WARNING: I WROTE THIS IN AN EIGHT MINUTE WINDOW BETWEEN FLIGHTS AT FRANKFURT AIRPORT. IT'S LIKELY TO BE FULL OF TYPOS AND AWKWARD PROSE. FOR THAT, I APOLOGISE.
I loathe Peter Thiel's strange hybrid libertarian-autocratic political worldview and, if I had my choice, I'd rather he chose somewhere other than my home country of New Zealand as his "backup country".
However, I am horrified at the decision by Labour frontbencher, Iain Lees-Galloway, casting aspersions on the circumstances surrounding the waiver Thiel received in order to become a New Zealand citizen.
This has NOTHING to do with my views on immigration policy in New Zealand generally (FWIW, I'm wildly pro immigration, and that includes investors as well as students, refugees and strivers the world over seeking to make their mark).
It has NOTHING to do with whether or not the super-rich should be able to gain entry into the country -- although, for what it's worth, my view is of course we want as many tech billionaires spending time in New Zealand as we can. They may or may not invest substantial amounts of their respective fortunes in the country; they may or may not end up paying much tax there. But it seems like a no-brainer to me that if the Peter Thiels of the world want to make New Zealand their second home, their presence here is far more likely to help than harm the country's economic prospects. And we need all the help we can get to fund the hidden deficits in education, mental health, infrastructure, and so on.
But, once again for emphasis, that is NOT my point.
It is this:
Peter Thiel is a New Zealand citizen whether we like it or not. Both Labour and National have eased his way into the country. As a New Zealand citizen who was born in Germany, making his fortune in Silicon Valley, he has every bit the same democratic rights as a native born Kiwi. The fact this even seems in contention chills me to my bones.
Lees-Galloway is riding the anti-Trump wave by alleging Dirty Politics involving possible donations to right wing causes in the country. I'm not sure what or how much he has given to whom, except the well publicised donation of $1 million to Christchurch's earthquake recovery.
But it makes not an iota's difference whether he has engaged in NZ politics. He is a New Zealand citizen and, since 2009, he was a permanent resident -- and, unlike almost anywhere else in the world, NZ permanent residents are granted full rights to participate in NZ democracy, up to and including donations to parties or political lobby groups.
If it turns out National gave him a passport in return for such donations, that is a scandal for which the government must be held accountable. But Iain Lees-Galloway makes no such claim, only issuing baseless dark murmurings directed at an individual NZ citizen who must, surely, have the presumption of innocence and rights afforded by natural justice -- regardless of how loaded he is. ILG even admits in the NY Times there is no evidence of impropriety. But he persists anyway with machine gun interrogations of the NZ Taxpayer's Union to establish whether they have received any monies from Thiel. If he did -- and who knows? -- he did so as a permanent resident, and did so perfectly legally.
Until the facts around the GOVERNMENT'S handling of his case are known, this kind of witchhunt has no place in a liberal democracy like New Zealand.
Such treatment from a member of parliament because of Thiel's admittedly troubling pro-Trump views is abhorrent.
This is not an argument about immigration policy; this is about the mistreatment of a legal NZ citizen at the hands of a hamfisted member of parliament seeking a rare moment in the sun.
Lees-Galloway should back the heck off until he knows what happened surrounding the Thiel waiver and, in the event of wrongdoing, he should direct his ire at the government, not an individual citizen whose politics he happens to despise.
It is McCarthyist bollocks of exactly the kind that threatens to be a hallmark of the Trump presidency Lees-Galloway is so eager to express his distaste for.