Mahuta spurns call from civic leaders to go with the flow – and go slow – with contentious Three Waters programme

A press statement we received from Nanaia Mahuta, speaking as Minister of Foreign Affairs, dealt with the findings of an independent review into New Zealand’s export controls system, which regulates the export of goods to foreign militaries, police forces or paramilitaries.

Produced by David Smol, a former Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the report calls for stiffer rules.

It found the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has managed the export of these goods in line with legislative requirements, but the design and implementation of the system falls short of contemporary best practice in several respects.

The review is available on the MFAT website.

But statements from Mahuta of much greater concern to our wellbeing are not to be found on the Beehive website. Rather, they are to be found in Hansard’s record of proceedings during Question Time in Parliament yesterday.  

She expressed an autocratic determination to press on with the Three Waters reforms, regardless of the strength of public and local authority opposition. Continue reading “Mahuta spurns call from civic leaders to go with the flow – and go slow – with contentious Three Waters programme”

Our air defences are down – only some RNZAF aircraft can reach for the sky as Orions are retired

There are sad faces around Whenuapai today as the RNZAF retires the first of its five Lockheed Orions.

The aircraft is flying to Woodbourne for breaking and parting – essentially for spares.

The Orions came into service in 1966 and have become a familiar presence in the south Pacific, saving countless missing fishermen and yacht crews.

The first of four Boeing P-8A Poseidons is due in NZ in 2023 to replace the old Lockheeds.

Our contacts are also lamenting the current state of the air force’s transport. We understand only two of  five Lockheed Hercules are currently airworthy while the service is down to only one Boeing 757 – the other one is in for engineering work and engine installation.

No 40 Squadron hopes there won’t be a sudden demand for air transport, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Old hands put the current state of decay down to decades of inattention and under-funding by successive governments.

Govt welcomes $7.5bn investment – from the private sector – in our digital economy, but ministers are busy spending, too

The government has been spending money on ridding parts of the country of predators, cleaning up contaminated sites, helping NCEA students and researching cancer.

But ministers of the crown – it’s pleasing to note – are acknowledging big-bucks investments from the private sector, too.

Digital Economy and Communications Minister today welcomed the decision by Amazon’s cloud-computing arm, Amazon Web Services’ (AWS), to establish a Cloud Region on New Zealand shores, further boosting New Zealand’s growing digital sector and providing a vote of confidence in the direction of New Zealand’s economic recovery.

The investment is estimated to be around $7.5 billion, which “demonstrates the high level of confidence the international business community has in backing New Zealand’s economy,” Clark enthused.

We learned more about this project from Stuff, which reports that AWS will spend $7.5 billion over 15 years building “world class computing infrastructure” in Auckland .

Amazon Web Services New Zealand country manager Tim Dacombe-Bird said New Zealand would join 25 other territories in which the company had established cloud computing data centres.

The company would build “a cluster” of at least three data centres in the city, he said.

AWS estimated the investment would create 1000 jobs and contribute $10.8b to New Zealand’s GDP over the next 15 years.

Back in the capital, Clark’s ministerial colleagues have been busy spending state-sector money, which is the stuff they collect from taxpayers or borrow, according to our latest monitoring of The Beehive website. Continue reading “Govt welcomes $7.5bn investment – from the private sector – in our digital economy, but ministers are busy spending, too”

New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate

The immediate reaction in the UK to the AUKUS announcement was focused less on the UK’s new commitment and more on the lamentations of French politicians at the loss of a $90 billion Australian submarine deal.  It was left to former PM Theresa May to probe unsuccessfully the extent of Britain’s obligation to defend Taiwan.

Chuckles aside, you might think that anything which outrages France and China has something going for it.  

Continue reading “New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate”

Holding the govt to account takes a curious toll – Nats sink in the polls and Collins rethinks her 2018 views on quitting

The hounds of the parliamentary press gallery are smelling Nat blood.

More particularly, they are smelling the blood of National Party leader Judith Collins, who is reported to be shrugging off talk of a leadership challenge.

Poor polls – she contends – are due to her party holding the Government to account.


