If they are not hard at work in their Beehive offices, as we regularly observe at Point of Order, our Ministers will be busy with engagements here and there around the country – or engaged in very important business overseas.
But the Point of Order monitor of Beehive press statements over the past week or so suggests ministerial globetrotting has been on hold during the Christmas-New Year holiday period.
This doesn’t mean taxpayers are being spared the cost of political jet-setting. Look what we found in a statement from the office of the Speaker, Trevor Mallard.
Yep. Mallard has announced a junket for a select few back-benchers.
He and/or his staff have made an attempt to portray this junketing as important political work.
The statement begins:
Peace, security, and sustainable development on agenda for New Zealand parliamentary delegation
• Empowerment of women and girls to be discussed at global forum
• The meeting provides parliamentarians with the knowledge and strategies to build more peaceful and stable societies
• New Zealand delegates to deliver speeches, consider draft resolutions
Fleshing this out with a bit of detail, the press statement says Jonathan Young MP is leading a New Zealand delegation including Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi MP and Dr Liz Craig MP to the 27th Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF) in Siem Reap, Cambodia next week.
By saying the delegation includes the three MPs he named – rather than that it comprises them – Mallard has left us wondering if there may be others.
He explains that each year, the APPF brings together parliamentarians from 27 countries in the Asia Pacific region to address political, security, economic, and social issues. The forum works to promote the expansion of trade and investment, sound and sustainable environmental practices, and the advancement of freedom and democracy.
Those are lofty objectives.
Our MPs could demonstrate their commitment to them by tackling their Cambodian hosts over matters of the sort raised in this article by an exiled Cambodian politician, Mo Sochua:
There is still hope for Cambodia’s democracy
The international community has to pressure Cambodia to hold free and fair elections.
It is now just over a year since I was thrown into exile at the stroke of a pen.
On 16 November 2017, the Cambodian Supreme Court disbanded my party – the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s only viable opposition force – and stripped me and 54 fellow MPs of our seats. The court, like virtually all of Cambodia’s judiciary, is deeply politicised and, for all intents and purposes, does the bidding of the government.
A few weeks before the ruling, CNRP President Kem Sokha was detained on ludicrous “treason” charges and was languishing in solitary confinement. The writing was on the wall – I realised I was likely the next target. By the end of October, I had fled my beloved Cambodia and I have not been able to return since.
You can be sure several other delegations will come from countries which are somewhat lax in their democratic practices.
Oh – and we suppose a delegation from Thailand will turn up at the gabfest.
We expect our delegation will grab the opportunity to promote the empowerment of women and girls by discussing the fate of the Saudi Arabian lass who has fallen afoul of family and authorities back in her home country.
The 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, reported to be seeking passage to asylum in Australia after fleeing her family in Saudi Arabia and renouncing Islam, is being temporarily admitted to Thailand.
She has said she would be killed if she was returned home.
Perhaps the Kiwi delegation could offer her asylum in this country.
Come to think of it, we are astonished that our kind-hearted Prime Minister hasn’t made such an offer already.