i've been meaning to respond to this comment for a while now, and since i didn't get around to it in a timely fashion, thought i'd turn it into a post. this is the bit that really annoys me:
It is unfortunate that Labour and the Greens woke up to the power of the new Asian immigrant vote way too late...
it particularly annoys me regarding the labour party (and yes, i know i have a particular bias in that regard) because it so blatantly ignores history. going back to 1999, the night helen clark was elected, she thumbed her nose at winston peters by emphasising the intention of the new government to espouse values of inclusiveness. the crowd whe was addressing in mt albert that night was particularly multi-coloured and multi-cultured, especially because mt roskill and mt albert have a high proportion of immigrants of colour.
it took a while for that inclusiveness to translate to policy, but the 5th labour government set up the office of ethnic affairs, developed a settlement strategy and put significant funding into it resulting in a number of migrant resource centres around the country, and set up language line so that people with poor english could access important government services. the party structure set up an ethnic sector which fitted into key decision-making processes around policy and candidate selection. labour MPs were turning up in numbers to cultural events that national MPs weren't even interested in, and the government started to have official celebrations of cultural events in parliament, to recognise the diversity of nz'ers.
i'd say that until the 2008 election, labour was the only major party that had taken the asian/immigrant (all asian nz'ers aren't immigrants, duh) vote seriously and developed policy that specifically addressed that community.
i can't comment so much on the greens in terms of policy, because i don't know what specific policy they had with regard to the asian vote - and yes, i'm too lazy to look right now. i do know that the green party position on foreign policy was certainly popular with parts of the asian community. but the disadvantage the greens had and continue to have is that there is no asian candidate in the top 20 of their party list. they don't have candidates that come from these communities and speak to them. i find this an odd thing in a party that would appear to value a parliament which looks like the population it purports to represent. in terms of parties of the left, the mana party similarly has no asian candidates in their top 10 (which i'd see as equivalent to the green's to 20, given it's a newer & smaller party).
so what changed in 2008? a couple of things. the national party got rid of don brash. in 2005, dr brash made it so easy to campaign in asian communities, and especially after his immigration speech which was a real piece of nastiness. gerry brownlee chimed in, as did other national MPs, and i remember mr brownlee saying that he couldn't see the point of having "token" asian candidates on a party list at the radio nz debate in hamilton. he didn't even consider the possibility that the asian candidates from other parties might have talent and ability.
but in 2008 we had mr key, being all cuddly and friendly with the minorities. he parachuted a couple into electable positions on the list (while mr brownlee must have furiously held his tongut), ensured that national MPs started turning up in force to all asian events (chinese new year; indian independance day, national day celebrations etc), and from what i've heard, started inviting important leaders from these communities to his home for direct and personal chats. national had finally realised that under MMP, an asian vote counted as much as any other vote, and there was around 10% of the vote to be had from asian & other ethnic minority communities.
the other factor was, of course, winston peters. well known for his inflammatory speeches around asians, he was pretty unpopular with most asians - though not all, by a long shot. funnily enough, some of those who had migrated in the 50s and 60s didn't like the new lot of immigrants coming in and actually supported his views on immigration. but generally, i'd say he was pretty unpopular. the fact that he was in a governing arrangement with the labour party was certainly used effectively by national in 2008 as a campaigning point.
it is quite clear now that the asian vote isn't as clearly with labour as it was back in 2005. as long as national steers clear of the brash-type rhetoric, it takes a strategic campaigning tool out of the hands of the left. there are some other crucial factors regarding the asian vote. because of the way our immigration policies work, the asian migrants we take in are predominantly upper middle class & well educated. this demographic tends to be conservative in their views, especially around issues like justice (they respond so well to the "lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" stuff), social justice (oh those lazy bludging beneficiaries and breeding-on-a-benefit welfare mums) and employment law (many of them hate the minimum wage rising, and can be pretty negative about other aspects of worker protection). because many asians have been unable to find work in their field, they end up in small business and see national as the party that favours business - regardless of the fact that actually small businesses have tended to make higher profits under labour governments, simply because labour governments try to ensure that those at the bottom have higher incomes. many, but not all, of these voters will be socially conservative - opposed to restrictions on child discipline, favouring "traditional" family structures, quite happy to discriminate on grounds other than race (although often discriminating on race as well).
i think the left will have a much more difficult time in winning back the asian vote, but i think the key is to stop thinking about the asian vote as a single community with a single set of values. just like any other part of the electorate, they have variation in voting patterns based on income levels and cultural values. asian voters are sophisticated enough to think about a wide range of issues, and they certainly have strong opinions whichever way those opinions fall. the appeal to freedom from discrimination is no longer enough to win their votes, mostly because it's only the likes of the increasingly irrelevant dr brash trying to push those buttons with his "one-law-for-all" stuff. even mr peters has significantly toned down and i haven't heard him pushing immigration and the threat of asian invasion this time around. everyone else is spouting platitudes about diversity and inclusiveness.
this election, i don't see any party out to target the asian vote at all. perhaps this is a sign that nz politics is maturing. a sign that parties recognise that the things concerning asian voters concern all voters - employment, education, health, personal safety. the arguments the left needs to persuade asian voters are the same arguments needed to persuade all other voters. the only areas of difference are employment and immigration. as regards employment, it remains much harder to find employment if you have a non-european name and a non-kiwi accent. as regards immigration, asian nz'ers would certainly respond to a fairer and more transparent immigration system that had stronger checks and balances.
i don't think national has done anything at all to benefit asian voters in this term. they've certainly failed to improve employment, they've taken away ACE funding which had been of huge benefit to migrant communities in terms of helping them to settle in nz, they've haven't done anything substantive to improve the performance of nz immigration services, they've made early childhood education more expensive. the best that can be said of them is that they've managed to keep the office of ethnic affairs, keep language line and not shut down the migrant resource centres. no-one has been asking what will happen if they get back in - will cuts in government spending hit these areas? it seems highly likely.
it will be hard work to bring the asian vote back to the left, but just as hard as it will be to bring other voters back. the left has a lot of work to do in overcoming the anti-union, anti-poor people, poverty-as-a-lifestyle-choice rhetoric of the right. i think we can win that argument, i think the majority of people do care about having a fairer society. it's just a matter of trying to get that message out across all sectors of society and moving our country back to one that looks after all its citizens.