Stuff’s latest political editor, Luke Malpass, newly arrived from the Australian Financial Review, needs to do more homework before launching into NZ politics. In a weekend piece he contrasted the treatment afforded Ausralia’s PM, Scott Morrison, and our Jacinda Ardern in the US this week.
“Last Tuesday, the Beehive announced that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had scored a 20 minute bilateral with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of this week’s UN general assembly in New York.
“It was a big deal. Yet a short meet-and-greet with no media allowed pales in comparison with the lavish state dinner thrown for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the weekend.
“Why would Trump lavish such attention – only the second state banquet of his presidency – on our trans-Tasman neighbours? New Zealand last got one when Norman Kirk was prime minister in 1973.
“The first reason is simple: Trump does not have many diplomatic mates. Europeans tend to lecture him on climate change and rescinding the Iran deal. Or they resent him forcing them to pay a fairer share of Nato’s costs.
“New Zealand has not lectured Trump in the way others have. But Ardern – then an opposition spokesperson in a minor portfolio – did go on a Women’s March in 2017 protesting his inauguration in 2017. Trump, an avid consumer of all things Trump in the media, will not have missed this,”.
Just a moment. The two PM visits are completely different.
First, Morrison’s visit was a long-planned bilateral. His appearance this week at the UN is an add-on. He is even missing the key Christchurch Call to Action meeting which has drawn world leaders headed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Second, Ardern didn’t ask for a bilateral in the US Capital. Had she done so, and there was room in the White House and Beehive diaries, she might well have had similar treatment. Her meeting with the president on Monday was as substantive as might be expected from President Trump.
Third, Australia and the US are major defence partners. Canberra is spending billions on new US F-35A fighters and P-8 Poseidons.
Last week it agreed (apparently reluctantly) to send a warship and surveillance aircraft to the Straits of Hormuz.
The US and Australia are to investigate exploiting Australia’s rare earth resources to counter China – Morrison has promised to financially support the US’ next moon mission.
Fourth, Morrison had a major appointment in Ohio. He and Trump opened a major recycling and paper plant built by Australian businessman Anthony Pratt. He has expanded the Wapakoneta factory with about $US65m of company equity and another $US210m in finance helped by municipal bonds issued by the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority.
The important point here is that Trump faces an election in a little over 12 months. Ohio is one of those key states he won in 2016, promising more jobs. Pratt has helped deliver.
The NZ/US relationship is in its best state in decades. Vigorous diplomacy led by Foreign Minister Winston Peters based around his extensive knowledge of the US Administration is bringing results.
Ardern has boosted the case for a free trade agreement and Washington knows full well NZ’s defence resources are stretched. It recognises and appreciates what 4.7m people can do compared with Australia’s 25m.