Graham Adams: Ardern on the hook over Three Waters

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Jacinda Ardern was very happy to front the Three Waters campaign in its early stages. But after a disastrous $3.5 million PR ad campaign, vocal opposition from most councils, and a $2.5 billion sweetener thrown back in her face as a “bribe” in mid-July, she exited stage left, leaving the heavy lifting to her ninth-ranked Cabinet minister, Nanaia Mahuta.

Now, in the wake of Mahuta’s announcement on October 27 that all of the nation’s 67 councils will be forced into the new arrangement, Waimakariri mayor Dan Gordon and other mayors want a meeting with Jacinda Ardern to discuss their concerns.

Having been told repeatedly by Mahuta that joining Three Waters would be a choice, the councils have not exactly been reassured by her promise that further consultation would be undertaken with local government to ensure adequate governance, representation and accountability of the new water entities to the communities they serve.

Gordon made his feelings clear in a radio interview last week: Continue reading “Graham Adams: Ardern on the hook over Three Waters”

RBNZ will be feeling the heat as critics assail its focus on climate change – and mention bank research to buttress their stance

That whistling   sound out  of  Wellington  has  come  from the Establishment  as  it  witnesses  a powerful attack   on  the  Reserve Bank. 

One volley has been fired by senior economist Matt Burgess in a research note for the  Wellington-based think-tank,  the  NZ  Initiative.  In Climate of fear: How the Reserve Bank is overstepping its mandate, he documents what he maintains are serious breaches of the RBNZ’s responsibilities as regulator of the financial system, including one instance of misconduct, as it becomes unduly preoccupied with climate change.

A second volley was fired by the NZ Initiative’s chief economist, Eric Crampton, in an article posted by NewsroomHe raises questions about the RBNZ’s independence from political interference. 

A third has been fired by an experienced business journalist, Jenny Ruth, in an article for Business Desk.  She has questioned the bank governor’s credibility. 

All three refer to the RBNZ’s recent Climate Changed report, which included a strongly worded threat to the institutions it regulates. Continue reading “RBNZ will be feeling the heat as critics assail its focus on climate change – and mention bank research to buttress their stance”

Mahuta is off (at long last) to visit six countries and host a festival of indigenous and tribal ideas at Expo in Dubai

Excitement is mounting in the Beehive.  Nanaia Mahuta is contemplating her first overseas visit as our Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Not, we might think, to Australia or the Pacific Islands (although she will drop in on the Aussies on the outward journey).

No, this is further afield, to host Te Aratini at Expo 2020 and visit six countries as well as meet with seven foreign ministers and a range of international representatives.

She announced yesterday she will leave New Zealand tomorrow

“… on an international programme to advance Aotearoa New Zealand’s interests on a range of issues, including our COVID-19 response and recovery and engagement in the Indo-Pacific.”

She acknowledged this is the first international visit of a New Zealand Foreign Minister since COVID-19 broke out across the globe. Continue reading “Mahuta is off (at long last) to visit six countries and host a festival of indigenous and tribal ideas at Expo in Dubai”

Graham Adams: Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange

 

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The Prime Minister is increasingly looking like a political hostage as Nanaia Mahuta presses on with the Three Waters reforms. Graham Adams sees history rhyming as her powerful Maori caucus flexes its muscles.

David Lange is one of the most tragic figures of our modern political history. Highly articulate and entertaining, he was ushered into power in a landslide in 1984 during an economic and financial crisis. Feted as the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century, he dazzled the nation with his wit and intellect.

By the time he resigned in 1989, however, he was seen as a weak and malleable leader who had backed policies he would later regret supporting. Furthermore, the fact that his party did not advertise its radical economic agenda before the 1984 election has tainted the legacy of the Fourth Labour government ever since.

It took a while before it became clear that Lange was using his larger-than-life persona and seductive oratory to sell a transformation of New Zealand’s economic landscape on behalf of a powerful cabal in his Cabinet whose intentions he seemed not to fully comprehend.

Eventually it became obvious that he was the monkey and Roger Douglas and his neoliberal Rogernomes were the organ-grinders. As columnist Bruce Jesson put it in 1986, the charismatic Lange was “perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the television age” but he was “swept along by events beyond his control”.

It seems likely that Ardern will end up being viewed in a similar way. When she was anointed by Winston Peters in 2017, she was feted as the youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years, before being returned to power three years later in a landslide in response to a pandemic.

Her charisma and glamour are perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the social media age but she is obliged to dance to the tune played by Nanaia Mahuta, Willie Jackson and the Maori caucus — and by the others in her Cabinet, including David Parker and Andrew Little, who support their revolutionary agenda. Continue reading “Graham Adams: Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange”

Australia aims to stymie China with $US1.6bn telecoms purchase in the Pacific

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,

“It’s ensuring that a potential adversarial power doesn’t own infrastructure which would impact on not just Australia’s communications capabilities, but also its military capabilities. Underwater warfare is increasingly important and these cables are directly relevant to that.” Continue reading “Australia aims to stymie China with $US1.6bn telecoms purchase in the Pacific”

Vaccinating the underclass

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Brian Easton – writing for Pundit – says if we want to minimise the impact of the Covid virus, we are going to have to think about social class.  

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New Zealanders do not easily talk about social class: that there are groups in the community who connect together, live different lives and have standards of living very different from the average – who are different from, but still a part of, us. We may recognise such groups exist, but we generally avoid using the notion or incorporate it into our social thinking. (A bit like Victorians being chary of talking about sex.)

