Saturday, 22 February 2014

The real issue with Hugh Laurie

There's been quite a lot of media coverage about who said what to whom in the supposed stoush between Hugh Laurie and Immigration New Zealand  over a work visa - see, for example, Hugh Laurie's spat with Immigration NZ - and I've been waiting for someone to make the most obvious point of all, and the only serious takeaway from the whole thing, but nobody has. So here it is.

Why on earth does Hugh Laurie have to apply for a work visa in the first place?

Or the Rolling Stones, or the Berlin Philharmonic, or JK Rowling, or Billy Connolly, or the Indian cricket team, or anyone else coming for a concert, or performance, or sports or book tour?

Nobody seriously imagines that Immigration is going to turn down any of these applications: they're a completely futile formality. So why do them?

Presumably (if there's any good policy reason at all) it's because if we let Hugh Laurie in to work, next thing the country will be swamped by itinerant Indian applepickers.

Well, I've got three thoughts about that.

One, I've got no problem with the applepickers arriving, either. And neither do the farmers who'd like to employ them. And I don't see long queues of the New Zealand unemployed waiting at the farm gate for those applepicking jobs.

Two, why hasn't someone had the wit to devise a visa-free process for the Berlin Philharmonics of this world instead of the makework nonsense we currently have?

And three, what sort of image do we want to present to the rest of the world? We're supposed to be on the side of the non-protectionist angels when it comes to free movement of goods and services, money, and people. Why are using this footling process that achieves nothing except the occasional burst of bad PR?

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