Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?

On again, off again.  Then, after British PM Boris Johnson’s statement that there was no point in continuing negotiations without movement from the EU, there are signals that a trade and economic deal might be possible in the next few weeks.

We shall see.  But it’s a good moment to pay tribute to the skill of the negotiators and their principals.

Continue reading “Brexit ho – is a deal in sight?”

Here’s hoping our new govt gets the message about intelligence from GSCB’s role in exposing Russian hackers

Three cheers for the GSCB.  It has been lauded by the US FBI and intelligence agencies for its role in uncovering Russian covert intelligence activities around the world.

The Minister in Charge of the intelligence services, Andrew Little, expressed surprise we had been named – but this is a wake-up call to the new government, which is woefully short of experience and hard realities in the wider world – and a reflection on how much NZ services are valued by allies.

This is the story: On October 15 a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh returned an indictment charging six computer hackers, all of whom were residents and nationals of the Russian Federation (Russia) and officers in Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.

The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers; FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich; U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady; and Special Agents in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Pittsburgh Field Offices, J.C. “Chris” Hacker, Melissa R. Godbold, and Michael A. Christman, respectively. Continue reading “Here’s hoping our new govt gets the message about intelligence from GSCB’s role in exposing Russian hackers”

Houses (and their prohibitive prices) will be high in Ardern’s considerations as she appoints her ministerial team

One  of  the   strange  outcomes    of  the   Covid-19 pandemic   has  been  the  surge   in  house  prices,  not  just  in  Auckland   but through the  rest of the  country.    It’s  a   phenomenon  that  runs   contrary   to  past  experience  when the   economy   has  slipped  into  recession.

Many  authorities  say booming house  prices are being  driven  by  the  loose  monetary policy  operated   by the  Reserve  Bank    in conjunction  with the  economic   stimulus  applied  by the  government.   Mortgage   rates   have  fallen,  with  at  least   one  bank    offering  a  rate below   2%.

The   Reserve   Bank’s  chief  economist  Yuong  Ha  is  on  record  as  saying:

The worse situation we’d face right now is actually if we had house prices falling”.

Just  why  that   might  be  the  case    in the  present recession  has  not  been  made  clear,   though he  seemed  to  suggest   the  wealth  effect   of  rising  property prices  is  helping to  sustain  the  economy. Continue reading “Houses (and their prohibitive prices) will be high in Ardern’s considerations as she appoints her ministerial team”

Sediment, jobs and mauri – Minister responds to questions about measuring progress on Kaipara cleanup

We found nothing new, in our daily check of the Beehive website.  But we can report the reply to questions that were raised in an announcement from Environment Minister David Parker (which we noted at the time) earlier this month.

The announcement was headed Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step.

In this, Parker announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils

“ …  to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland.”

In August 2019 the Kaipara was named as the first “exemplar” or “at-risk” catchment to receiving backing as part of the Government’s work alongside local communities and iwi to improve water quality.

In this year’s Budget, as part of the Jobs for Nature package, the Government committed $100 million towards the remediation of Kaipara Moana, New Zealand’s largest estuarine ecosystem, with a matching $100 million contribution from local councils and landowners.  Continue reading “Sediment, jobs and mauri – Minister responds to questions about measuring progress on Kaipara cleanup”

Peters and Mark remind us they still have ministerial work to do as governmental caretakers

Hey – look whose names appeared on the only press statement to be posted on The Beehive website yesterday, two days after Election Day and the first statement to be posted on the site since October 15.

The names are those of Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark.

And no, they don’t have to pack their bags just yet despite their trouncing at the polls.  The rules that apply in the immediate period after election day are spelled out on the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: 

During the government formation process, the current government remains in office, as it is still the lawful executive authority, with all the powers and responsibilities that go with executive office.

But don’t expect anything radical to happen: Continue reading “Peters and Mark remind us they still have ministerial work to do as governmental caretakers”

US law officials brace for the contingency of Trump refusing to accept election defeat

US law enforcement agencies from the FBI down are preparing contingency plans in case of violence after the November 3 presidential elections. These have been triggered by President Donald Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful exit from office, arguing the election results will be “rigged” because of his opposition to postal voting.

Ironically, he voted by mail because he will be in Washington DC rather than at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, now his home.

Trump has shocked even hardened Republicans during the campaigning with his language and easy facility with “factual inexactitudes”.   He maintains the coronavirus pandemic is “turning the corner” despite rising infection rates in most of the 50 US states.   He consistently undermines public health measures recommended by his own officials. He dog-whistles the white supremacists and branded Democrat vice presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris a “monster”. Continue reading “US law officials brace for the contingency of Trump refusing to accept election defeat”

What is Turkey’s President Erdogan up to in Armenia?

