Twyford has something to celebrate, but the hard yards were put in on disarmament long before he was given the portfolio

It’s great to hear Phil Twyford celebrating a success.  Not a personal ministerial success, it’s fair to say, but a success nevertheless related to arms control.

The arms on which Twyford is focused,  it should be noted, will make quite a mess if they are triggered.  They tend to be nuclear ones.

Police Minister Poto Williams is similarly focused on arms control.

The arms in this case are not in the same big-bang league as those embraced by Twyford’s portfolio, but their potential to kill is plain enough and inevitably they became a political issue in the aftermath of the mosque massacre in Christchurch last year.

Williams yesterday announced the next steps in the Government’s firearms reform programme, a three-month amnesty aims to remove further firearms and arms items that were prohibited and restricted through the Arms Legislation Act 2020.

The Government has allocated $15.5 million for compensation and administrative costs.

Among other new announcements – Continue reading “Twyford has something to celebrate, but the hard yards were put in on disarmament long before he was given the portfolio”

Chris Liddell – yes, he worked for Trump, and he risked his job by recognising the need for a smooth transition

Chris Liddell has  dropped  his  candidacy to become  director-general of  the  Paris-based  OECD. Without  support  from the  Ardern  government  and    vilified  in the  media as  somehow being  involved in the  encouragement  by  Donald Trump of the  Washington riots, he  plainly saw he had  little  chance of  crowning  his  stellar  career  in an international post.

Liddell scored highly in the pre-selection rounds and was impressive in his interviews, according to diplomats in Paris.  He ended in the second tier behind the top three – from Australia, Sweden and Switzerland.  However, as support was not forthcoming from the new Biden administration, he felt obliged to withdraw.

Yet  those  who   have followed  his career  to  the  top rungs of international  business  and then  into the  White House  believe  NZ  is the  loser   for not winning  a  key  position in an international forum.

As for  condemning him for  his  role  in the  White  House, his critics   display their  ignorance.  Liddell is one member of the Trump White House credited with gaining credence and respectability around Washington DC in its final days.  He kept the wheels of government turning while Trump descended into a world of denial fuelled by right wing media. Continue reading “Chris Liddell – yes, he worked for Trump, and he risked his job by recognising the need for a smooth transition”

Ardern and Biden keen to work together as US restores its relationships with world agencies

PM Jacinda Ardern’s cordial exchange with President-elect Joe Biden went far better than anyone dared hope. Both sides were pleased. As one US official said, they are certainly kindred spirits.

Biden wants to “reinvigorate” the US-NZ relationship which, considering the heights it reached under former Foreign Minister Winston Peters, means Wellington and Washington DC have finally put away any lingering resentments from the 1980s and the Anzus crisis.

Biden is keen to work with NZ on broad Pacific issues but, as he points out, the US will have to work with friends on the task.  When everyone circumspectly refers to “issues”, they really mean China with its diplomatic, economic and military ambitions in the Pacific.

Biden and his new Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken (a foreign policy veteran), want to try and reset the US-China relationship.

This week Australian PM Scott Morrison urged Washington and Beijing to “show more latitude” to smaller nations. Partners and allies needed “a bit more room to move” as strategic competition intensifies in the region. Continue reading “Ardern and Biden keen to work together as US restores its relationships with world agencies”

Thanks to his Trump connections, Kiwi will need a Liddell help from USA’s friends to land top OECD job

National’s leader, Judith Collins, reckons the government should be supporting Kiwi Chris Liddell in his bid to become the next Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Liddell, who has dual US and NZ citizenship, is serving  in the White House as US President Donald Trump’s deputy chief of staff and was nominated by Trump in September to be the next boss of the OECD.

The NZ government has yet to decide if it will support him, prompting Collins to say Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should “front up” if she has a problem with his work for Trump.

“I would have thought that it is always going to be in New Zealand’s best interest to have a highly qualified, very experienced person like Chris Liddell heading our OECD. It’s far more beneficial to New Zealand than playing politics on it,” Collins told RNZ on Tuesday.

But it’s a complicated picture.  Liddell has lived for years in the US and, given Trump’s antipathy to Europe and international organisations, his senior position on Trump’s team may well knock him out of the running.

Trump’s defeat in the presidential elections – yes, we too say Joe Biden has won the presidential election – won’t help either. Continue reading “Thanks to his Trump connections, Kiwi will need a Liddell help from USA’s friends to land top OECD job”

“The Economist” puts spotlight on Ardern and Mahuta – now let’s watch them strut their stuff on the world stage

When a  Labour  government  in New Zealand is the  subject of a page of commentary  in the London-based The  Economist,  you  know  it is on a  roll.  And  the  Ardern    government   has  won  its  place  in  history  through its performance  in winning a  second term so decisively.

Not  only that, but the  Prime  Minister  herself has made her  own mark  on the  international  stage.

