You’d Have To Be High To Believe That Record Migration Is Due To Drug Use


It’s become a depressing pattern. Every time news of record migration numbers come out in the media, the National Party leap into action with another excuse for why they’re justified.

The most recent “alternative facts” laden argument for adding tens of thousands of people to the New Zealand labour market … is that apparently the workers already here can’t pass drug tests.

Now, the notion that people are unemployed because they’re on drugs is not a new concept to the national political lexicon. We’ve heard it before, quite a number of times. In fact, it even became such a serious concern that then-Social Development Minister Paula Bennett instituted mandatory drug-testing for beneficiaries thought to be out of work for this reason.

How did this go?

Well, in 2015 there were more than thirty thousand beneficiaries referred to jobs which required them to be drug free … and only fifty five failures of the requisite pre-work drug tests. (Gosh, what a wonderful use of taxpayer money) This is a rate of failure of 0.173%; which would rather strongly suggest that drugs are not a significant barrier to participation in the workforce for tens of thousands of beneficiaries.

So clearly, something else is going on here.

In order to find out what, we need to ask ourselves two questions.

First up, why do some employers seem to have a preference for immigrant labour; and second, why the Government is continually content to airbrush reality and attempt to present the ongoing importation of tens of thousands of people a year as something of an economic necessity.

The answer to the first question is, regrettably, quite simple. Less scrupulous employers want to take on migrant labour rather than employ Kiwis, in the main, because the former are far more readily exploitable than the latter.

Now obviously, this will not be the case in all instances. The Skilled Migrant category of immigration exists precisely because we’ve long recognized that on occasion it is more desirable to bring in somebody with a needed skill, rather than waiting the potential months or years for a Kiwi to either upskill or otherwise become available for the position.

But it has become painfully apparent of late that under this Government, the immigration system is not being used just to plug vital gaps in our workforce – but instead, as part of a calculated and cynical effort to keep pay and conditions down in a number of workplaces and industries.

How else to interpret, for instance, then-Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse making the nonsensical statement that “supermarket checkout operator” apparently count as an “Essential Skill” in the eyes of Immigration New Zealand, as justification for dozens of entry-visas being issued.

Are we really to be expected to believe that amongst the tens of thousands of New Zealanders unemployed and looking for work on any given day … that there weren’t a few dozen people already here who could have performed the enormously complex task of operating a supermarket checkout?

I think not.

So what makes a migrant worker on a (temporary) visa more valuable to an employer than an equivalent Kiwi?

Simple. The New Zealander doesn’t have the threat of fairly immediate deportation hanging over them if they should happen to do anything to incur their employer’s displeasure. So if you’re after a workforce you can pay less, feasibly expect to be less likely to unionize, and who won’t get ‘uppity’ about little things like unpaid over-time or being denied their breaks … why WOULDN’T you hire from offshore.

We hear a lot about migrant-worker exploitation in the hospitality and restauranting sectors, but it would be fallacious to attempt to pretend that similar things don’t also take place in other industries. The Christchurch Rebuild, in particular, appears to have been carried out in large part upon the backs of unfairly treated foreign labour. A situation actively contributed to by, among other personages, the then-Philippines Ambassador to New Zealand – who scurrilously urged her countrymen not to join unions or otherwise involve them in workplace disputes.

The evidence is pretty clear. It isn’t just a matter of employers hiring migrant workers rather than Kiwis – the Damoclean sword of being able to insta-deport large chunks of your workforce is also being used by some businesses to mercilessly drive down pay and conditions in some sectors of our economy.

Which leads us on to the next question. Why is the Government seemingly OK with this?

First part of the answer’s easy. Lower wages help to keep a lid on inflation; and National has not for some decades been anything like a friend to Unions or the average worker. Some big corporates being able to rake in higher profits thanks to their lower-cost workforces certainly won’t hurt, either – particularly if they later ‘return the favour’ by making donations to the National Party’s coffers.

