NZ is thanked for ‘swift’ action against Russia – but did Jacinda Ardern blush when Ukraine’s PM expressed his gratitude?

Foreign affairs and defence matters account for the only two press statements from the Beehive since our previous report on Beehive Buzz.

One statement advised that Defence Minister Peeni Henare will depart tomorrow for bilateral visits to Fiji and Australia, to meet with counterparts to reaffirm New Zealand’s commitment to regional security in the Pacific and discuss ways to strengthen defence cooperation with partners.

The other statement gave an account of a chat between our PM and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. She had called him “to reiterate New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine and its people, and our unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s aggression”.

This statement says:

“… Prime Minister Shmyhal thanked New Zealand for being one of the first countries to take swift practical action against Russia’s aggression. As he noted, when it comes to the importance of the global response, there is no bigger or smaller country, there are only countries that are reacting.”

This might surprise some Kiwi commentators, who were bothered by the time taken for our government to take substantive action in response to the Russian invasion.  But at least our PM has identified the villain of the piece:

“I conveyed our condemnation of President Putin’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal attack on Ukraine – an attack which continues to unnecessarily claim the lives of so many innocent people,” Jacinda Ardern said. Continue reading “NZ is thanked for ‘swift’ action against Russia – but did Jacinda Ardern blush when Ukraine’s PM expressed his gratitude?”

Eminent professors have not been expelled from the Royal Society for their defence of science – but they have resigned

Two distinguished scientists – Professors Garth Cooper and Robert Nola – have resigned both as members and as fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Professor Cooper is described on the University of Auckland website as one of New Zealand’s foremost biological scientists and biotechnology entrepreneurs.  The professor of Biochemistry and Clinical Biochemistry at the School of Biological Sciences and the Department of Medicine at the university where he also leads the Proteomics and Biomedicine Research Group, he is a distinguished Māori-Pākehā scientist who has helped thousands of Māori in their careers over several decades.

Robert Nola, emeritus professor of the philosophy of science at the same university, for more than 50 years has focused on what makes science science.

Books written by him  include Theories of Scientific Method: An Introduction (co-authored with Howard Sankey in 2007), which has been described as  an exploration of the major recent theories of scientific method.  It addresses questions such as what is it to be scientific, and is there such a thing as scientific method, and if so, how might such methods be justified?

“This book offers readers a comprehensive introduction to the idea of scientific method and a wide-ranging discussion of how historians of science, philosophers of science and scientists have grappled with the question over the last fifty years.”

The resignations of the two luminaries follow the society’s decision – announced last week – not to formally proceed with a complaint against them as Fellows of the Society for being among seven University of Auckland professors who signed a letter to the New Zealand Listener headed ‘In defence of science’ in July last year. Continue reading “Eminent professors have not been expelled from the Royal Society for their defence of science – but they have resigned”

Bring back Murray McCully – he knows how to name names (and tyrants) in statements on conflict in Ukraine

We don’t know what outrage Vladimir Putin must perform to get his name into a ministerial press statement on Jacinda Ardern’s watch.

But while her  government has joined most of the world in condemning the brutish and unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, The Beehive website contains no ministerial statement which names the tyrant who ordered it.

Another statement was released today.

This tells us Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has concluded “a productive and successful visit to Europe”, which included programmes in Paris, London and Geneva.

It mentions her addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, where she called for aggression against Ukraine to stop.

But again she did not mention the name of Putin Continue reading “Bring back Murray McCully – he knows how to name names (and tyrants) in statements on conflict in Ukraine”

Ukraine invasion: NZ joins global chorus of condemnation but govt checks with others before imposing sanctions

When  Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta told us the Ambassador of the Russian Federation was being called in to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it was to tell him about New Zealand’s “strong opposition” to actions taken by Russia in recent days and condemn “what looks to be the beginning of a Russian invasion into Ukraine territory”.

The escalation of Russian warmongering since then is reflected in two statements posted on The Beehive website.

The first (posted in the name of the Minister of Foreign Affairs) is headed Aotearoa New Zealand condemns the advance of Russian military into Ukraine.

The second (posted in the names of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern) is headed Aotearoa New Zealand condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Not one of the three statements mentions Vladimir Putin, the Russian President who has gone rogue.

The key points in the second statement posted yesterday are curiously repetitive.

First, three points are highlighted: Continue reading “Ukraine invasion: NZ joins global chorus of condemnation but govt checks with others before imposing sanctions”

We had heard from Genter about aiming for zero deaths but now (as war threatens in Ukraine) we are given the target date

Zero road deaths. Haven’t we heard about this policy ambition before?

We refer to the blaring from the Beehive today of a road safety initiative under the heading Govt launches road safety campaign with target of zero road deaths

The press release starts:

Transport Minister Michael Wood and Police Minister Poto Williams have today launched the Road to Zero public awareness campaign, which sets a target of zero road deaths and serious injuries by 2050, and a 40 per cent reduction by 2030.   