The recent flare-up of fighting in the south Caucasus is nasty.  After the break up of the Soviet Union, Armenians and Azerbaijanis fought an unpleasant war over the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh with casualties of around 100,000 and one million displaced.

Armenia prevailed then. Now Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, is having another go. And this is not just your regular military-supplies-and-observers assistance.  It looks like unemployed jihadists from the Syrian wars have been bought in as mercenaries.

Of course there is more history to this than can be dealt with in 700 words (try The History of Armenia by Simon Payaslian if interested). Turkey’s tensions with Armenia and its support for Turkic neighbour Azerbaijan are longstanding; ditto for difficulties in its relationship with Russia, to whom Armenia is most likely to turn in extremis.

But even as a ceasefire is being patched together, it still leaves open the prior question of ‘why this and why now’?

Continue reading “What is Turkey’s President Erdogan up to in Armenia?”

Without brakes there should be no holding back Ardern – and the lobbyists are signalling their great expectations

Huge  expectations     now    rest   on  the    newly  re-elected   Ardern    government.  Just  as the  pioneering  Labour    government   did in the  1930s   under  Michael  Joseph  Savage  and the fourth  Labour  government   did under  David  Lange  in the  1980’s,  it  has  won a  stronger  mandate   to  fulfill  its  programme.   

So  will  it  become    truly  transformational  – as it   first promised  in  2017 – or  will  the  economic  recession  threatening    NZ  overwhelm   the  new  ministry? 

Election   night  delivered a fairy-tale  outcome   for   the  politician  dubbed  by The   Economist  as   “Jacindarella” ,    but  will  the   second term  not  only  restore    NZ  to  full  employment  and prosperity    but  confirm   the  Ardern   government    as   the  most progressive  since the  days of  its  founding prime minister?   

Already  lobby  groups   are hammering    at the  door.

Working people and their unions have expectations that a new government without a handbrake will move faster and further to support people and the environment,  says    the  CTU’s  Richard   Wagstaff. Continue reading “Without brakes there should be no holding back Ardern – and the lobbyists are signalling their great expectations”

For the record – Winston will be missed as Minister of Foreign Affairs

Just for the record, our Latest from the Beehive Monitor has nothing to report this morning.

Actually, it has had nothing to report since October 15, when Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker announced that the Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days after it had been ratified by the required eight countries. 

We imagine the occupants of the Beehive have been busy electioneering or some such, at least until Election Day, which explains the lack of Beehive announcements over the past week.And since Saturday night they will have been celebrating (if they are Labour or Green Ministers) or commiserating if not sulking (if they are New Zealand First Ministers).

The New Zealand First lot must return to Wellington, of course, but only to clear out their offices.   The pundits meanwhile are busy speculating on who will get what job in the new ministry.

Whoever gets Foreign Affairs – let us declare – will have a hard act to follow.  Winston Peters has done a splendid job in that portfolio and will be missed.

On the other  hand, the Point of Order Trough Monitor will not be kept quite so busy after Shane Jones is replaced as Minister of Regional Economic Development. 

The Provincial Growth Fund is being replaced by something with much less money in it, if we recall Jacinda Ardern’s policy pronouncements correctly.  And Labour doesn’t have to throw big bucks around to win the support of the regions because it won that support – with a vengeance – at the weekend.

A final thought for now.  Couldn’t we simply have a Minister of Trade, rather than a Minister of Trade and Export Growth?

The Minister of Education isn’t the Minister of Education and Brighter Students and the Minister of Health isn’t the Minister of Health and Improved Wellbeing.


NZ chooses hope over fear – we’ll find out which was the wiser choice

Viewed from the far side of the world, Jacinda Ardern’s triumphant re-election suggests an extraordinary level of hope and expectation behind the voters’ decision.  If it can’t be managed down, it’s hard to see how it can be met.

The opposition National Party were singularly unsuccessful in tapping into voters’ fears for the future and selling themselves as the safer option.  Instead, they appear to have leaked voters predisposed to such fears to the ACT party.  

Given that their signature tune in recent years has been the argument we can finesse the ‘hard choices’ more realistically and efficiently than the Labour party, they should not be altogether surprised that middling voters grasped at the government’s suggestion that some hard choices might be avoided altogether (for you and your family, and maybe even for the country).

Continue reading “NZ chooses hope over fear – we’ll find out which was the wiser choice”