Bring back Murray McCully – he knows how to name names (and tyrants) in statements on conflict in Ukraine

We don’t know what outrage Vladimir Putin must perform to get his name into a ministerial press statement on Jacinda Ardern’s watch.

But while her  government has joined most of the world in condemning the brutish and unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Beehive website contains no ministerial statement which names the tyrant who ordered it.

Another statement was released today.

This tells us Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has concluded “a productive and successful visit to Europe”, which included programmes in Paris, London and Geneva.

It mentions her addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, where she called for aggression against Ukraine to stop.

But again she did not mention the name of Putin

The Russian invasion triggered events that resulted in another statement, this time from Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods.

She had joined her International Energy Agency counterparts to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and agree to measures to ease uncertainty about  the implications for global energy supply and prices.

She agreed to contribute to a voluntary release of 60 million barrels of oil from global emergency stocks held by IEA members to ease uncertainty in the market.

“A process is now under way to determine what voluntary contributions member countries can make.”

The only other fresh statement posted on The Beehive website was in the name of Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson, who  has announced the outcomes of the governance and organisational review of Sport NZ and High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ).

The final approved model recommends continuing a separate board for each entity, with a single chief executive to serve both. The chief executive role of HPSNZ will be replaced with a director role which will be appointed by and report to the chief executive.

The HPSNZ Board will remain in place until after the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic cycle when it will be reviewed.

But Raelene Castle has been appointed chief executive role of Sport NZ and HPSNZ.

The Treaty of Waitangi – let’s not be surprised – has loomed large in the deliberations that have culminated in this restructuring.

And while the HPSNZ will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sport NZ in the name of simplification, a race-focused structure called Taumata Māori will be established

“.. to support strategic decision making and investment in relation to Te Tiriti o Waitangi commitments across Sport NZ and HPSNZ”.

The full review can be found here.

Mahuta was wrapping up her European travels when the energy and sporting announcements were made.

“The Pacific region is confronting several challenges related to the global pandemic, climate change and increasing geo-political challenges in the broader Indo-Pacific. Travelling to Europe enabled me to represent and promote New Zealand’s priorities and interests in this area and as the situation in the Ukraine unfolded, it was crucial to strongly condemn Russia’s actions and focus on upholding human rights,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

The final stop was Geneva, where Mahuta addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council ‑ the first time a New Zealand Foreign Minister has addressed the High Level Segment since the Council’s establishment in 2006.

“Aotearoa New Zealand is deeply committed to progressing universal human rights and protecting the dignity and mana of all people. Upholding our collective responsibility to do so is more-timely than ever as New Zealand stands with Ukraine against Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion,” Nanaia Mahuta said. 

But as we noted earlier, Vladimir Putin was not named as the Russian despot who ordered the invasion.

Mahuta went on:

“I was pleased to be able to deliver our national statement to the Human Rights Council, reiterate the important role that multilateralism and diplomacy has and continue the call for aggression against Ukraine to stop.

“As we also continue to see deteriorating human rights situations in many other countries due to conflict, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenge of climate change – it was vital to remember what can be achieved when we all work together in partnership,” Nanaia Mahuta said. 

In Parliament, on the other hand, Prime Minister sought leave yesterday to move a motion without notice on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She moved

… that the House condemns the recent unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russia, that it calls on Russia to cease all military operations in Ukraine and withdraw, and express New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine’s people, its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The PM began her speech with Mahuta’s description of  Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the blatant act of a bully—brutal, intolerable, and an act of aggression that has been met with condemnation from the people and the Parliament of New Zealand.

Then she put Putin’s name on Hansard’s record of House proceedings.

Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch an unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine is a flagrant breach of international law. By choosing to pursue this entirely avoidable path, innocent lives will be lost. New Zealand, and our international partners, call on Russia to do what is right. We call for an immediate end to military operations in Ukraine and a permanent withdrawal to end a pointless war.

“The Russian Government has repeatedly ignored opportunities for diplomacy, negotiation, and de-escalation. Instead, Vladimir Putin has ordered an aggressive, unprovoked assault on the people and Government of Ukraine. This was not a miscalculation as a result of Russia’s unprecedented military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.

“This was a deliberate, calculated, and cynical decision—a decision to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, a decision to breach fundamental tenets of international law, and a decision by a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to violate the UN charter.

“Russia must now face the consequences of those decisions. So must Belarus, for its accomplice role in facilitating Russia’s invasion.”

So what should  we make of a series of condemnatory ministerial statements on The Beehive website that do not name Vladimir Putin as the bully responsible for a brutal and intolerable act of aggression?

The PM has demonstrated it’s not a matter of a policy decision not to name delinquent dictators.

But when was Putin last mentioned in despatches from The Beehive?

When Point of Order typed “Putin” into The Beehive website’s search function, we found he had not been named in a press statement since February 17.

No – not February 17 this year.  It was back on February 17 2015, when Murray McCully, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, issued a press release headed NZ urges all parties to make Ukraine Ceasefire work

Foreign Minister Murray McCully today called on all parties involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine to abide by the conditions of the ceasefire.

“The ceasefire generally seems to be holding, however, there are troubling reports of continued fighting in Debaltseve,” Mr McCully says.

“New Zealand calls on President Putin to continue to use his influence to ensure all separatist groups fully observe the ceasefire.

“While it is still early days, the ceasefire provides a glimmer of hope after months of intensifying conflict, growing hostilities and a worsening humanitarian situation.

“All parties must now follow through on their commitments and refrain from further violence.”

Alas, Putin had his own agenda.

Latest from the Beehive

Foreign Affairs Minister concludes final stages of Europe visit

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has concluded a productive and successful visit to Europe, which included programmes in Paris, London and Geneva.

New Zealand supports global action to ease pressure on global fuel prices

The Energy and Resources Minister Dr Megan Woods has joined her International Energy Agency (IEA) counterparts to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and agreed to measures to ease uncertainty about what it means for global energy supply and prices.

Structural change confirmed at the top of Sport NZ and HPSNZ

Sport and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson has today announced the outcomes of the governance and organisational review of Sport NZ and High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ).


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