Cronyism scandal: Aussies join NZ in holding money back from the Commonwealth Secretariat

It’s great to hear the Anzacs are sticking together and Australia has joined New Zealand in withholding funds from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Sydney Morning Herald says the Morrison government will slash funding to the secretariat in retaliation to a cronyism scandal that has sparked an international feud over its secretary-general.

In a decision that undermines Baroness Patricia Scotland’s plan to remain in the top post, Australia has cut $800,000 from a fund earmarked for the London-based Commonwealth body and will refuse to hand over the remaining $500,000 unless flaws in how it operates and hands out lucrative contracts are fixed.

As Point of Order reported on February 1, New Zealand is withholding $3 million of funding for the secretariat.

A brief statement has been issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Continue reading “Cronyism scandal: Aussies join NZ in holding money back from the Commonwealth Secretariat”

State-sanctioned assassinations are no longer clandestine tools of foreign policy – but we wonder where NZ sits

Arguing about the difference between legitimate military action and murder has been revitalised after the White House confirmed American forces have killed the leader of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. 

The statement came about a week after initial reports that the United States believed it had killed Qassim al-Rimi.

It had little detail about the operation, but said it was carried out at the direction of President Trump.

And it said al-Rimi’s death “brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security.”

Trump was unabashed about highlighting his record of ordering the killing of terrorist leaders and other adversaries in his State of the Union address this week, citing the Army Delta Force raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, and the drone strike in Baghdad that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important general.

Among the issues being argued by the American commentariat,  however, is whether using air strikes to execute an eye-for-an-eye foreign policy makes Americans safer. Continue reading “State-sanctioned assassinations are no longer clandestine tools of foreign policy – but we wonder where NZ sits”

Why Peters should put the PGF aside for a moment and tell us about NZ’s relationship with the Commonwealth

It’s not like Winston Peters to miss an opportunity to make the headlines.

Point of Order accordingly is bemused by a report in London’s Daily Mail about New Zealand deciding to hold on to 2.5 million pounds owing to the Commonwealth Secretariat.

This amounts to a saving to taxpayers of more than $5 million in NZ dollars – something we thought Peters would want to crow about.

But it isn’t mentioned in any of the dozen or so press statements from Peters’ office so far this year.

Hence we have cause to be sceptical.

For what it’s worth, a Daily Mail report yesterday was headed Baroness Scotland is hit by £2.5m cash snub as New Zealand pulls funds from her Commonwealth Office because it has ‘no confidence in how she’s running it’

The report tells us: Continue reading “Why Peters should put the PGF aside for a moment and tell us about NZ’s relationship with the Commonwealth”

End of the Golden Weather

It’s probably just as well we are still on holiday and Wellington, aka the NZ Government, remains on the beach until Tuesday, January 22, the day after Wellington Anniversary Day. Even then, the mighty organs of government  don’t really stir until the following Tuesday, after Auckland’s anniversary weekend when the great and good disport themselves on the waters of the Waitemata Harbour.

A few ministers mustered the energy to post congratulatory press statements after the New Year honours list was published.

And Winston Peters has been on call- huzzah! – to deal with  happenings in the rest of the world.

Among the benefits of the government being on holiday, we’ve missed some fairly high-level dramas, sufficient to otherwise distract us from the Black Caps’ Australian debacle and tinted skies, thanks to the Australian bushfires .  Then there’s the risk that the Australians might exercise  a reverse deportation process, detaining PM Jacinda Adern and her to-be husband along with Baby Neve to install them in the Lodge, the Canberra residence of the Aussie prime minister.

 

Enough of the levity. These past days have been trying internationally. Continue reading “End of the Golden Weather”

The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?

Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters – confirming that no Kiwis had been hurt during Iranian missile attacks on US bases in Iraq on Wednesday –  expressed New Zealand’s deep concern at the escalation in hostilities.

But he made no mention of the role the United Nations might or should play (at least, not in the Newshub report referenced here).

“The Government is working actively with our partners through military and diplomatic channels, and we continue to keep the security situation under close review, including implications for our personnel,” Peters said.

“Now is the time for restraint and de-escalation, and for diplomacy to take over.”

New Zealand troops were sent to Iraq – significantly – as part of a US-led coalition, not as part of a UN presence.

But the government claims to be putting the UN at the heart of its efforts to create a better world.

So why is it silent about Trump’s administration policies and practices which reflect contempt for the UN? Continue reading “The UN is at the heart of NZ’s foreign policy, our leaders say – so where’s the fuss when Trump gazumps diplomats?”

We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians

Because ministers are still on holiday while tensions mount in the Middle East and Donald Trump threatens to emulate the Teleban by destroying Iranian cultural centres, the question of whether New Zealand will hasten the withdrawal of around 45 troops still in Iraq has yet to be unambiguously answered. 

More critically, how the Ardern government will balance foreign policy interests that have become conflicted is open to conjecture, too. 

Perhaps our leaders think everything will be sorted out by the time they get back to their desks in Wellington.

The Beehive website tells us nothing about the government’s position on the crisis, which suggests our leaders have not met to discuss this country’s policy response.

The most recent official post – on January 5 – records Defence Minister Ron Mark announcing three Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters and crew, two NZ Army Combat Engineer Sections and “a command element” are being sent to support the Australian Defence Force efforts in tackling the Australian fires. Continue reading “We await official buzz from the Beehive on how NZ will respond after Trump’s killer drone stings the Iranians”

Germany’s former foreign minister on life after NATO

German politician Joschka Fischer has had a remarkable career.  From street violence and helping to set up the Green party, he matured into the foreign minister and vice-chancellor of a united Germany, serving until 2005.  His understanding of power politics led him to support the use of force in the former Yugoslavia, though he drew the line at getting rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Now, with NATO leaders dispersing after their meeting outside London, he has turned his attention to the future of the alliance (read here). Continue reading “Germany’s former foreign minister on life after NATO”