More free speech under attack from Immigration Act

October 15th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I think the Government is making a mistake by not conceding the law (passed by its predecessor) needs changing. The Herald reports:

The Advisers Authority has issued 18 warning letters to people it says are breaching the Advisers Licensing Act since it became law on May 4.

But a director of a defunct migrant workers support centre which received a warning says the authority is using the act to “attack migrant support services” rather than police dodgy immigration advisers. …

Mike Bell said he was forced to close the Skilled Migrant Resource Centre, a registered charity which operated as a drop-in support centre for skilled migrants, after being served a letter from the authority’s solicitor in July.

“I was told the reason I was sent the warning letter was because of my appearance on a TV3 news report where I apparently presented myself as an immigration adviser,” he said.

“Being served a notice like this, with up to seven years’ jail as a penalty, I took it very seriously.
“As a result, New Zealand’s only dedicated facility for skilled migrants was closed down.

Great.

Registrar Barry Smedts denied that the legislation was being used to target non-advisers, but would not say how many of the warning letters had been issued to unlicensed fee-charging advisers.

“The act is in place to protect migrants from poor advice from would-be experts. Forewarning letters have been sent to individuals whose activities appear to breach the act,” Mr Smedts said.

And this is the wrong focus. The focus should be to protect migrants from scamsters who offer a commercial service to assist people with gaining residency or work permits. By claiming their job is to protect against poor advice, suggest the Govt is guaranteeing all advice given will be “good”. I think most people can understand the difference between advice on a blogsite, or someone giving opinions on a TV interview, and a professional immigration advisor.

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13 Responses to “More free speech under attack from Immigration Act”

  1. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,814 comments) says:

    Is this the bailiwick of Ms weak as water Wilkinson? I reckon she’ll be the first one to be re-assigned out, come the first reshuffle.

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  2. Gerrit (105 comments) says:

    Hate the advert in the middle of the posting. Crass

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  3. Brian Smaller (4,017 comments) says:

    I think the Government is making a mistake by not conceding the law (passed by its predecessor) needs changing.

    Agreed. The Key government seems hell bent on propping up the previous government’s agenda.

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  4. Chris Doms (73 comments) says:

    Nice Westpac ad.

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  5. kaya (1,360 comments) says:

    Wilkinson will almost certainly be the first to go, she is as sure and steady as a jelly on a high wire.
    This subject has already been brought into the spotlight so she is surely aware of it. It needs to be addressed and quickly.

    I’m presuming the massive ad in the middle is a mistake?

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  6. bwakile (757 comments) says:

    Thanks for a great post David. I’ll go and sign up with Westpac now.

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  7. deanknight (263 comments) says:

    Or perhaps the proposed limitation has a sound foundation and is a justifiable restriction on people’s expressive rights?

    There is an fairly diagnosed problem, the restriction seeks to address, the groups of people who are being taken advantage of are potential immigrants who may not be as well placed to make the distinctions DPF suggests, we have many examples of restrictions requiring only qualified and supervised professionals to give advice (which amongst other things, requires even people giving advice at drop-in community law centres to be qualified or under the supervision of qualified lawyers).

    d

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  8. ernesto (257 comments) says:

    Ah yes Dean, but to be justifiable it must be the minimum reasonable impairment on the right necessary to achieve the objective. In the context of bloggers and charities a 7 year penalty might see the enactment fail this hurdle.

    I guess the question would then become is there any ambiguity in the provision that would allow the Courts to apply s6 BoRA and adopt a meaning that is consistent with the right to freedom of express and the right to receive and impart information.

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  9. Graeme Edgeler (3,274 comments) says:

    we have many examples of restrictions requiring only qualified and supervised professionals to give advice (which amongst other things, requires even people giving advice at drop-in community law centres to be qualified or under the supervision of qualified lawyers).

    Perhaps, but how many bloggers have had letters from the Law Society seeking to forbid them from discussing legal matters?

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  10. deanknight (263 comments) says:

    @GE: None that I am aware – but you get the point I was making.

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  11. ernesto (257 comments) says:

    If you want a loophole look at the exceptions…

    “Immigration Advice” does not include—

    (i) providing information that is publicly available

    The Act does not define “publicly available”.

    Any member of the public can walk into say, the University Bookshop or Bennetts and purchase a copy of one of the plethora of legal textbooks on immigration, or indeed they me be publicly available through the public libraries.

    Therefore there is very little information that can not be said to be already publicly available.

    A decent Bill of Rights lawyer could dive a truck and trailer through this act using the analysis on section 4, 5 and 6 of the NZBoRa in R v Hansen.

    As I said before it will probably fail the s5 analysis on the minimum reasonable impairment hurdle.

    I await a test case with eagerness. Look out Immigration New Zealand. Damages ahoy.

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  12. Avalon (39 comments) says:

    Ive been doing some further research on this – and so far I cannot find one single mention in any of the paperwork or parliamentary reports that says they had even one instance of bad advice on a forum or blog that they were concerned about. So far every reference has been about Immigration AGENTS or consultants who were scamming migrants for high fees and failing to either file papers with Immigration New Zealand, or holding back applicants passports.

    No where does any MP even mention that this was supposed to stop people like me giving advice to others.

    “Immigration Advice” does not include—

    (i) providing information that is publicly available

    Yep – but you cant “translate” it for people or explain what – in practice – it really means, based on your personal experience.

    @deanknight we have many examples of restrictions requiring only qualified and supervised professionals to give advice (which amongst other things, requires even people giving advice at drop-in community law centres to be qualified or under the supervision of qualified lawyers).

    Yes we do – example – Im actually trained as a Pharmacist, and anyone who isnt likewise trained (and registered – which I am not) cannot legally pass themselves off as a Pharmacist, or sell certain medicines. However that does not stop the general public from giving each other advice on medicines or healthcare in general. I cant for the life of me see what makes Immigration agents so damn special that they get more extensive privaledges than we did – especailly since they have no qualifications (except often a previous job at Immigration New Zealand!).

    They just aint that special ;)

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  13. kiki (425 comments) says:

    They are very skilled in that they know to who the money should go (to their bank I mean, honest)

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