Four ex-Prime Ministers want refugee quota raised

  • 31/07/2017

Four ex-Prime Ministers have called on the Government to boost the refugee quota.

From 2018 it'll be 1000, upped after spending nearly three decades at 750. But Jim Bolger, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Helen Clark and Mike Moore say we could easily take in another 500 - if not more.

"There are no rational arguments against us being more generous. None at all," says Mr Bolger, who was a National Prime Minister in the 1990s.

"We can do it. We can afford it. And we can offer that hand of welcome and friendship."

They're backing a new campaign called #500Now.

"The fact that all these ex-Prime Ministers have come out for this is a sign that there's an underlying guilt amongst us that we haven't done enough," says ex-Labour Prime Minister Mike Moore.

"We are guilty. We haven't done our job. It won't hurt us. A couple of thousand refugees? Give me a break."

"When all is considered, the New Zealand Government's reluctance to carry its full weight of responsibility in this area of humanitarian relief is really not acceptable," says Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Labour, who was briefly Prime Minister at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s.

"We have an obligation to have a heart, to obey human rights - which we all enjoy and they don't. And I'ts really important for New Zealand to show that it's going to do its bit as a good international citizen."

Helen Clark.
Helen Clark. Photo credit: Getty

Helen Clark, Labour Prime Minister from 1999 to 2008, stressed that angle.

"We want to be seen as a good-hearted country. Not a soft-hearted country, but a good-hearted country that wants to pull its weight.

"And the pride and self-esteem that comes from that is also a positive."

Her experience at the UN leads her to believe while NGOs and other refugee supporters would need to "gear up", it's "do-able within the resources we have".

Sir Geoffrey says by committing a little extra, we could take in 2000.

"I think if we are taking 1000 now, we should take 2000. If you're going to increase it, you should resource it, and go for it."

Jim Bolger.
Jim Bolger. Photo credit: Getty

"Just relax," adds Mr Bolger. "Show a little generosity and humanity for those who are suffering."

The Greens have called for the quota to go up to 5000. Labour wants it raised to 1500.

More information about the #500Now campaign can be found on the WagePeaceNZ Facebook page.