Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies

We have had the chance to scan the new Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade agreement and – if Trade Minister Damien O’Connor can negotiate similar terms for us – the prospects look hearteningly good for NZ.

Beef and sheep meat tariffs on Australian exports to the UK will be eliminated after 10 years. Sugar tariffs will be removed after eight years, and dairy tariffs after five years.

Short and medium grain milled rice will get immediate duty-free access once the FTA is in place.

During the countdown to tariff-free trade, Australian producers will gain incremental access to the British market.  Beef producers gain immediate access to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes (rising to 110,000 tonnes a  year in a decade).  With sugar exports, producers have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 80,000 tonnes, rising by 20,000 tonnes each year.

Dairy farmers will also have access during the transition period to a duty-free quota for cheese of 24,000 tonnes. This will rise to 48,000 tonnes by year five. Continue reading “Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies”

Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue

Trade minister Damien O’Connor dines with his UK counterpart Liz Truss tomorrow  to begin the heavy-lifting on a NZ-UK free trade agreement.

The early signs are ominous.  Ozzie PM Scott Morrison managed to attend part of the G7 meeting in Cornwell where Australia’s FTA agreement was raised with the UK’s Boris Johnson.

Morrison says he’s waiting for ‘the right deal’ before the UK-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) is finalised, and the UK is eager to launch its post-Brexit economy by securing free trade agreements covering 80% of its trade within the next three years.

The UK Department for International Trade believes a trade deal could secure an additional £900 million ($1.6 billion) in exports to Australia.

In 2019-20, two-way goods and services trade was valued at $36.7 billion, making the UK Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Morrison hopes to finalise the FTA tomorrow if certain issues can be dealt with.

But elements of the Australian FTA have created alarm within the UK. The National Farmers’ Union publicly begged for tariffs to remain on Australian beef and sheep.

NFU president Minette Batters says a tariff-free trade deal with Australia will jeopardise UK farming and could cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK.

There are several challenges for NZ.  It’s just as well, therefore, that O’Connor is accompanied by NZ trade supremo Vangelis Vitaly, a recognised world authority on trade policy.  Continue reading “Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue”

State service heads face much the same challenge as journalists – getting through to Ardern’s Ministers is a struggle

Andrea Vance, writing at Stuff, has taken the Ardern government to task for its media “management,” how ministers evade questions, how they deflect interviews and questions all, of course, in the name of the PM’s much-vaunted transparency.

Well, it seems she has stumbled on to something bigger than her focus on journalists struggling to get information.  From our inquiries we have found that heads of departments, ministries and agencies are facing something of the same challenge.

Firstly, ministers are said to be keeping permanent heads at a distance. Some find it hard to secure scheduled appointments.

In the good old days, the permanent head of each department saw his or her minister before Monday Cabinet meetings – and frequently in between.

Now there is a layer of “advisers” between them. Continue reading “State service heads face much the same challenge as journalists – getting through to Ardern’s Ministers is a struggle”

The Aussies are aiming for economic growth but the Ardern Govt (clucking about wellbeing) seems to prefer Zombification

Is the  reality  of the  Ardern  government’s  policies   beginning  to  hit  home?  A slow, tentative  return  to  what might be regarded  as pre-Covid   normality  is  coming  into  sharper   focus as  government  fumbling, particularly  over the Covid  vaccination rollout, stirs  anger in  communities.

Just  as  Finance  Minister Grant  Robertson  extols the performance  of  the  economy  under his  stewardship, Kiwis are waking up  to  how  much better Australians  are  doing. We  shrank by 1% in  the  last  quarter of 2020 while  Australia grew by 3%.

The  international tourism  industry,  which pre-Covid had become NZ’s top foreign exchange earner,  is  virtually dead, and the  absence  of  international students  is  dealing  a  body blow to educational  institutions, even  down  to  primary  schools.

Even  more  concerning are ominous signs that things may  get  worse. A  headline  this  week pointed  to  the fact  that exporters  can no longer make forward freight bookings between Australia and NZ as international shipping companies abandon the relatively remote and marginal trans-Tasman routes in favour of profitable routes between China, Europe and the United States. Continue reading “The Aussies are aiming for economic growth but the Ardern Govt (clucking about wellbeing) seems to prefer Zombification”

Award winners are being celebrated around NZ – but what about Queens Birthday Dishonours and a Snitch List?

The latest list of Queen’s Birthday honours, with a few knights and dames at the top and bigger numbers of lesser awards further down, was published today.  The most celebrated recipients and those with interesting stories to tell have quickly become the stuff of media headlines – former All Black Sir Wayne Shelford, for example (a chance to remind readers of his scrotum injury).

And Shirley Lanigan,nurse in the Hutt Valley who has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit after caring for everyone from survivors of the Wahine disaster, to sexual assault victims and even her own husband.

And Serviceman M, responsible for leading the ground recovery team after the 2019 Whakaari/White Island eruption, who has been recognised with a Distinguished Service Decoration (DSD). He cannot be named for security reasons but is a New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) officer who has spent years dealing with bombs, explosives and highly volatile situations.

But we wonder if anyone has thought of a list of introducing a Queen’s Birthday Dishonours List, naming and shaming some of the nation’s not-so-worthy citizens.

Gilbert and Sullivan gave us the idea with their song about social offenders in The Mikado.

