Friday, August 10, 2012

Karl du Fresne: A quiet demographic revolution

Here’s a statistic that might radically change your perception of the country you live in: in the 2006 census, nearly 40 percent of the people living in Auckland were born overseas. As Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley pointed out  recently on the TV programme Q+A, that makes Auckland one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.

Spoonley observed that New Zealanders tend to equate large immigrant populations with megacities like London and Los Angeles. Many of us – and I include myself here – still mistakenly regard Australia as a more multicultural society than ours, because for decades it was.

The New Zealand I grew up in was essentially monocultural; in parts of New Zealand, even Maori were virtually invisible. There were Chinese market gardeners and greengrocers, Greek and Yugoslav fish and chip shop owners, Dutch builders (the Dutch being considered by New Zealand governments in the 1950s and 60s as the next best option after the British) and Italian fishing communities, while in urban areas such as Porirua and South Auckland from the 1960s onward there were concentrations of Pacific Islanders, essentially imported to provide a cheap workforce for labour-intensive industries such as car assembly plants. But overall, our immigration policy targeted people of British origin.

Australia pursued a much more adventurous policy, recruiting large numbers of immigrants from southern Europe and the near Middle East. As a result, Australia in the 1960s and 70s was an infinitely more vibrant and cosmopolitan society.

But how things have changed. Population statistics confirm what should be apparent to anyone walking down Auckland’s Queen Street: New Zealand has undergone a quiet revolution. In a remarkably short time, we have been transformed from one of the western world’s most homogeneous societies into one of the most ethnically diverse. Spoonley describes Auckland as one of the world’s major destination cities, comparing it with Toronto and Vancouver.

Not only has immigration increased, but immigrants have become far more visible because many of them are from China, India, Korea and the Philippines.

And although this is most obvious in our biggest city, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s  purely an Auckland thing. Overall, 23 percent of the New Zealand population in 2006 (our most recent census, since the one scheduled for 2010 was cancelled after the Christchurch earthquake) was born overseas.

To someone of my generation, this is a change of staggering proportions.

As revolutions go, it could hardly have been quieter. I don’t recall the government making a  dramatic policy announcement to the effect that New Zealand would be opening its doors to the world. There was no great debate, no public meetings. It happened incrementally and largely without fuss.

A few questioning voices were heard. Veteran Auckland journalist Pat Booth wrote a controversial series of articles in 1993 warning of an “Asian invasion” and Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party tried, without much success, to make political capital out of the inflow of “non-traditional” immigrants in 1996.

More recently another journalist, Deborah Coddington, provoked outrage with a magazine article about Asian crime in New Zealand (which is undeniably an issue, although many of Coddington’s critics would have had us believe otherwise).

By and large, however, New Zealanders have absorbed the newcomers without conflict or tension, confirming our reputation as generally tolerant, easy-going people.

Spoonley thinks we’re now more accepting of immigrants than Australia is, and made the point on Q+A that New Zealand had been spared the type of unpleasantness that Sydney experienced with the Cronulla riots in 2005, when an incident involving macho young Lebanese men triggered an ugly backlash from mobs of Australian-born yobbos. Neither side emerged with any credit.

That confrontation showed how immigration can backfire, particularly when clannish immigrant groups fail to integrate with the host society and even exhibit overt hostility toward it. It was a reminder that immigration has to be managed carefully – a lesson also driven home by the European experience with large-scale Muslim immigration, which has had catastrophic consequences.

But the New Zealand immigration experience, thus far at least, has been painless. Most New Zealanders seem to welcome the colour and diversity provided by immigrant communities.

It’s not just a matter of relishing the choice of Indian, Chinese, Thai or Turkish cuisine where once we were condemned to dine out on steak and eggs or roast meat with three veg, or sushi as opposed to a meat pie. There’s strong evidence that Asian immigration is good for us academically as well; many of the top performers in our schools are the children of migrants.

That could eventually translate into an improved economic performance. And as our population ages (by the mid-2020s, over-65s will outnumber under-15s), we may have reason to be very grateful for the economic contribution made by clever, hard-working Asians.

They’re even making an impact in sport. Just look at the remarkable Lydia Ko, at 15 the top-ranked amateur woman golfer in the world, and Danny Lee, the youngest-ever winner of the US Amateur Championship, and now playing on the PGA Tour.

The European experience tells us that immigration causes problems when large, economically deprived immigrant communities become ghetto-ised and alienated. That risk multiplies when the immigrant community has dogmatic religious views that are at odds with the host society.

But it doesn’t have to happen that way. America, one of the world’s most polyglot societies, has been remarkably successful in absorbing large numbers of immigrants and making them feel they have a common stake in the country’s destiny. Canada seems to be managing too. There’s no reason New Zealand can’t do the same.

If there’s one segment of the New Zealand population for whom immigration presents a special challenge, it’s Maori. A leaked Labour Department report last year revealed that Maori are more likely than any other immigrant group to be against immigration.

Many Maori feel threatened by immigration because they’re concerned that newcomers don’t understand the relationship between Maori and Pakeha, have no affinity with Maori culture and may not feel committed to the Treaty of Waitangi. They’re probably also worried  that as immigrant numbers increase, Maori political influence will diminish.

