Jan 22, 2008

The Importance Of Ethnic Communities In The Forthcoming General Election

The ex-expat has a thoughtful post today on the electoral significance of Auckland's Asian voters. Attached is an article which we recall reading from last year, in which Lincoln Tan talks about the importance of the internet in wooing Asian voters.

Like the ex-expat we are expecting all the political parties to be thinking about how to woo these voters. They have different interests and do not vote as a block - just look at the different factions within the taiwanese community as an example, but if one was able to harness large numbers of Asian votes it could well be the difference between government and opposition, and could also be the key to hitting the 5% threshold. Winston Peters, who has campaigned for so long on anti-migrant and particularly anti-Chinese themes is unlikely to attract many votes from this pool of potential voters, and likewise their left wing economic policies (particularly anti-trade views) are unlikely to make the Greens that appealing. But ACT could do much better from the Asian communities than it is at present. Maybe having a Vice President with virulently anti-Chinese views is unhelpful??? It is a pity for Peter Dunne, that we don't have more Taiwanese living in New Zealand!

Both Labour and National are becoming increasingly active in this space. Pansy Wong (Chinese and Taiwanese) and Richard Worth (Korea and India) seem to be getting some real traction. And Tim Groser, as a former Ambassador to Indonesia and a former boss of the Asia Foundation is a real asset. Recent migrants will tend to favour the Government that allowed them entry into New Zealand. More long established New Zealanders will be more willing to vote on policy.

The challenge really, will be to get these communities to drop their suspicions about democracy, to make sure everyone who can vote is enrolled, and to get them out to vote. Traditionally the turn out from the asian communities has not been fantastic, so it is all opportunity. It is going to be interesting to watch how this opportunity is exploited over the months to come.

We hate to say it, but the key factor in this space remains Winston Peters. If he starts an anti-Asian or anti-migrant campaign he is going to cause both National and Labour to be cautious in responding. At this stage anyway, strategists on both sides of Parliament want the opportunity to work with Winston should he be re-elected to Parliament. That means that they are not wanting to go to war with him prior to the election. Nor will they want to be making the pledges on immigration and people to people links with Asia that our Asian communities will be wanting to vote for. This is a fascinating topic and we are grateful to the ex-expat for raising it.

The Hive thinks that New Zealand's increasingly diverse cultural scene is a wonderful thing and we want to see it continue. There is a global war for talent on at present, and it isn't going to end anytime soon. New Zealand will continue to lose many good people because our wage rates are so low. This makes immigration policy crucially important for our economic future. We hope both Labour and National will be adopting ambitious and Asian friendly immigration policies for the forthcoming election. We also hope that Winston's time as Foreign Minister has changed his attitude to immigration . We don't want immigration to be a negative factor in this election.