The  Economist   is  impressed  with  NZ  legalising  assisted dying, among other progressive steps,   and  is  impressed that  NZ’s  new  foreign minister,  Nanaia  Mahuta, sports a  Maori tattoo  known as  a moko kauae  on her lips  and chin.

It reports Mahuta  as being part  of the  most diverse cabinet in NZ’s history, appointed by Ardern,  following a thumping re-election for  the prime minister and the Labour  Party  she  leads. Ethnically,  almost half the  20  members   are  not white and include five Maori.  There  are eight women, two of whom are lesbians,  with young  children and the  first  openly gay  deputy  prime minister, Grant Robertson. Continue reading ““The Economist” puts spotlight on Ardern and Mahuta – now let’s watch them strut their stuff on the world stage”

Mahuta and Henare – key appointments which show NZ no longer should be regarded as a European outpost

Diplomatic eyebrows were raised when PM Jacinda Ardern named Nanaia Mahuta as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She  is the  first  woman  to  hold   the  portfolio  and  she  got  the   job   ahead   of   more  highly ranked  figures  including Andrew  Little  and  David  Parker,  who  were  understood  to  be  interested  in steering  policy in this  field.

Mahuta’s only international experience seems to have been as associate trade minister in the previous government but Beehive insiders say David Parker – as Minister of Trade and Export Growth – was loath to let anything of substance out of his reach  in that field.  In the past three years every press statement in this portfolio was released in Parker’s name except for a few released in the name of Damien O’Connor as Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth.  We found none released in Mahuta’s name, although she did issue some trade-related statements as Minister for Maori Development.

As  a  politician  she has been   relatively  self-effacing, although in her  own  fields   she  is  said  to  be   thorough   and  careful.  but  Ardern  offered  a  powerful  rationale   for  Mahuta’s  elevation to  one of the  key  ministries, pointing to her aptitude  for  building  strong relationships.  She  might   also  have mentioned  that  Mahuta  listens  carefully to  her  advisers. Continue reading “Mahuta and Henare – key appointments which show NZ no longer should be regarded as a European outpost”

Peters and Mark remind us they still have ministerial work to do as governmental caretakers

Hey – look whose names appeared on the only press statement to be posted on The Beehive website yesterday, two days after Election Day and the first statement to be posted on the site since October 15.

The names are those of Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark.

And no, they don’t have to pack their bags just yet despite their trouncing at the polls.  The rules that apply in the immediate period after election day are spelled out on the website of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: 

During the government formation process, the current government remains in office, as it is still the lawful executive authority, with all the powers and responsibilities that go with executive office.

But don’t expect anything radical to happen: Continue reading “Peters and Mark remind us they still have ministerial work to do as governmental caretakers”

PACER Plus to take effect in 60 days after Cook Islands ratifies it

The Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify PACER Plus, enabling the Pacific regional trade and development agreement to enter into force in 60 days.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker has welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands ratified the agreement, which required eight ratifications to take effect.

Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and New Zealand are the eight signatories.  The remaining signatories that have not yet ratified the agreement are Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

PACER Plus will make trade easier for signatories to the agreement, which will grow jobs, boost sustainable economic growth and contribute to a safer and more prosperous Pacific, Parker said. Continue reading “PACER Plus to take effect in 60 days after Cook Islands ratifies it”

Kushner and Blair (maybe more than Trump’s magnetism) helped secure Middle East accord

It defeated US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama but this week Donald Trump did the almost-impossible: bringing two Arab states together with Israel. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump’s foreign policy achievements had  counted for zero.

Not since the Camp David accords of 1978 and 2000 or the 1994 peace accord between Israel and Jordan has there been any tangible progress in resolving the Middle East’s most intractable issue until this week when Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed up to normalise relations with Israel.

Modestly, Trump attributed this to his own personal magnetism and ability to “do a deal.”   Rather more, it was actually the work of son-in-law Jared Kushner and a contact group led by former British PM Tony Blair. 

The White House and  Kushner may not have brought peace to the Middle East, but they’ve taken a huge step towards it. Now the real prize is Saudi Arabia.  Riyadh will be a harder nut to crack but the Saudis have taken an initial step by allowing UAE airliners to transit its air space, something unthinkable and impossible a month ago. Continue reading “Kushner and Blair (maybe more than Trump’s magnetism) helped secure Middle East accord”

John Bolton’s White House memoir requires conservatives to do some thinking

John Bolton’s book on his time as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser – The Room Where it Happened –  is worth reading.  His forensic training means he sets out clearly his own actions and their motivations.  His recording of the responses of others appears scrupulous, albeit disputed. Failings of omission or judgement in the record seem more probable than failings of accuracy. Continue reading “John Bolton’s White House memoir requires conservatives to do some thinking”