But I also think there’s more going on here than initially meets the eye. It’s no secret that New Zealand’s economic growth rates have been comparatively sluggish. Despite all of the hype and spin about National being “the party of business”, and the occasional high-profile success story; for the most part, the only seriously growing sector of the New Zealand economy is the property market. A market which, incidentally, can only benefit by rapidly adding more people whilst only veeerrrryyyy sloooooowwwwllllyyyy increasing the number of houses to domicile them in. Which is certainly good for upper-middle-class National voters who are on the property-ladder already (and thus able to borrow ever more against the increased value of their portfolios in order to fund a lavish lifestyle, or net incredible returns by rapidly flipping property for huge capital gains), and never mind about anyone else.

And there’s also the matter of the cash which several classes of migrant are required to bring in with them representing a paper gain for the New Zealand economy.

So why is the Government really allowing unprecedented numbers of foreign-born workers to come to New Zealand? It seems to be because doing so serves their long-term economic objectives. An easy form of delusory “growth” (which never seems to take into account the additional costs of a rapidly expanding population requiring greater service expenditure), and a few favours to their corporate mates.

But this doesn’t exactly sound great in a press conference. So instead of being truthful about their priorities, our Government instead insists upon laying down a fulminating barrage of falsehood designed to appeal to the prejudices of the middle classes. After all, who’s an easier and more “legitimate” target for moral outrage than drug users. How better to make the moral fault for being unemployed that of the beneficiary rather than that of the economic system and its neoliberal presiding overlords. And how else to effectively silence the qualms of Middle New Zealanders worried about the potential futures of our young people … than by blatantly projecting into the public political consciousness the idea that drug addiction, rather than migratory flows and other policy-settings are why our kids can’t get jobs in a supermarket.

I don’t blame nor begrudge foreign folk wanting to come here, make their contribution and in exchange receive the benefits of a better life here in New Zealand. But it seems hard to overlook the fact that some employers – seemingly actively supported in this by the Government – are obviously intent upon using them in a way that’s detrimental to both foreign and domestic-sourced labour.

It cannot be allowed to continue. And while it’s certainly an interesting change of pace for “drug addiction” rather than “racism”to be the officially designated Nat red-herring on this issue, about the only positive from this shift is that at least the recent claim is more easily statistically refutable.


  1. Drunck in charge of a country, was the remark of a former Green MP; lets see MPs go through the random test. Of course the unfortunate imigrants are being used to drive down wages and conditions of employment, its time for National to stop following the Trump policy of lying loud and long.

  2. Talking about ‘alternative facts’ and blaming immigration for our economic problems…sounds familiar.

    I’ll stick to my class analysis thanks – I’m a leftist.

    I’m not justifying our immigration policies. I’d be happy to see more immigrants come in under a different plan. I wouldn’t blame our housing crisis, poverty, low wages and inequality on immigration.

    Go read some Marx.

    “The Christchurch Rebuild, in particular, appears to have been carried out in large part upon the backs of unfairly treated foreign labour. A situation actively contributed to by, among other personages, the then-Philippines Ambassador to New Zealand – who scurrilously urged her countrymen not to join unions or otherwise involve them in workplace disputes.”

    I’d like to thank all the Filipino workers who have come to Chch and helped rebuild. I’ve gotten to know many of them personally and I’m sorry they get framed as a problem for Kiwis. I’m sorry they live in shitty overpriced Chch housing which is a result of our housing, social and economic policies for decades. And I’m sorry that half the left don’t support vulnerable foreign workers…please know many of us want better working conditions for you.

    Solidarity please.

      • It’s very right wing to want to dismantle programes for the poor such as accepting migrant refugees ect, in this respect i suppose i am right wing. But not if you believe that military aid should be ruthlessly crushed. The New Zealand government with help via 5is generates tens of millions of migrant/climate redugees both abroad and at home.

        With 50 million migrant refugees on UN and other aid agency books, there are no solutions but to cancel all milatary aid. Which wouldn’t go well for Israel, so will we still be wonderful people in any event, I think not.