Holding the Government to account explains why a recent opinion poll shows the party’s popularity sinking to just 21 per cent?

We wonder if something might be missing from that analysis and that inadequately holding the government to account might be a factor in the Nats’ poor poll showing and the rise (comparatively) of  ACT and David Seymour. Continue reading “Holding the govt to account takes a curious toll – Nats sink in the polls and Collins rethinks her 2018 views on quitting”

Yes, the govt will invest in Police response teams but the emphasis will be on tactics (and dogs) rather than firearms

Police Minister Poto Williams – explaining her opposition to Armed Response Teams  a few weeks back – said she would not be backing down on her strong stance not to support the general arming of police because the Māori and Pacific Island communities she represents do not want it.

But whoa.  As MP for Christchurch East, isn’t she supposed to represent the people of that community of many ethnicities?

And as Minister of Police, isn’t she supposed to have some regard for the wellbeing of our police officers?

Well, yes.

And today (lest anyone might doubt it ) she said the Government is committed to keeping the country’s frontline police officers safe, so they in turn can keep New Zealanders safe. Continue reading “Yes, the govt will invest in Police response teams but the emphasis will be on tactics (and dogs) rather than firearms”

Energy chaos – coming to a market near you

If the great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, had been an economist he might have written: “All happy market outcomes are alike, but each policy error is disastrous in its own way”.

Certainly the implosion of the UK’s energy market manages to combine many familiar bad policy interventions, while nonetheless contriving its own unique set of outcomes.

Continue reading “Energy chaos – coming to a market near you”

No, we aren’t part of the nuclear submarine pact, but CER keeps us in a relationship with our cobbers in OZ

Reassuring news about this country’s relationship with Australia emerged from the office of Trade Minister Damien O’Connor yesterday after his virtual meeting with his Aussie counterpart.

It was reassuring because of the concerns raised in some quarters after this country (where we pride ourselves on shunning nuclear power) was left out of the new defence pact embracing Australia, the US and UK that will deliver a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to the Pacific.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded to news of that alliance by letting the Aussies know their nuclear submarines would not be permitted in New Zealand waters, in accordance with this country’s long-held anti-nuclear stance and laws.

Whatever might happen in terms of New Zealand’s military relationships with Australia, the US and the UK,  the joint statement on the economic relationship shows the trans-Tasman trade ministers are still talking to each other.

And their statement reiterated that CER, which they described as one of the most comprehensive trade agreements in the world, underpins the integration of the New Zealand and Australian economies.  Continue reading “No, we aren’t part of the nuclear submarine pact, but CER keeps us in a relationship with our cobbers in OZ”

Outdated Views? Andrea Vance On Sean Plunket

Chris Trotter, political columnist, blogger and commentator, writes here about “shock jocks”, “outdated” views, “privilege” and the “Woke” establishment …  

IT’S ONE OF THOSE throwaway lines which, precisely because so little conscious thought was given to it, tells us so much. The author, Andrea Vance, is an experienced political journalist working for Stuff. The subject of Vance’s throwaway line, Sean Plunket, is an equally experienced journalist. It was in her recent story about Plunket’s soon-to-be-launched online media product “The Platform”, that Vance wrote: “Plunket’s dalliances with controversy make it easy to paint him as a two-dimensional character: a right-wing, shock-jock with outdated views on privilege and race.”

It’s hard to get past those first four words. The picture Vance is painting is of a dilettante: someone who flits from one inconsequential pursuit to another, taking nothing seriously. And, of course, the use of the word “dalliances” only compounds this impression. To “dally” with somebody it to treat them casually, offhandedly – almost as a plaything. Accordingly, a “dalliance” should be seen as the very opposite of a genuine commitment. It smacks of self-indulgence. A cure, perhaps, for boredom?

To dally with controversy, therefore, is to betray a thoroughly feckless character. Controversies are all about passion and commitment. Controversies are taken seriously. Indeed, a controversy is usefully defined as a dispute taken seriously by all sides. And yet, according to Vance, Plunket has only been playing with controversy: trifling with it, as a seducer trifles with the affections of an innocent maid.