Once we would say that New Zealand was a ‘classless society’ or, more cautiously, that we were the least class-bound society in the world. We may have been but the data suggests this is no longer true if it ever was. Often all we meant was to compare ourselves with the English but they are hardly a useful benchmark in the whole world.

We have a curious dialogue which implicitly equates Māori with the lower classes, drawing attention to their low incomes, their poverty, their unemployment, their poor health, housing and life prospects and their high incarceration rates. All true on average, but demeaning to many Māori, who have good jobs, decent incomes, reasonable health, their own homes and high social status and who are proud of their culture. It is true there are proportionally fewer of them than for Pakeha, but it is also true that there are many more Pakeha in total who are low in the socioeconomic rankings. Continue reading “Vaccinating the underclass”

NZ forces take part in Five Power exercise in S.E.Asia – Henare may head for Malaysia soon, too

Both the RNZAF and RNZN are deeply engaged in Bersama Gold 2021, an exercise under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) linking Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom and now under way in the waters between Malaysia and Singapore.

In one of the biggest deployments in recent times, the RNZAF has sent a P-3K2 Orion and the navy the fleet replenishment ship HMNZ Aotearoa and the frigate HMNZS Te Kaha. The latter will join the exercise after completing a week of sailing with the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21 in the South China Sea.

Our contacts are coy about whether this might involve Te Kaha in a transit of the Taiwan Straits with the carrier strike group.

The FPDA is an arrangement in which all five countries agree to consult one another on measures taken separately or together in response to any attack or threat of attack to Malaysia or Singapore. Under the FPDA several exercises have been held since the formation of the agreement in 1971.

The ongoing Bersama Gold 2021 exercise is an enlarged biennial Bersama Shield exercise but  was renamed to Gold to reflect the 50th anniversary of the FPDA. Continue reading “NZ forces take part in Five Power exercise in S.E.Asia – Henare may head for Malaysia soon, too”

Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again

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RNZ’s Mediawatch and a video clip viewed 42,000 times keep the topic of the Public Interest Journalism Fund fizzing. Graham Adams reports…

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A week ago, the NZ Taxpayers’ Union posted a short video clip of the exchange in Parliament between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins in which the National Party leader quizzed the Prime Minister about the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund influencing political coverage.

Ardern seemed to find the exchange amusing until David Seymour stepped in to ask:

“What then would happen to a media outlet that received money under the fund and wanted to report a story deemed inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is one of the requirements to adhere to?”

Having recommended that Collins ask the media if they agreed they were under government influence, Ardern summarily dismissed Seymour’s suggestion that the fund’s mandatory guidelines for how to address the Treaty might present a problem.

The kicker to the whole exchange is that none of the mainstream media deemed it worthy of being reported. As the Taxpayers’ Union put it in its introduction to the video:

“If you’re worried about the independence of our media, this is a must-watch exchange in Parliament. Why do you think the media declined to cover it?”

Louis Houlbrooke, the union’s campaigns manager, says that with 42,000 views so far, “it is by far our most-watched video post of all time.”

Clearly, discussion of the topic is not only in the public interest but also of interest to the public.

Nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to persuade senior members of the media and those administering the fund to accept there might be a problem — even if it is only the public’s perception of bias. The latter, of course, can be as damaging in practice as actual bias, given the media’s primary asset is the trust its audiences place in it for independent, truthful and unbiased coverage. Continue reading “Graham Adams: The debate over the $55 million media fund erupts again”

Graham Adams: The government is stumbling towards disaster over Three Waters

 

The Opposition parties must be watching with glee, writes Graham Adams, as councils reject Nanaia Mahuta’s plan for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater.

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Even Labour’s most one-eyed supporters must be aware by now that the Three Waters reform being pushed by Nanaia Mahuta is fast becoming a make-or-break issue for the government. The eight-week “engagement” period that ended on September 30 saw a swathe of councils across the nation objecting — sometimes angrily — to the proposed changes to the management of drinking water, storm water and wastewater.

Mahuta’s plan is for the 67 councils’ water services to be merged into four giant regional authorities that ratepayers will not directly own or control. As National’s Chris Luxon says, councils are rightly worried about “not having direct influence and no shareholding or formal stake in the new entity whatsoever”.

The roll call of disaffected councils includes those overseeing our two biggest cities. Between them, Auckland and Christchurch represent nearly two million inhabitants — or roughly 40 per cent of New Zealand’s population.

Furthermore, their mayors — Phil Goff and Lianne Dalziel — are former high-ranking Labour ministers, which makes dismissing their opposition difficult.

The rhetoric from Christchurch councillors, in particular, has been incendiary. One, James Gough, said the proposal showed disregard for democracy, and was nothing short of “blatant asset theft”. Continue reading “Graham Adams: The government is stumbling towards disaster over Three Waters”

Nuclear submarine pact raises defence questions for NZ as Aussies get closer to the US and extend their global reach

Defence strategists have begun considering how AUKUS, the Australia-US-UK nuclear submarine project, will ultimately impact on New Zealand.  In broad terms, it effectively welds Canberra tightly to the US in strategic and political affairs.

But there are  questions whether the deal might run foul of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Wellington and Canberra are linked by closer defence relations. A joint statement issued in 2018 says:

As close neighbours and allies, we have a mutual commitment to support each other’s security, closely coordinate our efforts in the South Pacific, and maintain a shared focus on the security and stability of our broader region. The formal expression of our alliance and security partnership is found in the 1944 Canberra Pact, ANZUS Treaty and through Australia – New Zealand Closer Defence Relations instigated in 1991. Continue reading “Nuclear submarine pact raises defence questions for NZ as Aussies get closer to the US and extend their global reach”