        Those are fine things to say I guess, usually I would have discribed how a monkey finds bananas for pats on the head in my reply, but thats just to hide my own amazement at how far New Zealanders are willing to go to find the darkest most insignificant arguments to disagree with in order maintain privileged positions during times of moral crises.

        Can refugees fly like they can swim? Thats a question for the philosophers

      • I agree they’re not the problem, but this post is suggesting Filipino immigrants are the problem because they’re not joining unions.

        “A situation actively contributed to by, among other personages, the then-Philippines Ambassador to New Zealand – who scurrilously urged her countrymen not to join unions or otherwise involve them in workplace disputes”

        Our problem of union membership and union power is the result of industrial policy. It’s not because immigrant workers don’t sign up to unions. Our problem is the ERA2000 and because the left in NZ still discard class politics.

  3. I was waiting for this nasty lot ( the tories to roll out the old drug bullshert) this is there latest excuse for the influx of immigrants the lies about bringing in only highly skilled worker is a load of bullshert when in fact they have been bringing in unskilled labour for years and this hurt Maori and PI who this government knows full well make up the bulk of the NZ working age population but the tories have cut our throats by bringing in cheap labour and interfered with the market when it suit them and the business people they serve. I see it here at my own job we have cleaners from South America and other countries many who don’t speak much English the lies and the deceit its time for a change .

  4. I notice English didn’t provide any facts or figures to back up his claims. Another round of beneficiary bashing, aye?

  5. As Donald Trump and his “success” have proved, the facts do no longer matter, perception is all that counts, so our government uses the same lies, misinformation, distractions and endless BS to maintain the public’s perception that people are lazy, useless and workshy, and thus linger on “too easily accessible” benefits.

    It does not matter that the truth is there are only very few jobseekers failing drug tests, the narrative is maintained relentlessly, that young Kiwis are “useless” and “on drugs”.

    As Martyn pointed out, and as I also commented on this topic under his post, the government and Bill English are experts at telling lies and misleading an increasingly dumbed down, ignorant and even indifferent public:

    So the same topic was touched on during breakfast tv, the am show and all this drivel crap on television this morning, and opinionated, self appointed commentators confirmed the BS bias, one woman, a media personality on Garner’s show saying, most young Kiwis she tried to employ were “useless” (the am show this morning, TV3).

    A CEO of an events company more or less supported her comment.

    The fact is, immigrant labour is cheap, I met a fair few students coming here, working for slave wages and jobs, they are all desperate to get PR and will even work under the minimum wage if needed to survive.

    With such “competition”, many young Kiwis say, stuff competing with that, working endless hours at too low pay that does not even pay the rent, I will try find a better paid job, continue study (on debt) or do anything else to somehow get by (stay with mum and dad, do a bit of crime or what else).

    The BS that so many fail drug tests is debunked by the fact that you will not get a benefit for a long time, if you fail, due to stand downs. So how can they get away with it, Mr Lying Woodhouse and Mr Lying PM English???

    They simply want to have handy excuses to justify mass immigration, which helps them present a “growing economy”, which does hardly grow at all on a per capita basis, with low productivity.

    It is like telling mums to have more babies, so the country has more workers and consumers, a recipe for a stuffed up and costly future where we all fight over the crumbs as limited resources.

  6. Low Achiever

    Our Darling PM entered parliament in 1990 and is still there. During that time he has achieved nothing of note. Unless you count generously funding Private Religious schools while starving normal schools, selling off important assets which belong to the common man, and ignoring Alcoholic and other vicious Addictive drugs which destroy unknown numbers of New Zealanders from all walks of life – including Politicians.

    The worst of these drugs with very a deep hold on the NZ population is Alcohol. But Brewers look after the likes of Bill English.

  7. A desperate attempt by English to divert attention away from our rising inequality, deteriorating waterways, land/business sell-out to foreign ownership, complete lack of preparation for climate change and the fact that global capitalism is in it’s death throes.