One component might be the Snitch List and a candidate for this – may we suggest? – would be the person who recorded the row between outgoing National MP Nick Smith and a staffer.

According to an RNZ report, this person was instrumental in Smith’s decision after 30 years to abruptly throw in the towel on his political career, citing the loss of the Nelson seat and a Parliamentary Service inquiry into a “verbal altercation” in his Wellington office. Continue reading “Award winners are being celebrated around NZ – but what about Queens Birthday Dishonours and a Snitch List?”

Breakfast brings news of Budget benefits for builders of statues (which pay tribute to Maori leaders) and four boarding schools

It’s not enough to monitor the flow of Jacinda’s Treaty Treats by visiting the Beehive website in the belief it will have registered them in the name of transparency.

Some Ministerial statements are posted on sites such as Scoop before they are posted on Beehive.govt.nz – The official website of the New Zealand Government.

A post on Scoop this morning tells readers that Budget 2021…

  • Appropriated $1 million  to build statues of Maori leaders;
  • Is investing $20 million over two years in Māori boarding schools; and
  • These are part of a Budget package of more than $1 billion for Māori.

Fair to say, the ministerial statement at Scoop (posted in the name of the NZ Government yesterday) expands on spending initiatives to benefit Maori that were declared on Budget Day in a document headed WELLBEING BUDGET 2021: SECURING OUR RECOVERY

Among the contents: Continue reading “Breakfast brings news of Budget benefits for builders of statues (which pay tribute to Maori leaders) and four boarding schools”

How to get pedallers and walkers off the Auckland Harbour Bridge – by giving them their own bridge (and it will only cost $685m)

Once upon a time Aucklanders were musing on the merits of  a private-sector proposal aimed at satisfying the demands from the  lycra lobby for a tolled pedestrian and cycle path across Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Orewa-based Hopper Developments – with pioneering projects such as canal housing and marina schemes at Pauanui, Whitianga and Marsden Pt under its belt – had signed a heads of agreement to work with a walking and cycling charitable trust on a $16 million pathway over the bridge.

This  differed from a proposal by Transport Agency consultants, rejected by the agency’s board in 2008, for separate paths to be cantilevered at road level off each edge of the bridge for up to $43 million.

The SkyPath project since then has become, first, a privately funded project underwritten by the Auckland Council, and then a project to be paid for by taxpayers – and the costs have burgeoned.

Today we learn of plans for a $685 million dedicated cycle bridge to replace SkyPath, proudly announced by Infrastructure and Transport Minister  Michael Wood.

That statement was followed by another announcement that Continue reading “How to get pedallers and walkers off the Auckland Harbour Bridge – by giving them their own bridge (and it will only cost $685m)”

Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget

It has taken nearly eight months of her prime ministership but finally the outlines of Jacinda Ardern’s foreign policy are beginning to take shape.

The Queenstown summit was a great success. You couldn’t have slipped a finer tissue paper between Ardern and Aussie PM Scott Morrison on China, the Indo-Pacific and regional security.

And Five-Eyes?

Perhaps not the latter because it is still not clear how this government views this age-old arrangement which began as a post-World War II intelligence-sharing exchange.

Ardern and her part-time foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta started off by claiming it should be kept as an intelligence-only organisation. Continue reading “Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget”

PM brings news of partnerships with Spain (for global strategic reasons) and the Sallies (to provide housing on the home front)

The PM has announced one partnership – a strategic partnership between the governments of New Zealand and Spain – and welcomed the fruits of another, a partnership with the Salvation Army to deliver public housing.

Our attention was drawn more to the strategic partnership with Spain, because that country doesn’t normally command much attention Down Under.

Indeed, it’s a measure of Spain’s importance that the trade statistics – should you check them out on the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade website – are dated  2014.

The total trade in goods between the two countries at that time was $723 million.

It was an imbalanced trading relationship – our exports to Spain were worth $170 million (although these did not include New Zealand goods such as kiwifruit that might have been shipped to Spain from another country).

We imported Spanish goods worth $553m.

The other partnership mentioned by the PM, with the Sallies, has just delivered 68 new public housing places for Aucklanders and their families. Continue reading “PM brings news of partnerships with Spain (for global strategic reasons) and the Sallies (to provide housing on the home front)”

Police budget was trimmed but $70m will be invested in scheme to let some offenders be dealt with by iwi panels

The Nats made political hay from the government’s treatment of the Police in this year’s budget.  The Police Budget was trimmed by around $90 million

“ … despite record growth in gang membership,” National’s Police spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

The government – inevitably – defended its numbers, saying some funds are still under negotiation, and the police are still better off than they were under National.

Today Police Minister Poto Williams made a fresh Budget announcement of new spending of $70 million in new operating funding.

It’s for Te Pae Oranga Iwi Community Panels, to provide more panels and ensure they are available to people across New Zealand.

This time the ACT’s Justice spokesperson Nicole McKee has rejoined that the Government will spend $70 million to go even softer on crime.

Te Pae Oranga Iwi Community Panels give police an option for dealing with people with underlying issues who need help to get their lives back on track. This includes helping them overcome problems like addiction, abuse, financial stress and difficulties getting employment or education. Continue reading “Police budget was trimmed but $70m will be invested in scheme to let some offenders be dealt with by iwi panels”