Mahuta addresses Diplosphere: ours is a liberal democracy, she says, and other nations can learn from our experience

Buzz from the Beehive

Measures to raise eligibility thresholds to help more than 90,000 New Zealanders that currently are denied access to legal aid were announced today

Changes to the Legal Services Regulations 2011 and the Legal Services Act 2011 will give  effect to $148.7 million of funding in Budget 2022.

The changes are:

  • increasing the income eligibility thresholds by 15% from 1 January 2023, making 93,000 more people eligible for civil and family legal aid in the first year,
  • removing the legal aid user charge, payable by most civil and family legal aid recipients,
  • removing interest on repayment of unpaid legal debt,
  • increasing the debt repayment thresholds by 16.5% for debt established from 1 January 2023, relieving financial pressures for around 16,000 low-income and vulnerable New Zealanders, and
  • increasing the civil and family legal aid eligibility thresholds and debt repayment thresholds by an additional 1.9% per year with the last increase on 1 July 2025.

Just one other new item was posted on the Beehive website when we checked this morning, this one a speech – the second in four days – by Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

This time she used a word – “democracy” – that had been missing from the speech on space policy which she delivered on July 1.

Mahuta couldn’t be there in person this morning to address a conference organised by Diplosphere (no, we hadn’t heard of it but you can learn more here).

But we can tell you the event was promoted as the first national conference on international relations featuring voices often missing in the public debate: Tirohanga Māori (Māori world view).

Iwi, business, academic, and youth leaders will stimulate public discussion on current affairs such as the pandemic response, conflict, climate change, the rise of Asia, and the international system. These perspectives will help New Zealand firmly moor its  independent values-based foreign policy.

The conference raises the question: What does “western values” mean in Aotearoa New Zealand of 2022? It will explore the cultural, trade, and political links that have long existed between Māori and the Asia Pacific region, and what the future holds.

In her contribution, Mahuta said New Zealand’s independent foreign policy should be grounded in the principles that we aspire to and apply at home.

“As a liberal democracy, we privilege fundamental human rights, and work actively to sustain, strengthen and evolve our democratic institutions.”

Mahuta then invoked “te Tiriti” and portended changes to those institutions without providing details.

“Our journey as a nation has not been straight-forward as we seek to give life to our founding document Te Tiriti o Waitangi and how the principles guide our approach to nation building. We are on a journey and it has not been without challenge. The nexus of this contested space has shaped the Crown’s relationship with Māori and we are learning and growing from it as a nation.

“Consequently, our democratic characteristics will continue to evolve as we journey on this path. Several nation states face similar challenges and we have much to offer from our experience. In our context inclusion of indigenous values and interests means recognition of the Treaty all aspects of our society underpinning social cohesion.”

At the end of her address, Mahuta reiterated the influence of indigenous values in her reshaping of foreign policy and its administration.

A values-based approach with an indigenous lens continued to shape our independent foreign policy, she said .

She had been given the opportunity to bring to the Foreign Affairs portfolio her experience as a Māori woman,

“… and ensuring a Te Ao Māori lens is applied to our foreign policy. This has manifested and supported the way MFAT organises itself; who it employs; and our representatives abroad.”

She said it was early to say how the bi-cultural values of the country had impacted our foreign policy outlook. But when NZ engaged with other economies and states,

“… there is growing recognition that our unique perspective – born out of our lived experience founded on the Treaty of Waitangi – does have some transferrable merit. We have sought to maintain respectful, consistent and predictable approach which underscores the value of manaaki and in particular the recognition of mana, while ensuring our perspective is known.

“We will continue to promote our values in a world of differing views, and find opportunities to showcase the bi-cultural nature of our nation.”

We suppose she was referring to a bicultural nation in which 16 per cent of the population are Asian.

Diplosphere (its website tells us) is a non-partisan organisation which aims to promote independent thinking and diplomacy.

Its founders are Maty Nikkhou-O’Brien, the Executive Director, and ​Dan O’Brien, Strategic Advisor.

“Our mission is to stimulate curiosity in world affairs in New Zealanders of all stripes. We shed light on world events and bring perspectives, so that New Zealanders may be better informed and make better decisions.”

The website does not tell us much about how Diplosphere is funded.

But the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, announcing its 2021 major grant recipients in October last year, said the recipients were Ngāti Kuri Trust Board Inc, Diplosphere and UNESCO’s Chair in Dance and Social Inclusion, University of Auckland.

The size of the grant to Diplosphere was not specified, but it was to support a first national conference on international relations which would feature voices often missing in the public debate – Māori and youth.

At the conclusion of the conference a publication or roadmap will be developed which organisers hope will increase long-term awareness of Māori and youth perspectives on New Zealand foreign policy and security matters.

Latest from the Beehive

4 JULY 2022

Better and fairer access to legal assistance

Raising eligibility thresholds will provide a helping hand to more than 90,000 New Zealanders currently denied access to legal aid, Justice Minister Kiri Allan says.


Diplosphere Conference 2022

We are living through a period with significant disruption and complex; the international context and our ability to effect foreign policy is at a time when the rules based norms and international order is being challenged.

One thought on “Mahuta addresses Diplosphere: ours is a liberal democracy, she says, and other nations can learn from our experience

  1. i WONDER IF SHE HAS heard from The Aussie Minister for Woman/Women…….’Climate Change is causing more Rapes??at least in Aussie. from Trevor.


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