Phil fronts up for action on nuclear disarmament while colleagues prepare our Covid-19 defences during the summer

Our attention has been drawn to the former Minister in charge of Kiwibuild taking action – of sorts – as Minister in charge of governmental efforts to secure us against the threat of nuclear war.

We were alerted by an announcement that Pacific nations  came together yesterday under the auspices of the Treaty of Rarotonga “to ramp up diplomatic efforts for nuclear disarmament”.

The statement came from Phil Twyford as Disarmament and Arms Control Minister after he had taken part in a virtual inaugural meeting of Treaty parties.  He described the Treaty of Rarotonga as the Pacific’s nuclear-free zone and a useful region-wide platform for pushing the anti-nuclear cause.

Comforting news came, too, from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who said the Government is putting in place support for affected businesses in case there is a resurgence of COVID-19.

More generally, COVID-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins outlined extensive All of Government planning in the event of a community case of COVID-19 during the holiday period.

Readers with an interest in the country’s economic wellbeing, meanwhile, were cheered by the latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report which forecasts food and fibre export revenue of more than $47.5 billion for the year ending June 2021, and a record $49.2 billion the following year.

Among other statements:

  • Transport Minister Michael Wood and other big-wigs held a ceremony “to mark the departure of the Alliance from Kaikōura – exactly three years after State Highway 1 was reopened”. This was the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery Alliance established by the NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail along with Downer, Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction and Higgins. The $1.25 billion rebuild repaired and strengthened the road and rail network along the 60km between Clarence and Oaro, which was badly damaged in the November 2016 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
  • The construction of the new home for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s No. 5 Squadron and the P-8A Poseidon aircraft officially was started with Defence Minister Peeni Henare attending a sod-turning ceremony at the Ohakea Airbase.  The new facility will be called Te Whare Toroa, a name inspired by the albatross on No. 5 Squadron’s crest.   The total cost of the construction at Ohakea is over $250 million, and at the peak of construction 400 workers will be on site.
  • Dr Ganesh Nana has been appointed to chair the Productivity Commission after Murray Sherwin ends his term while Lucy Duncan, New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, has been appointed our Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and New Zealand Ambassador for Disarmament.
  • The Chief of Defence Force and the three Chiefs of Service have been reappointed.

Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford said next year is a big one for the nuclear disarmament caper, both regionally and globally, with the five-yearly Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons coming into force, and growing calls from Pacific leaders for action on dealing with the legacy contamination from nuclear testing.

He had attended (virtually) a meeting of treaty parties chaired by the Pacific Islands Forum which

“ … resolved to activate the Treaty of Rarotonga’s provisions for convening the Consultative Committee, to consider practical means of operationalising the Treaty”.

Wow.  Action stations.

But to do what, exactly? No more than consider practical means of “operationalising” the Treaty?

Mind you, the rhetoric was gung-ho:

“It is great to see Pacific leaders committed to making sure the region has a strong voice on nuclear disarmament.

“We, in New Zealand, are lucky enough to live in a nuclear-free zone – and that’s thanks to the Treaty of Rarotonga. It is one of several treaties that has played an important role in establishing nuclear free zones and denuclearising a number of regions of the world,” Phil Twyford said.

“The security and prosperity of the Pacific, as well as nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, are all important and long-standing New Zealand priorities.”

The Ministerial Meeting followed a 2019 call from Pacific Island Forum Leaders

“ … to fully operationalise the Treaty. The meeting provided a platform for Ministers to discuss developments, issues and opportunities relating to the Treaty of Rarotonga, which is now 35 years old.”

While Twyford is protecting us from the grim effects of a nuclear war, other ministers are  reassuring us about the measures they are taking to deal with the more immediate threat from the pandemic.

COVID-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins outlined “extensive All of Government planning in the event of a community case of COVID-19 during the holiday period”.

He said New Zealand had strengthened and evolved its ability to respond to COVID-19 since March,  but the virus is continuing to rage offshore and

“ … despite our best efforts, there’s always the possibility of further community cases here.”

Government planning has revolved around three broad scenarios.  You can find out more about this work at covid19.govt.nz

Finance Minister Robertson followed up with a reassurance for business people regarding Government support for affected businesses in case there is a resurgence of COVID-19.

This includes a new Resurgence Support Payment to help businesses directly affected when there’s a move to Alert Level 2 or above for a week or more. This will particularly help sectors like hospitality and events, who face particular disruptions as Alert Levels change.

The payment would include a core per business rate of $1500 plus $400 per employee up to a total of 50 FTEs ($21,500). Firms that experience a 30% drop in revenue over a 14-day period will be eligible.

The government has also committed to the Wage Subsidy Scheme if there’s a regional or national move to Alert Levels three and four.

Cabinet has asked the Minister of Justice to revisit options on future commercial tenancy negotiation support – this will be discussed by Cabinet early next year.

The government is keeping the Leave Support Scheme and adding to it by introducing a new Short-term Absence Payment to cover eligible workers needing to stay at home while awaiting a COVID-19 test result. This will be a one-off payment of $350 to employers to pay workers who need to stay home while awaiting a test or while someone who is their dependent is doing so, in accordance with public health advice.

Other supports retained include the loan products Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, which is being extended to June 2021 with additional availability and flexibility, and Small Business Cashflow Scheme, which has also recently been extended.

 The prospect of a better 2021 than we experienced in 2020 was spelled out by primary sector ministers when they issued the latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report.  This forecasts food and fibre export revenue of more than $47.5 billion for the year ending June 2021 and a record $49.2 billion the following year.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said:

“The star performers this year include the horticulture sector. Its export revenue is forecast to hit nearly $7.1 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent from the previous year. It’s driven by successful harvests in early 2020 and continued strong demand for our fresh fruit and wine.

“Further increases in export revenue of 5.3 percent are expected for the arable sector for the year ending June 2021, on the back of a bumper 23 percent increase the previous year.”

Strong demand for logs from China and for sawn timber from the United States is driving recovery in our forestry exports, which are expected to increase by 8 per cent to almost $6 billion for the year ending June 2021.

Dairy export revenue is forecast to decrease 4.6 per cent to $19.2 billion for the year to June 2021, driven by weaker global dairy prices, as markets continue to deal with the impacts from COVID-19, but this should be offset by high demand for our dairy products, particularly from China, to support strong sector profitability over the medium-term.  Export revenue is expected to reach $20.1 billion in the year ending June 2022.

Meat and wool export revenue is expected to decrease 8 percent to $9.8 billion for the year ending June 2021, mostly due to food service closures from COVID-19, and competition from poultry and other lower priced proteins.  It’s expected to rebound to almost $10.1 billion the following year.

The seafood sector continues to bear significant impacts from the international downturn in hospitality, tourism, and dining out due to lockdowns caused by COVID-19.  Export revenue is forecast to dip 1.4 per cent to $1.8 billion. However seafood exports are expected to hit a record high of $2.02 billion the following year.

Latest from the Beehive

16 DECEMBER 2020

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