds? As with Iraq’s neighbours Syria and Turkey who both have significant Kurdish populations, I doubt their response to such an idea would be at all warm. Turkey views the Kurdish Workers Party (P.K.K.)as a terrorist entity and it is blacklisted by the United Nations as such, which would mean New Zealand could not recognize it. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan very much wants to neutralise the Kurd’s as a political force, and sees Turkey’s future in reviving the Ottoman Empire.

If we really must go back we should be putting as much effort as possible into removing unexploded ordnance, helping rebuild infrastructure and showing Iraqi’s how to maintain it. Last time this was a successful initiative as it showed the Iraqi civil population that not all of the western countries were there for the fighting and that there were people who cared about them. It would also help acknowledge our historic links to the geopolitical designs of Britain in the 1910’s.

Sustainable New Zealand: A green party to challenge… the Greens?


On Sunday 10 November 2019 a new party launched in New Zealand. The Sustainable New Zealand Party, headed by former National candidate Vernon Tava, is a centrist green party that has been established to take on the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

As Mr Tava is a former National Party candidate, one might suspect that, although nothing has been said so far, National Leader Simon Bridges is looking for a way to claw back credibility with the environmental wing of politics. Were this to be the case, then its more business friendly approach might see it trying to lure away the blue component of the “Blue Greens” who were meant to be the environmentally friendly wing of the National Party.

The National Party claims that the Greens, like the Labour Party they support are anti-economy. To them the Green Party does not want people earning decent incomes, a skilled work force developing economic sectors to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century is wrong, if you believe the National Party estimate of the Greens.

It is true that the Green Party is suspicious of research, science and technological development. The party has already via Minister for Conservation, Eugenie Sage, stated its dislike of waste to energy plants that generate electricity from burning waste, Whilst the blurb on the Sustainable New Zealand website talks about the Green hostility to biotechnology, it makes no mention of S.N.Z. support for research into biofuel or hydrogen as an alternative to petrol and diesel.

I assume that Sustainable New Zealand wants to eventually get into Parliament. If that is the case then even though it appears to be positioning itself as a full time environmental party to take on the Greens, some sort of social policy platform is going to be needed. And this is where the “centrist” in “centrist green” could well come in. One can only guess at this time though what sort of policies Mr Tava would consider for his platform.

So, watch this space. In the coming days and weeks S.N.Z. will no doubt have more to say about their vision for New Zealand and what kind of social policy platform they will adopt. Likewise the Green Party will make moves to give them a more distinct edge over S.N.Z..

Mr Tava has a big hill to climb though. It is a lofty goal for any party outside of Parliament to find a way past the 5% threshhold or to win an electoral seat. Only New Zealand First has exited Parliament and made it back in. No party has started from birth outside of Parliament in the Mixed Member Proportional environment and made it in yet. How well Mr Tava manages this climb will be contingent in terms of who runs the party and how.

Addressing crime in New Zealand


My previous article explored some of the reasons for crime happening in New Zealand. This article explores how to address it.

The idea of what constitutes justice in New Zealand is one that has been controversial since the country was founded. Equally controversial is how sentencing regime under which judges hand down sentences is administered. The question of whether to jail or not is hotly debated as New Zealand often looks to the United States or overseas for ideas instead of coming up with our own.

But jail is just one tool that can be used in New Zealand, and nor is it – as we shall see below – necessarily the best sentence for many convicts. Jailing is expensive and resource consuming. Some prisoners for the first time in their lives might be experiencing order – a clean bed, shower, regular meals and supervision. It is indeed sad and quite wrong that a place of state imposed punishment somehow becomes the preferred accommodation of prisoners. And we as a nation have to look at how it came to be that.

But jail is at risk of being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, when solutions are needed to stop people falling down that cliff.

In thinking of how we might address our jail population, I envisage only those who pose a direct and immediate threat to society being imprisoned. I am thinking of Malcolm Rewa, Steven Williams. For offences such as drunk driving an overhaul of how the demerit point system works to enable “residual points” that accumulate if more than one such offence is committed might be better, with harsher sentencing such as jail being restricted to those offences that kill, injure or damage property. When those residual points reach a national limit, that person has to permanently surrender their driver licence.

In many instances it is not the jails or the police that are at fault. Rather it is the courts, whose interpretation of the law, has become archaic. The police are the ones who look for the offender, bring them to trial and collect the evidence. The courts are where the trial is held and the accused is found not/guilty, as well as sentenced. It is this last part of the courts role and responsibilities where the New Zealand justice system fails the public on the issue of sentencing. Judges fail to jail that small percentage of criminals who are simply too dangerous to stay in society, and many of the ones that are there in their place, might not be best suited to jail.

