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Celebrating Diversity - Green Human Rights Policy Launch

Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome all of you, whether you are new migrants or your ancestors have been here for generations. It's great to see New Zealanders of so many ethnic origins — Pacific Islands, Sri Lanka, Middle East, Palestine, Philippines and China to name just a few.

All of us in New Zealand are here because we or our ancestors came here in search of a better life. All of us come from people who have had to learn to live in this land with its unique climate, plants and animals, culture and political processes. All of us are still learning — and as we do so, contributing to the richness and diversity that is Aotearoa.

My best friend when I was ten-years-old was a Chinese girl. She was a third-generation New Zealander but I learned from her that not all families have the same cultural traditions or the same expectations of their children, and that the differences between people are interesting and enrich us all. We all understand much better who we are if we know about other cultures, just as we never fully understand how our own language works until we learn another. I really valued the opportunity to learn that at a young age.

The Greens want to see a society here in New Zealand that welcomes diversity in the knowledge that it adds richness to all our lives. We want to increase the quota of refugees we accept, knowing that as a small country we cannot do much to reduce the international crisis of suffering, but that we will do what we can.

We want to see a society that doesn't think the job is over when people cross our borders, but that offers practical help to learn language, find homes and jobs and schooling, and build understanding of what is unique in New Zealand. That is particularly our Treaty relationship, which we expect all new migrants to honour, and our unusual biodiversity of unique plants and animals, which we hope new citizens will grow to love and care for.

We recognize that people will never be truly at home if their families are not able to join them, particularly if those families are in danger. So we emphasise family reunification in accepting new migrants.

We want a country where people feel secure that they have equal rights, regardless of their ethnic origin, religion, gender or political beliefs.

That is why we are standing up against the recent attacks by those who are whipping up fear of difference, fear of people "not like us" for a political agenda. It is easy to sow hate and fear. It is harder to build tolerance and inclusiveness. Few people have been prepared to speak out about this. But that is why you and I are here today. I want a society where most people are secure and confident enough about who they are to welcome others who are not like us, to share this land, within the limits of our resources and our ecology.

One way to build that society is by being very careful who you vote for in the next election, because government policy can be used to sow either division and discrimination, or inclusiveness and pride in our diversity. Imagine a world where Winston Peters was Minister of Immigration — migrants and refugees already in New Zealand could find themselves herded like cattle by "flying squads" in the middle of the night and loaded onto planes. And those wanting to come here may be met by an iron curtain for which only the white middle class from Britain and other European countries have a key. It has not passed me by that while Winston is out there ranting about migrants, he has had little to say about his deputy leader, who himself immigrated here from Britain.

And we should note that a vote for either National or Labour could lead to Winston being able to implement his policies of discrimination. Neither of them has ruled out a coalition with NZ First and Winston has not said who he would work with in a new government. A party vote for the Greens at this election, therefore, is a vote for inclusiveness and a vote against bigotry.

Winston and I seem to look at the same reality but see quite different things. When Winston Peters walks down Queen Street and sees Asian faces, he wonders whether he is still in New Zealand. When I walk down Queen Street and see Asian faces, I see the essence of New Zealand: the coming together of many peoples, under a shared vision of a fair, compassionate, sustainable society.

When Winston Peters realises that we are taking in refugees from the world's wartorn places, he cries blue murder, and shouts 'bludger!' A Cambodian taxi driver recently told me his story of how, alone among his family, he barely escaped mass murder in his native country — a story that had me in tears as I reached my Parliamentary office. I was overwhelmed at how fortunate this country is, and relieved and thankful and yes, a little proud, that he had found safety and a job in New Zealand.

By voting for the Green Party you are voting for a Government that will reject the fear-mongering and the hate, and will work to build an inclusive society that values all its people.

Thank you again for coming today, and I look forward to hearing the other speakers - our own MP Keith Locke, spokesperson on human rights; Mua our Pacifica candidate, and Del, Nirupa and Tuma, representing communities who are enriching our cultural life in New Zealand.

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