While Hipkins gets more vaccine for war on Covid-19, Little fires verbal shots to stem cyber attacks (but China is riled by “smear”)

The government was battling on several fronts yesterday, just a few weeks after Defence Minister Peeni Henare acknowledged a $20 billion spend-up on defence had become a casualty of budgetary measures to deal with Covid-19 and its consequences.

The Defence budget was now much tighter, and defence would look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with New Zealand First, he said.

No matter.  A well-armed defence force is not all we require to keep us safe, keep our enemies at bay, or fight the wars the government wants to wage.

The Department of Conservation’s war is against predators and Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says the government is throwing $4 million into a project aimed at eradicating predators from the three main peninsulas in the Bay of Islands.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, in the vanguard of the war against the pandemic, has been freshly supplied to fortify our defences against Covid-19.  The largest shipment of the Pfizer vaccine to date has arrived in New Zealand two days ahead of schedule.

Doses are being delivered to vaccination centres around the country.

On the diplomatic front, Phil Twyford, our Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, addressed a bunch of diplomats to spell out the government’s position on disarmament and weapons control.

Success with this policy – the disarming of all foes and potential foes and a global declaration of a commitment to eternal world peace- obviously would enable the government to cut its Defence budget back to zero.

But as we learned from Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau, we have more to worry about than the firepower other countries might bring to bear against us.

Little fired a verbal salvo at just one country, China, to condemn malicious cyber activity “by Chinese state-sponsored actors”.

“New Zealand is today joining other countries in strongly condemning this malicious activity undertaken by the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) – both in New Zealand, and globally. 

“Separately, the GCSB has also confirmed Chinese state-sponsored actors were responsible for the exploitation of Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities in New Zealand in early 2021.

“New Zealand joins international condemnation of the exploitation of the Microsoft Exchange platform by Chinese state-sponsored actors, and the widespread and reckless sharing of the vulnerability, which led to other cyber actors’ exploitation of it.”

 Little demanded:

 “We call for an end to this type of malicious activity, which undermines global stability and security, and we urge China to take appropriate action in relation to such activity emanating from its territory.” 

The authorities in Beijing did not startle, tremble, quaver or fluster.

Nor did they promise to behave themselves.

The Chinese Embassy in Wellington said New Zealand’s accusations were totally groundless and irresponsible.

“China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition and has already lodged solemn representation with the NZ government,” a statement from a spokesperson says.

“The Chinese government is a staunch defender of cyber security and firmly opposes and fights all forms of cyber-attacks and crimes in accordance with law. Given the virtual nature of cyberspace, one must have clear evidence when investigating and identifying cyber-related incidents. Making accusations without proof is malicious smear.”

Latest from the Beehive

Cyber wars

New Zealand condemns malicious cyber activity by Chinese state-sponsored actors

New Zealand has established links between Chinese state-sponsored actors known as Advanced Persistent Threat 40 (APT40) and malicious cyber activity in New Zealand.

New Zealand condemns malicious cyber activity by Chinese state-sponsored actors.

According to the GCSB, around 30 per cent of serious malicious cyber activity against New Zealand organisations recorded by the NCSC contains indicators that can be linked to various state-sponsored actors.

Disarmament

Remarks to Diplomatic Corps

Phill Twyford, Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control, addressed the Diplomatic Corps about his Ministerial portfolio and his challenges.

Disarmament no longer gets the profile it deserves, he said. There are still more than 13,000 nuclear weapons in the world, nearly 2,000 of them kept in a state of high operational alert and able to be launched at a moment’s notice.

New Zealand is a key proponent of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ratified by 54 other countries.

Vaccinations

Early Pfizer shipment boosts vaccine schedule

The largest shipment of the Pfizer vaccine to date – more than 370,000 doses – has arrived into New Zealand two days ahead of schedule and doses are being delivered to vaccination centres around the country.

Fifteen sites received shipments from the newly arrived stock yesterday, while 104 will receive stocks of the vaccine today, a day earlier than planned.

Conservation

Backing for Bay of Islands predator free effort

The Government is investing $4 million through Jobs for Nature to enable Predator Free 2050 Ltd to help a project to restore native biodiversity and build long-term conservation careers in the Bay of Islands.

Predator Free Bay of Islands aims to eradicate predators from the three main peninsulas in the region, and significantly reduce their impact throughout the wider 80,000-plus hectare Bay of Islands area.

The project has a budget of $15m through contributions from community conservation groups, iwi/hapū, Northland Regional Council, Kiwis for Kiwi, and Kiwi Coast Trust.

Around 15 jobs are expected to be created when the five-year project is fully operational.

Northland Regional Council is leading the project.

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