WTF??!!–or is it simply a matter of money talking?

Little does it matter, apparently, that the bastion of Wahhabist extremism and medieval authoritarian gender/sexual  weirdness has never fully repudiated the 9/11 attacks and offered nothing outside of its borders to combat that scourge even though most of the 9/11 perpetrators were Saudi (if anyone can name a Saudi combat deployment anywhere outside of Saudi Arabia or the US overflight zone in Yemen, you are welcome to correct me). Never mind that its pressure influences US policy vis a vis both Israel and Iran. Never mind that its human rights record is abysmal. Never mind that the Saudi as well as other oil-rich Arab children of the elite get to use NZ as a convenient educational stopping and gathering point on their way to arranged marriages and the material comforts borne of the exploitation of  others.

The National government believes that it is all good.

For National, the issue here is that there is serious money to be made off of these Arab aristocrats, and NZ’s claims to moral authority in defense  of universal human rights need to take a back seat to monetary self-interest even though the NZ’ers who will have to directly interact on a daily basis with the Saudi students have not been consulted as to the advisability of increasing their numbers. To say nothing of what other countries, even when considering the hypocrisy that is the mainstay of diplomatic rhetoric, will think of this abject bend-over act to a country that pretty much represents the antithesis of so-called NZ values.

Security vetting, anyone?

18 thoughts on “WTF??!!–or is it simply a matter of money talking?

  1. Brilliant news. Good on the New Zealand government for promoting openness and education. The more Saudi students experience the values held by New Zealanders and the more that value system is promoted within Saudi the better off the world will be. The funds gained from educating Saudi is miniscule in comparison to the value of that education to long term peace.

    There is a small risk that some of the Saudi students may represent a fifth column, whether witting or unwitting. I am sure that New Zealand students are robust enough to see through those kind of blandishments.

    You cannot think that the meeting of the two cultures will result in kiwi sheilas donning the burqua can you?

    Ask your wife if she wants you to have total primacy in your house. ;^)

  2. Harking back to your Strategic culture post this is the very area where New Zealanders can provide a fine example to the world. I am constantly struck by how my basic values are so much more open and democratic than so many people I have met on my travels.

    We will gain far more than any fees. New Zealand can provide non threatening non hegemonic cultural leadership for the world.

    You have no doubt read confessions of an Economic Hitman and understand the resentment that American & European money and institutions can bring. New Zealand does not have that same image and can do things others cannot. Witness the outcome in Timor.

  3. PhilS:

    On this one you are completely wrong. It is not about Saudis converting Kiwi wimin to burqas. That is ridiculous. It is about Wahabbists using their NZ-derived skills for ill-gain. There is zero security vetting on applicants from Saudi, the UAE or Pakistan (which has a quota of 5000 students in the hard sciences thanks to a Labour govt deal with Musharraf). The total number of these individuals approaches 10,000 in residence in any given year. Do you really think that they add value to NZ other than the money that they spend and is spent on them? Do you really believe that all of these NZ bound “students” are interested in cultural exchange and learning Western values?

    I could say a lot of things but this will suffice: think again.

  4. Pablo – There will certainly be those who will use their education for ill. There will be many others who will observe the freedom and values and come to believe the strength of that.

    I agree they do not add much value to New Zealand. That is absolutely not my point. Most of them will go home with eyes opened wider, albeit unlikely completely, to the reality of a modern liberal democracy. That may not change their behaviour at home at all but there is more likelihood of change than if they persist with stone age behaviour in ignorance of anything in the outside world.

  5. The trouble is Phil that just one person doing evil with the skills acquired in a NZ university will undo NZ’s international reputation for years to come. That opinion, needless to say, was one that I voiced repeatedly to university administrators in the year before my dismissal for being rude to–who would have thunk it–a totally unqualified full fees paying Arab graduate student, who, I might add, used her knowledge of NZ PC norms to accuse me of being a “racist” for calling her on an excuse for not submitting coursework even though she was late in doing so and, as the ERA record demonstrates, never did provide certifiable proof of her bogus claim. But the employer sided with her because Arab student admissions, rather than NZ graduate standards, were at stake. This latest announcement is only going to make that syndrome worse–just ask the people who have hosted Saudis in Auckland (I have personal experience with two cases).

    Which is why you are wrong. The open door policy for Saudi students is an invitation to disaster on so many levels, it is gob-smackingly scary that National portrays this as a win-win for NZ and the spoiled Saudi children alike. For every mind-opening Saudi experience you describe, there will be many more unhappy mind-blowing experiences by NZ’ers having to deal directly with these “students.”

    Can you parse the phrases sexual assault+diplomatic immunity (or non-prosecution)?

  6. How much do international students contribute to schools like the UoA being able to keep courses running?

    Do you think that teaching staff at these institutions are unable to exercise their skill and authority without fear of prejudice or influence from an administrative agenda led by $$$? I’m sure the point that you made at the UoA, could in future be made in a way which wouldn’t allow the student to use racism as a charge, and without fear of administrative interference.

    It seems like the criteria you’ve listed here could be used as the basis for NZ to decline cooperation with/money from countries such as China, Jordan, Israel, USA… What criteria do you use for deciding that the human rights abuses of one country are okay for cooperation in one purpose but not in another- I’m sure there has been work done on this, but it’s hard to imagine that they’re anything other than arbitrary. It’s also difficult to think of a country in the middle east which can’t be accused of human rights abuses.

  7. Pablo I had forgotten your personal experience. Nevertheless Dylan makes good points. I would hope that uoa has learned from your experience and devised better processes to protect staff and not be so craven towards foreign students. But I doubt it.

  8. Interesting topic. One will not be able to determine the validity of intent when a foreign national studies here. One cannot know what underwear they will be wearing when they arrive here from abroad or whose uncle is a Taliban, Saudi national terrorist cell leader etc.

