In some places they measure the past in millennia. In Athens, history emerges every time you dig a hole.
This year Greece marks the 2,500th anniversary of the battle of Plataea. Less celebrated than the engagements a year earlier at Thermopylae and Salamis but more decisive in its outcome, it marks the end of the Persian attempt at dominance and the beginning of fifty immortal years for Athens, before the death of Pericles and the hubris of the Peloponnesian war.
What had become a surge of ministerial announcements this time yesterday had turned into a tsunami at time of writing (around noon today). Frankly, we can’t keep up.
We ended yesterday’s roundup of Beehive announcements with a statement on the PM’s virtual attendance at the East Asia Summit. Since then, ministers have posted 16 new statements. Several were Covid-related.
This was a good time for a smart press secretary to unload news of dubious government spending, hoping it will be buried by the other stuff, including Grant Robertson’s latest boast about how well the government’s finances are being managed.
Sure, core Crown expenses at $31 billion were $3.2 billion above forecast in the three months to the end of September – but, hey, that was all to do with Covid and the payment of wage subsidies and COVID-19 resurgence support payments.
But how well is spending being keep under control?
The PM was strutting the international stage (virtually), the Minister of Agriculture turned to pot, the Minister for Emergency Management was limbering up for a shake-up, and the Minister for the Environment was appointing people to speak for a river that (under our laws) is deemed to be a living entity.
The Minister for Local Government – awash with confidence in her infallibility, it seems – declared her intent to force the Three Waters reforms on local authorities that have raised a raft of reasonable objections. The local authorities had better believe her. She has demonstrated in the past her flair for flushing aside the niceties of good legislative procedure.
To counter any impression the government won’t listen to its citizens, on the other hand, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark announced public feedback is being sought on the regulatory safeguards required to ensure consumers and communities receive three waters services that meet their needs.
“The future three waters system needs to promote consumer interests and ensure infrastructure is delivered in a way that is efficient, affordable and resilient. To achieve this, the Government is considering whether economic and consumer protection regulation is needed, and how any new laws could be designed,” David Clark said
Australia is to buy the mobile phone networks of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu from Digicel Group based in Jamaica. Telstra Corp, the country’s biggest telecom operator, will pay $US1.6 billion for the deal backed by $US1.3 billion from the Government’s export finance agency.
Commentators describe this as a significant strategic move to block another potential buyer – China. Three years ago, Canberra announced it would build an undersea high-speed internet cable to the Solomon Islands, shutting out China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from the project. Australia had earlier banned Huawei from involvement in its own 5G mobile network.
The purchase sits alongside underwater cables Australia has with its Pacific partners.
The Wall Street Journal quotes John Lee, a senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, saying,
National MP Nicola Willis – we trust – learned a wee bit more about the Government’s Three Waters reforms this morning than she learned from Finance Minister Grant Robertson at Question Time in Parliament yesterday.
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta today confirmed her determination – and the Government’s – to over-ride widespread public disquiet and local authority objections. She will press ahead in establishing four publicly owned water entities to take over and look after our drinking, waste and storm water infrastructure.
“These reforms have been long signalled. In our manifesto we committed to tackling big issues that others have long neglected in order to future-proof New Zealand. We are taking action to ensure safe, clean water for all communities in New Zealand for generations to come, protecting households from ballooning costs, and better preparing for the compounding impacts of climate change,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
Here’s hoping the water that flows from the taps in the restructured system is more palatable than the answer we got when we visited the Labour Party website for whatever it had to say about water reform in its 2020 manifesto.
Business responses to the Government’s announcement on vaccination requirements for workers were supportive. The Human Rights Commission response was more tentative.
It welcomed the announcement but said human rights and Treaty of Waitangi considerations must be examined.
Back in 1840 the examination of those treaty considerations would not have taken long. The treaty’s three articles can be read in a matter of minutes and none of those articles mentions vaccines.
Nowadays the examination can be expected to take much longer, keeping a small army of academics, lawyers, social scientists and what-have-you engaged in earnest deliberations on the need to recognise concepts such as “partnership” and “treaty principles” that politicians and the courts have introduced in recent years.
In a timely boost to the rural regions, Fonterra has raised its forecast milk payment to farmers for this season to match its previous record high of 8.45kg/MS, as demand for dairy holds up while supply tightens.
The midpoint of the range on which farmers are paid increased to $8.40 kg/MS, from $8 last season. That would match the previous record, paid in the 2013/14 season, and would result in almost $13bn flowing into regional New Zealand.
A speech from Phil Twyford, speaking as Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth, can be found on the Beehive website today – for those of who relish that sort of thing.
He reminded his Asia Forum audience he has specific responsibility for our trading relationships with Southeast Asia and the Pacific and he addressed them on “the work being done to support economic resilience in the Indo-Pacific” for New Zealand and our partners in the region.
But Point of Order was drawn to two science-related announcements, one by Megan Woods, our Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, the other by her associate minister, Ayesha Verrall.
Neither was intended (apparently) to be easily digested by the general public.
Woods’ announcement was that the latest research, science and innovation system report card is now available, and outlines how the system is performing.