As Spoonley points out, there’s the matter of economic competition too.  “The new immigrants are typically skilled, so are they taking [jobs] from Maori? I think that’s where the concern comes from,” he said on Q+A. To which many New Zealanders might reply that it would be no bad thing if economic competition incentivised more Maori to fulfil their economic potential.

Karl blogs at www.karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz. First published in the Nelson Mail and Manawatu Standard.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

DANGERS OF ISLAM I
Most first generation immigrants want their children to marry someone of their own ethnic and cultural background.

Succeeding generations are progressively more integrated and their children free to marry whoever they choose to.

There is one important exception to this: Muslims. Islamics only marry other Islamics.

Islamic jihadists practice a soft form of jihad which they call "Civilisation Jihad."

Muslims are encouraged to migrate to non-Muslim countries for the purpose of spreading Islam. Their ultimate goal is to destroy the West and bring it forcibly into the Islamic world.

Such migrants have no intention whatsoever of integrating or adopting Western values and culture. The question of whether these migrants are Muslim or Dutch, Muslim or German, Muslim or Danish, Muslim or English, Muslim or American, Muslim or Australian, Muslim or New Zealander, is simply a rhetorical one.

Anonymous said...

DANGERS OF ISLAM II
As former Muslim, Ali Sina confirms in his book Islam and Understanding the Muslim Mind: “Muslims will never assimilate … for to do so would mean they would essentially have to relinquish their faith, to compromise for something that cannot be abided, nor allowed under Islam, which is full acceptance of the equality between Muslim and non-Muslim.”

Nonie Darwish observed on moving to America in 1978 that those attending her local mosque “were told not to assimilate” and to “show your pride in Islam by being noticed as Muslims in America.” Women were “encouraged to wear Islamic clothes” as a political and religious statement, even if they were from a relatively moderate Muslim country like Egypt and had never worn such garments before.

Darwish noted that mosques were being built all over America with Saudi Arabian money and staffed with radical Saudi clerics, with predictable results: “I started seeing Egyptians and other Arabs getting radicalised right here in US mosques.”

Anonymous said...

DANGERS OF ISLAM III
When Darwish asked why more mosques were being built than the American Muslim community needed, she was told “[W]e are here to fill them with Americans; to bring Islam to America and change America’s constitution to the Koran. I heard some say ‘congratulations, Europe is now dominated by Muslims; may God bless America with Islam too.’”

The number of Muslims living in the West is increasing rapidly, not just from immigration, but because Muslims are reproducing almost three times faster than Westerners.

Current birth rates mean that in a few decades, Muslims will swamp us demographically. That’s why Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, not because hordes of non-Muslims are converting to it.

Even if we win some kind of military victory in the war on terror, we will still almost certainly lose the "population war." Our ultimate challenge is the Islamic demographic explosion, which threatens to overrun the already dwindling populations of many Western countries.

Humility need be only temporarily adopted until it is no longer necessary. Then we will get the real agenda that has been held back. Following Muhammad’s example, Islam preaches peace only until it is sufficiently established to impose itself through terrorism and force.

As soon as there are enough Muslims in a population to begin talking each other into flexing their muscles, that country experiences problems. Anywhere Islam attains something approaching critical mass it becomes a bully subjecting unbelievers to radical demands, violence and terrorism.

Growing numbers of radical young Muslims throughout the West want to set up self-ruling enclaves within their host countries where Sharia law would supersede the law of the land. Since Muslims already comprise around 45 percent of the populations of cities like Rotterdam and Copenhagen, these demands are not to be taken lightly.

Sina warns: “Once the Muslim population becomes a majority or even a near-majority within any nation, they no longer will have to accept, nor seek compromise, in upholding human rights of non-Muslims or in maintaining equality with the non-Muslim population. At that point, once they have achieved political dominance and secured power, they would be expected to move quickly to terminate all freedoms. Non-Muslim citizens, living in their own native countries would be relegated to second-class citizens, or worse, be persecuted …”

With every new baby born to a Muslim family in the West, the threat of Islam grows, while the hope for democracy and freedom dwindles. Each new Muslim birth in the West increases the pace of that threat exponentially.

RAYMONDO said...

Surely Karl you would want to mention Ms Clark as co-responsible for the open borders we now "enjoy" to our hurt. I can remember her often quoted statements that we must take more and more refugees according to the whil of the UNO. No wonder she got such a good job there. She did all she could to follow there wishes while she governed NZ for 9 years. The now Labour leader is one of her kind or even chosen at her request or on her advice, so God help us if he ever gets to rule our country. Mind you, John Key is not doing anything to help the immigration situation and the overrun of our country by others not like us.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Spoonley states as fact (Q+A) "Well, Auckland – there’s an agglomeration effect, so the bigger Auckland becomes, the more attractive it becomes. It becomes more attractive economically, but it also becomes more attractive as a place to live."

You (apparently) aren't familiar with the findings of the Savings Working Group who blamed high immigration for high house prices, higher interest rates and lack of capital deepening.

The Australian Productivity Commission pointed out that there was little or no discernible economic benefit to Australians from immigration; it had all been captured by the migrants