In Vance’s eyes, this indifference to matters of genuine and serious concern distinguishes Plunket as a “two-dimensional character”. It reduces him to a cardboard cut-out, a promotional poster, a thing of printer’s ink and pixels – insubstantial. Or, which clearly amounts to the same thing as far as Vance is concerned: “a right-wing, shock-jock with outdated views on privilege and race.” Dear me! The scorn dripping from those words could fill a large spittoon!

As if the holding of right-wing views somehow renders a person less than three-dimensional. As if conservative thinkers from Aristotle to Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke to Carl Schmidt haven’t contributed enormously to Western political thought. As if Keith Holyoake, Jim Bolger and Bill English aren’t respected by New Zealanders of all political persuasions for their rough-hewn dignity and love of country. To hold right-wing views isn’t a sickness, It doesn’t make you a bad person. It merely denotes a preference for the familiar; a wariness of the new; and a deep-seated fear of sudden and unmandated change.

As for “shock-jocks”: well, that is the sort of broadcasting talent commercial radio producers are constantly searching for. People of energy and enthusiasm, with a way of communicating both qualities to the radio station’s listeners. And if they also have a talent for decoding the zeitgeist on air: for tapping into the audience’s anger and frustration; and giving voice to their hopes and their fears? Why, then they are worth their weight in gold – and usually get it. The more people a “shock-jock” glues to the station’s frequency, the more the advertisers will be prepared to pay. That’s the business.

Perhaps Vance should have a word with the people who pay her salary: perhaps they could explain where all that money comes from.

The most important words, however, Vance saves for last. What really confirms Plunket’s lack of three dimensions are his “outdated views on privilege and race”. It is with these six words that Vance betrays both herself and her newspaper.

Who says Plunket’s views on privilege and race are “outdated”? According to whose measure? After all, his views on privilege and race correspond closely with those of Dr Martin Luther King. Is Vance asserting that Dr King’s view that people should not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character, is outdated? Is she suggesting that a poor white man has more in the way of privilege than Oprah Winfrey? Or that the privileges which flow from superior economic power and social status count for less than those attached to race, gender and sexuality?

The answer is Yes. Those who declare such views to be “outdated” are, indeed, making all of the claims listed above. This locates them among a relatively narrow section of the population: highly educated; paid well above the average; more than adequately housed; and enjoying all the “privileges” accruing to those who manage the bodies and shape the minds of their fellow citizens.

Andrea Vance is a member of this truly privileged group, and so, at one time, was Sean Plunket. So, why the sneering condescension? Why the scorn? The answer is to be found in the new priorities of the truly privileged; the people who actually run this society. They have determined that their interests are better served by fostering the division and bitterness that is born of identity politics. Rather than see people promote a view of human-beings that unites them in a common quest for justice and equality, they would rather Blacks assailed Whites, women assailed men, gays assailed straights, and trans assailed TERFS. In short, the “One Percent” have decided that their interests are better protected by corporations, universities and the mainstream news media all promoting the ideology of identity politics.

By setting his face against this new “Woke” establishment, Sean Plunket the conservative poses as large a threat to the status quo as Martyn Bradbury the radical. On the one hand stand those who question the necessity and morality of changes now deemed essential by persons no one elected. On the other, those who insist that such divisive policies will produce results diametrically opposed to their promoters’ intentions. Right and Left, joined in an “outdated” search for the common ground that makes rational politics possible. The place where both sides are willing to acknowledge and agree that, in the words of John F. Kennedy:

“[I]n the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”


This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 21 September 2021.

Who gives a tweet about MIQ misery

The government’s choice of a randomised electronic queue for the distribution of 3,000 MIQ rooms yesterday had one surprising benefit.  It showed just how many New Zealanders were desperate enough to stand in e-line – more than 26,000 according to Stuff.

It also reminds us that while ministers and their officials can sometimes do one thing well – occasionally even two or three – the system is not designed to meet your personal needs. The fatal conceit, as Friedrich Hayek pointed out, is that the bureaucracy thinks it knows what they are.

Continue reading “Who gives a tweet about MIQ misery”