Labour’s attack on Chinese doesn’t win support

Posted: July 26, 2015 by daphna in Labour Party NZ, Open Borders/Immigration Controls, Racism and anti-racism
Tags: , , , , ,

by Daphna Whitmore

The latest political poll shows Labour has not gained support through its campaign against people with Chinese-sounding names buying houses in Auckland. Tapping into prejudice and nationalism has been a proven poll booster in the past, but not this time. Their scaremongering about a ‘tsunami of Chinese investment’ has been condemned by a broad range of people who have called them out for playing a dirty race card.

Labour may have felt encouraged at the initial outpouring of xenophobic ranting supporting them. They probably thought they were being politically savvy and had their finger on the pulse. They were saying what ‘everyone knew’ according to Labour’s housing spokesperson, Phil Twyford. Instead, Labour has been shown to be unprincipled and stupid. Almost 1 in 4 people living in Auckland identified with one or more Asian ethnicities in the 2013 census. Just how will Labour relate to these people from here on?

They have alienated thousands of voters., the most visited Chinese online community in New Zealand, had forums seething with anger at Labour over its scapegoating of Chinese. They say they will not be voting Labour and are getting that message out. The website attracts over 60,000 daily visits, generates over 700,000 daily page views and has 160,000 registered members. Now there’s a tsunami of anti-Labour voters!

Labour’s foul campaign can be summed up as “I’m not being racist but …. Chinese people are responsible for the unaffordability of houses in Auckland.” Not the low-wage economy, not the erratic market economy, not the paucity of new houses and the lack of adequate social housing, not the speculators in general, not the extra demand from 40,000 New Zealanders returning, and the thousands who are not migrating to Australia now, nor the limits on the city boundaries. Nope. Blame the foreigners. In fact, let’s just blame one ethnic group.

We have written about the long history of anti-Chinese racism in New Zealand, but some of it is not so historical. Winston Peters made a career out of it. Even the respectable North and South magazine indulged in shameless Asian-bashing when in 2006 they ran a story by Deborah Coddington with the cover headline “Asian Angst: Is it time to send some back?” The article linked Asians to gangs and crime and spoke in coarse slogans about a “gathering crime tide” and “Asian menace” from the 1990s through to 2005. Coddington’s piece was statistically shoddy and, as Keith Ng pointed out, in fact “Asians went from being under-represented in crime stats by a factor of 2 to 1 to being under-represented by a factor of 3.7 to 1, i.e. very roughly speaking, Asians are about a quarter as likely to be criminals as the average person in New Zealand.” Yet Coddington was writing “New Zealand has imported an alien, ruthless and secretive crime culture committed by educated, profit-driven individuals and gangs…”

The Press Council investigated a complaint against the article and found Coddington and the magazine had breached its principles on accuracy and discrimination. Coddington didn’t help her flagging credibility by claiming her statement a “gathering crime tide” didn’t mean she was suggesting crime was increasing as “a tide goes in and out”. Now we have Twyford’s ‘tsunami of Chinese investment’ continuing the theme.

  1. Phil F says:

    There are some very good tweets out there about Labour’s latest bout of racism too.

    Here are a few collected by Otago politics lecturer Bryce Edwards:

    Keith Ng ‏@keith_ng: The thing about offshore Chinese: they’re not here. We are. When @nzlabour exploits fears about Chinese, it’s our faces on the target.

    Dylan Horrocks ‏@dylanhorrocks: It’s poisonous politics: achieves an immediate political goal, but in the process makes the wider political ecosystem more toxic.

    Raybon Kan ‏@RaybonKan: No wonder John A Lee had a tough time in the Labour Party. Lee?!? What sort of a name is that mate? Have you bought a house?!?

    Jordan McCluskey ‏@jgmccl Jul 11: John A Lee was a Labour MP who was expelled when his caucus mistook him as a Chinese who owned too many houses.

    Sanjay Patel ‏@spat106: Twyford’s proposed policy: Ban people from buying property if their surname is one that’s never before appeared in an All Blacks team list.

    Jordan McCluskey ‏@jgmccl: National played the race card (heavily) before I was a member. If they ever did again, I would leave. That is my line.

    Dougal McNeill ‏@Lismahago: Catching up with Labour’s latest racist stupidity. Channeling Michael Joseph Savage in all the wrong ways. They deserve their unpopularity.

    Jordan McCluskey ‏@jgmccl Jul 11: New Zealanders of Asian descent shouldn’t have to put up with this every six months.

    Phil Quin ‏@philquin Jul 11: Labour’s ham-fisted foray into racially charged rabble rousing was less dog-whistling than full-throated yodeling.

    Graham Cameron ‏@mvlgrimace: Racist at Mauao yelling out, “enjoy your stay in Aotearoa, it’s not for sale though” at Asian looking people. Thanks Phil Twyford!

    And on a lighter note – Colvin ‏@Covlin: Someone should replace the cover of the Shanghai phonebook with the cover of Auckland phonebook & give it to Phil Twyford. He’ll go bonkers.