    I am frankly disturbed that we allowed foreign nationals in Universities here, but cannot allow any more New Zealanders into them because “we can’t afford it.” We are letting our younger generation down massively. And do taxpayers want to pay the Unemployment Benefit to them while they wait for an opportunity to get into Uni? No. Something seriously wrong with this picture

  9. Firstly it is cheaper to pay UB than have them at uni.
    The overseas students pay the full cost of their tuition or seat warming and so subsidise the kiwi.
    It is ridiculous to suggest that all kiwi children should go to uni. It should be a tested entrance for just the ones capable of making good use of the privilege. It is quite wrong to deprive the NZ experience to the many becuase one or two may later become terorists.

  10. The problem with students paying the full cost to come here and study, particularly when they form a sizeable proportion and critical mass of students, is they can expect good results for their bucks, regardless of whether or not they deserve it.

    I’ve heard complaints from friends teaching in some US universities, that it’s very hard to resist strong pressures from students to inflate their grades. This apparently works in concert with the regular surveys of students for feedback on courses and teacher performance. Professors who give many low grades can get poor student feedback, which can have a negatIve impact on their career.

    I don’t think Saudi students will necessarily mean they are mostly “terrorists” or violent “freedom fighters”, but a sizeable proportion might put pressure on teachers not to present specific lines of argument that are counter to the culture of the students. But that could be a problem if large numbers of fundamentalist Christians, or white supremacisits came to NZ to study, say from the US or South Africa.

  11. Pablo, it may be impossible to state with authority that we are able to prevent any Saudi students coming in under this agreement from doing “evil” with their education. It’s similarly impossible to make the same statement about Kiwi students doing “evil” with their education under current provisions. I think you are establishing an impossible test.

    You appear to effectively be calling for not allowing any Saudi Arabians to be educated outside Saudi Arabia because of the Saudi government’s policies. Isn’t that punishing the citizens for the actions of the state?

  12. My problem with the approach to foreign student recruitment is simple: there is no security vetting of applicants from areas in which violent extremism is endemic. In fact, there is no security vetting of student applicants at all (unlike that which occurs when one applies for a normal permanent residence visa). The sheer numbers of these students makes vetting everyone impossible, but I would have thought that after the Yemeni fight student fiasco procedures would have been put in place that double-checked the background of applicants from designated “high risk” countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Even if not 100% effective it would at least give the NZ authorities an idea of the risk potential of individual applicants. As things now stand foreign students only come to the attention of NZ authorities if they get in trouble when in NZ.

    As an example, consider that Chinese students are used as drug mules, money launderers, debt collectors, enforcers and intelligence gatherers by organised crime syndicates and (with regards to intelligence-gathering) the PRC itself. This has only been discovered as a result of police investigations into criminal activity in NZ. Had there been a vetting system in place, at least some of the unsavory types might have been detected before the arrived rather than after.

    Hence my annoyance with the mania for foreign students is due to this lack of security vetting coupled with the drop in admission standards caused by the mad rush for the almighty dollar. Surely there is a happy medium between the current situation and a closed system?

  13. Hmmmm, interesting question this vetting migrants one. Personally I’ve come across a pile of chicken run South Africans who privately express the most appallingly unreconstructed racist and pro-apartheid views. I wish we had done a better job vetting some of those pricks, they don’t deserve to be here.

  14. TomS: I have had the same experience with some NZ Africaaners. But security vetting would not focus so much on personal opinions as on past associations, personal behaviour and public utterances.

  15. Yes, I realise it is not wise to try and open windows into men’s souls.

  16. Pablo, if the vetting is as lax as you say, I can see why this would be an issue, but it seems an issue that’s only tangentially related. Surely the ideal situation, from your point of view, is to have this agreement and a vetting regime. Not having the agreement doesn’t help with the lack of vetting regime.

    I also think this is a bit disconnected from your original post – you talk about New Zealand’s need to be a moral authority on human rights. To me, harsh vetting regimes for potential immigrants are not the best way to make a stand for human rights.

  17. Hugh:

    You are right in that the post and follow up comments are disjointed. In the original post I was thinking of things like the fact the few if any Saudi wimin will be able to take advantage of the agreement, and NZ did not insist on a female quota (which it well could have negotiated). I was thinking of the fact that Saudis and other ME oligarchic offspring come here to fornicate, drink and throw their money around at us plebs, the return home to their medieval status quo. Rather than absorb our values, they play loose with them while here, then reject them once home. I neglected in the post to add my security concerns, which I have voiced in print as well as in other public fora for the last four years. That is why the security angle appears in my subsequent comments.

    You are right–my ideal scenario is student visas with security vetting, along with certifiable competency or pre-requisite requirements in English and the chosen fields of study, open to all nationals of a partner country via open competition administered by education specialists in NZ embassies or consulates. That, unfortunately, is not what is in place at the moment.

  18. Ah, well, you’re right that some quotas for minorities would have been desirable. Let’s not limit ourselves to women, though, how about Shi’a, or Bedou, or atheists, or the various non-gender groups in Saudi society? To say nothing, as you rightly point out, of the all-important economic dimension.

    But the fact is that I think the Saudis would see such a stipulation as a criticism of their human rights record. And generally they don’t do business with states that criticise their human rights record. So it could be argued that the agreement sans such quotas/provisions is the best that can be expected. Not ideal, but we’re all aware of the need to be realistic, right?

    Personally I don’t have a problem with Saudi students drinking or screwing, or even throwing around their money if they have it. If we are going to be screening students, it should be for genuine security concerns, not for some moral standard of ‘proper behaviour’.

    I agree that what’s in place now falls short of the ideal. But I’m not sure that it’s not a step towards the ideal, however palsied a one.

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