  8. This is top-quality evil. Not only does it shout another keg for the ongoing beneficiary-bashing party, it will give useful idiots another “reason” to maintain the War on (Some) Drugs. If drugs make people unemployable, you can’t stop arresting and imprisoning people for using them, despite the fact that having drug convictions keeps people out of paid work…

    The real solution to this fictional problem would be for the government to ban workplace drug testing as the violation of employee privacy that it is. Then kiwis couldn’t be blackballed from workplaces because they prefer to have a joint rather than a beer in their private time.

  9. The statistic for how many migrant workers fail drugs tests is not compared with the figure for how many local workers fail these tests.

    Why not?

    Without this figure the excuse given for employing migrants over New Zealand citizens has no validity.

    The question that must be asked is what attraction does a migrant workforce have for employers that a citizen workforce doesn’t?

    The answer is in the question. Not being citizens, migrant workers have lesser rights than citizens.

    An employer cannot kill or beat them, but he can deport them.

    They are not free workers, they are bonded workers on limited contracts, which on completion they are then compulsorily removed from the territory.

    • Doctors going on strike is not a good sign.

      So we shipped our factories off shore. Imported workers to keep inflation down. Then mom and pop borrowed upto there eye balls and spent it on secound hand shelter rather than manufacturing stuff and creating a vibrant economy.

      Now Doctors are having trouble living in Auckalnd and if they have problems, what kind of problems do nurses or more importantly cleaners have. I haven’t asked any but it’s not a pretty sight. About the only manicured public area in Auckland is the Museum, the rest get covered over with sewage and chemicals and cheap but semi durable signs that say keep out public health risk ect.

      So now all that private sector debt is finally looking every one square in the face and buts are starting to clinch each time an auction fail to meet owners demands to cash them out more than they put in. Along comes low income housing and LVRs to the rescue?

      I think not, we where supposed to create service sector jobs but now Doctors are struggling to produce those servises that was meant to replace all the borrowing we have done to off shore manufacturing/speculate and now we’ve grinded out our own high skill and low skilled labour and heaps have attitude and blame each other. In fact we all deserve the misery that befalls a collapse of this nature.

      The only way forward is a UBI for every one that pays down an individuals debt 1st so to not continually benifit speculators and reward those that did not speculate.

  10. Tonight’s Checkpoint gave the actual figures on this issue, quoting MSD. They show Mr English is way, way out of line. He’s sounding somewhat Trumpesque on this …

  11. Seriously, the overseas born population of the UK is 11%. In the US it is 14%. In No Zealand it is 30%. What is the magical, mythical proportion that “we” need to stop at before the wheels fall off and we find ourselves in the midst of some serious (and deadly) social unrest? What is the magic, sustainable proportion?

    • People here must indeed be somewhat “hopeless”, when they cannot even raise and express their ire at this fact, that this is a land allowing most liberal immigration, keeping wages down, and pushing house prices to astronomical levels.

      Either people are actually so “useless”, and thus choose, out of embarrassment, not to complain about immigrants doing a better job, or they are themselves benefiting from slave labour while they choose the better paid jobs for themselves.

      Whatever it is, it is not a good look for New Zealanders to put up with this kind of situation. FFS, stand up, show some spine and take a stand, dear NZers.

  12. Bill English signalled many years ago that his preference for success was a low wage economy which is exactly what New Zealand has got and has had for decades , he hardly had to comment because kiwi businesses pay SHIT WAGES and hide behind any law ,regulation or government policy to make sure that does not change and it is their right to milk as much as they can for their own obscene profit even if it means flooding the country with expendable immigration and using the old “young kiwis wont work or cant because they fail a drug test” or wont get out of bed! for the minimum blockbuster of $15.25 an hour which under law is all they are obliged to pay and that’s only because the law tells them they must.
    Business and their interests are ALWAYS protected no question but working people have no rights at all and this should be a campaign issue heading into the general election this and year that a REAL Labour party would be be making its top priority.
    It would have a captivated and listening audience no doubt about it.

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