Latest from the Beehive
Covid-related issues and health have dominated the news from the Beehive over the weekend but Point of Order is keen to highlight developments in the foreign-policy domain.
First, we have noted a press statement from Grant Robertson after he chaired an APEC meeting (a virtual meeting, of course). More of this later.
Second, we can’t find a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta on developments in Turkey where our Ambassador (according to the news media) has been declared persona non grata.
Maybe the Minister is busy with Three Waters stuff – or maybe reports of our Ambassador being one of several envoys declared persona non grata are the mischievous products of anti-Turkish propaganda.
If our Ambassador is given a diplomatic eviction notice – of course – we wonder what arrangements will be made by officials who run our Managed Isolation and Quarantine system. Will she have to wait until she wins one of those lottery spots?
On the pandemic front, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed a newly signed Order which means most people working in three key sectors must soon be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The extended COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order 2021 comes into effect at 11.59pm on 25 October, requiring workers who face a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and who work in the health and disability and education sectors or in prisons to be fully vaccinated.
The Order will require all health and disability workers and education workers to have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November 2021.
General practitioners, pharmacists, community health nurses, midwives, paramedics, and healthcare and disability workers in facilities where vulnerable patients are treated (including Intensive Care Units), are among those included.
It also covers many workers doing non-regulated healthcare work, for example providers in aged residential care and workers who enter homes to provide community support services.
An announcement from Health Minister Andrew Little (some readers might insist this belongs to the law-and order portfolio) deals with the taking of illicit drugs. The Government is financially supporting drug-checking services to help keep young people safe at this summer’s large festivals and events.
“This is not about condoning drug use, but about keeping people safe,” Andrew Little said.
“There is clear evidence that having drug-checking services at festivals changes behaviour and reduces harm.”
Anyone attending events and festivals will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, of course.
Drug-checking services, in which drugs are checked to see if they are what people think they are, were legal for the first time last summer.
The Government is providing $800,000 for national co-ordination of services, training of drug-checkers and providing information about the harm that drugs do.
Another statement from Health Minister Andrew Little – triggered by his visit to Timaru Hospital – announced a progress report on improvements to the hospital’s child and maternity facilities. The next stage of the four-year project will begin next month.
This gave Little a pretext for grand-standing on other infrastructure projects announced this year. They include:
- Phase Two of the redevelopment of the Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa in July.
- Funding for a $12.6 million upgrade to Waitematā Central Sterile Services Department at North Shore Hospital announced in June
- New operating theatres and a cardiac catheter laboratory opened at Whangārei Hospital in May
- Funding for a $40 million, 30-bed ward at Waitākere Hospital announced in April
- Funding for a $110 million Spinal Unit and Adult Rehabilitation Unit in Auckland announced in April
- The opening of E Tū Tanekaha, Waitematā DHB’s new 15-bed specialist mental health unit at the Mason Clinic in April
- Construction of Tōtara Haumaru, a new surgical hospital for North Shore Hospital began in March
The ministerial statement we did not find this morning related to the fate of our Ambassador in Turkey.
A decision by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to declare 10 ambassadors – including those from seven Nato allies – as persona non grata threatens to open the biggest rift with the west during his two decades in power.
Representatives from the US, Canada, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and New Zealand issued a joint statement earlier this week demanding the urgent release of Osman Kavala, a prominent businessman and philanthropist who has been held in pre-trial detention for more than four years on charges related to the 2013 Gezi park protests and the 2016 coup attempt.
They were summoned by the foreign ministry and on Saturday the president said he had ordered a declaration of persona non grata for the envoys, which can remove diplomatic status and lead to expulsion.
Carrying out the expulsions would send Turkey’s relationships with Europe and the US to an all-time low, risk further turmoil for the Turkish lira, and accelerate Ankara’s drift away from the west. Seven of the countries involved are Turkey’s Nato allies.
Point of Order failed to find a statement on either the Beehive or Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade websites, but Stuff says it is yet to get official word that Wendy Hinton has been deemed a persona non grata, or an “unwelcome person”.
A statement from MFAT on Sunday said it was aware of the media reports but the ministry would not comment until it was formally notified.
“New Zealand values its relationship with Turkey,” spokeswoman Fleur Thompson said.
Kavala was jailed in 2017 for his alleged involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park anti-Government protests in Turkey. He was acquitted but now faces new charges of organising a coup.
Grant Robertson was not so shy about his activities in international affairs. As Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, he chaired a virtual APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting from Wellington. After this grand-sounding event he reported that APEC finance ministers will continue to work together to respond to the effects of COVID-19 and ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery while capitalising on the opportunity to build a more resilient future.
“While economic activity in the region has rebounded and vaccination rates are rising, the recovery from COVID-19 has been uneven. Some sectors, such as tourism, small and medium-sized businesses, and some groups, such as women and indigenous peoples, continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Grant Robertson said.
“Finance ministers have had constructive discussions on the actions and policies APEC economies have implemented to combat the pandemic and the need for a balanced approach to preserve long term fiscal sustainability while supporting wellbeing, targeting support to where it is needed most and tackling long-standing issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.”
The press statement says attendees included finance ministers from all 21 APEC economies, APEC Business Advisory Council Chair Rachel Taulelei, representatives from the OECD, IMF, WBG, and ADB, and incoming APEC Finance Ministers’ Process Chair Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith of Thailand.
It further says
… Ministers agreed on the refreshed Cebu Action Plan strategy, which encourages economies to pay due regard to APEC’s new guiding document, the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040, and APEC’s new structural reform agenda, the Enhanced APEC Agenda for Structural Reform.
Wow. There’s plenty to chew on in that challenging bit of bumf – challenging, at least, to anyone other than foreign policy wonks.
A note to editors provides some help: The Cebu Action Plan was agreed by Finance Ministers during the Philippines’ 2015 host year and sets out the 10-year high-level work programme of the Finance Ministers’ Process. 2021 marks the year of a mandated mid-point review. The review gives an opportunity for economies to consider the impact of COVID-19 and the recently agreed Putrajaya Vision 2040.
But then the note to editors adds:
As part of the strategy refresh New Zealand has recommended the adoption of a Champion Economies model which would allow individual economies to volunteer to run multi-year work programmes on specific policy issues.
Curious readers can enlighten themselves by checking out the Cebu Action Plan here, the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 here, the Enhanced APEC Agenda for Structural Reform here and the Finance Ministers’ Process here.
Good luck with your digestion.
As for the alphabet soup in which only a rare few will not drown, the OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the IMF is the International Monetary Fund, the WBG is the World Bank Group and the ADB is the Asian Development Bank.
APEC is shorthand for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Latest from the Beehive
COVID-19 continues to be a powerful reminder of the importance of language and culture to the wellbeing of our Pacific communities, said the the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio.
The Government is financially supporting drug-checking services to help keep young people safe at this summer’s large festivals and events, Health Minister Andrew Little says.
A newly-signed Order means most people working in three key sectors will very soon need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the sake of themselves, their workmates and their communities, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed.
APEC finance ministers will continue to work together to respond to the effects of COVID-19 and ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery while capitalising on the opportunity to build a more resilient future.
Improvements to child and maternity facilities at Timaru Hospital are well under way, and the next stage of the project will begin next month.