In the first instance, I would be happy if there were considerably expanded community programmes where prisoners are put to work in the community. Some will call it abuse of labour, but when prisoners are released from prison they will be expected to somehow live outside of the institution that released them. That means finding somewhere to live; finding a job with an income that can sustain them in terms of the basic necessities, such as food, clothing, any medical assistance, power, rent and transport. In preparation for life on the outside would it not be best to have them in some sort of prison based preparatory programme?

Many prisoners are quite skilled. They might have been in another time before they derailed builders, farmers, tradespeople and maybe forestry workers. New Zealand is screaming for more trades people and labourers. The safer ones who are not going to behave like Mr Williams, the man who murdered Coral Burrowes, and try to harm their fellow inmates, might appreciate that someone thinks enough of them to provide them an opportunity for redemption. Prison might be their night-time lock up, but during the day, they could be helping the communities that they damaged.

A second idea would be to look at Finland, where authorities have adopted a quite radical approach to jail. Not being able to envisage this myself, I do have questions such as how well would such ideas work here? Would the New Zealand public accept such a radical change in philosophy, and how well conditioned for post-jail life would it leave the prisoners?

A third idea would be to either legalize or decriminalize cannabis. I have not seriously discussed the legalization or decriminalization of cannabis here, but it needs to be made clear now that there is a difference between the two:

  1. Decriminalization in this instance is the removal or loosening of criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis – it has the effect of telling the authorities to look the other way
  2. Legalization is the removal of laws that criminalize the possession and/or personal use of cannabis; the authorities treat it is as a substance that can be regulated and taxed

Both have their merits and both have their downsides. The legalization of cannabis might be the best move, but it would involve substantial preparation – the criminal laws, the medical framework for treating such addictions and their social, medical, legal and economic consequences would all need to be revisited. The judicial, court and police systems would need to be reoriented. Before that, it is possible we may see a move to decriminalize cannabis.

 

Causes of crime in New Zealand


It is quite fair to say that the New Zealand sentencing laws have multiple flaws to them that undermine not only the course of justice, but in some respects actually cause new injustices to occur. The cracks in the social net designed to keep people out of crime are so numerous that systemic failure is a real possibility and would occur when a critical mass of issues comes to a head causing a large scale collapse of services and functions.

Among these problems are:

  • A failing of the socio-economic conditions necessary to discourage criminal activity in the first place
  • A failure of the justice system to punish convicted offenders appropriately
  • Offenders occur because it suits the lifestyle that they have become accustomed to
  • Massive growth in the market for illegal substances – a seller can make $4,000 a week selling illegal substances in Whangarei
  • Break down of the family unit and a lack of role models for boys
  • Underfunding/scrapping of social welfare programmes causing them to fail or be wound up
  • Systemic underfunding and resourcing of the mental health sector

So how do these factors cause the sentencing regime to fail? There are numerous reasons.

  1. Whilst most New Zealanders are working, tax paying, law abiding people, there is a section of society that have no empathy with or understanding of societal norms. They come from broken families that have no had proper jobs, or have been involved with drugs or criminal elements – to them the law and the people who enforce it are suspect
  2. Despite legislation passing through Parliament in 2010 called the Truth in Sentencing Act, which was designed to make offenders do the full sentence handed down, sentences are becoming increasingly erratic and are rarely suitable for the crime/s committed
  3. It is obvious that the War on Drug has failed when drug dealers can make more money in a week than many New Zealanders do in a month – flow on effects from drug use can include being not suitable for a wide range of jobs
  4. A lack of role models for children with absentee parents or from a family where education and work are low priorities. They might be constantly working, or disinterested in their children’s development
  5. Welfare programmes have suffered from funding not keeping pace with inflation, but also constantly tightened criteria to eligible for assistance in the first place, with the result being more people are either getting cut off or finding the proverbial goal posts have shifted
  6. Mental health issues create highly unstable people whose symptoms may range from acute stress to being prone to physical violence or even killing – several cases have occurred in the last few years where either people not being treated have turned violent; caregiver gone to jail for mercy killing

New Zealand is going to have to address these issues collectively and individually in the near future or risk this nation becoming something other than the tourist friendly paradise many non New Zealanders believe us to be. Soon there could be significant costs to tax payers and companies alike fixing a problem that in some respects everyone is partially to blame for, but which nobody wants to come up with a comprehensive solution.