But on February 15, an item on the StopPress website headed FCB NZ launches new ‘Road to Zero’ campaign for Waka Kotahi said:

FCB, in partnership with Waka Kotahi, NZ Transport Agency, has launched the first public awareness campaign as part of the Road to Zero strategy. 

Are these the same campaigns?

Either way, it looks like reducing road deaths to zero by 2050 is the new bit of the policy and we say good luck with that.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta (we suspect) will have more success in persuading Russia “to act consistently with its international obligations, and return to diplomatic negotiations as a pathway to resolve this conflict.” Continue reading “We had heard from Genter about aiming for zero deaths but now (as war threatens in Ukraine) we are given the target date”

We can be cheered by low unemployment rather than be vexed by rising CPI – but the data need a closer look

Taxpayers are dishing out $633,000 to help a venture described as “a long-running penguin rehab facility which has been hard hit by the tourism downturn” and $2.8 million to restore native forest habitats in the Catlins.

The Jobs for Nature funding for Otago’s Penguin Place and The Hokonui Rūnanga Catlins Biodiversity Project was announced yesterday by Conservation Minister Kiri Allan.

Some readers might wonder about the prudence of this sort of spending but Finance Minister Grant Robertson assured Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking that government spending is not contributing a significant amount to inflation.

“We continue to be careful with our spending but the reality is if you were to cut health spending that doesn’t change the price of petrol. We have got to be pretty careful of not cutting our nose to spite our face.

“Obviously we are prudent with what we do but there are a lot of things we do need to be investing into in New Zealand. We have got to keep doing those.”

The penguins should be grateful their wellbeing is regarded as an essential investment. Continue reading “We can be cheered by low unemployment rather than be vexed by rising CPI – but the data need a closer look”

Ministers merrily dispense more millions while Crown accounts show big above-budget lifts in Covid costs

Monitoring the Ministers

While Finance Minister Grant Robertson was noting an above-forecast increase in government spending in the first few months of the year, his colleagues were delighting in announcing even more spending.

The biggie was the announcement of a support package intended to help revive economic, social and cultural activities in  Auckland over summer and provide relief for people in hardship .

The sum involved – as often happens in Beehive statements – was buried in verbiage:  the $37.5 million package was put together jointly with Auckland Council and Auckland Unlimited.

The Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark, and Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Stuart Nash, popped up to announce world-class mobile and broadband services had been switched on for the 663 residents of the Chatham Islands.

The network has been enabled by the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG), Government’s Rural Broadband programme and an $11.5 million investment from the Government including $8.6m from the Provincial Growth Fund. Continue reading “Ministers merrily dispense more millions while Crown accounts show big above-budget lifts in Covid costs”

Biden and the Democrats are struck damaging blows in two key states

Joe Biden’s presidency has taken a near-mortal blow after significant  defeats in two key state elections for governor with Republicans pulling off unexpected victories.

Glenn Youngkin won a stunning victory in Virginia on Tuesday, snatching the governor’s mansion away from the Democrats in a state that President Biden won by 10 points just a year ago.

In New Jersey, Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy was locked in an unexpected dogfight with Republican state assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli that stretched into the early hours with the latter inching ahead.

Youngkin, a businessman in his first campaign for public office, defeated Terry McAuliffe, a past governor and close ally of the Clinton family who has been a fixture of Democratic politics for decades. It was the first Republican victory in the commonwealth since 2009. Continue reading “Biden and the Democrats are struck damaging blows in two key states”

What must be embedded to modernise our research and science system? The treaty, of course (and don’t forget mātauranga Māori)

Latest from the Beehive

What had become a surge of ministerial announcements this time yesterday had turned into a tsunami at time of writing (around noon today).  Frankly, we can’t keep up.

We ended yesterday’s roundup of Beehive announcements with a statement on the PM’s virtual attendance at the East Asia Summit.  Since then, ministers have posted 16 new statements.  Several were Covid-related.

This was a good time for a smart press secretary to unload news of dubious government spending, hoping it will be buried by the other stuff, including Grant Robertson’s latest boast about how well the government’s finances are being managed.

Sure, core Crown expenses at $31 billion were $3.2 billion above forecast in the three months to the end of September – but, hey, that was all to do with Covid and the payment of wage subsidies and COVID-19 resurgence support payments.

But how well is spending being keep under control?

We wonder about this after Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti got to announce the news we were all bursting to hear – that Fifty Kiwi Kidsongs have been launched through the Ministry of Education’s Arts Online website. The project is a collaboration with Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa (MENZA). Continue reading “What must be embedded to modernise our research and science system? The treaty, of course (and don’t forget mātauranga Māori)”

Stay-at-home ministers are missing out on giving the personal touch to NZ’s foreign relationships

The reluctance of senior ministers from the PM downwards to travel too far – with the noteworthy exception of trade minister Damien O’Connor – is impacting NZ’s standing overseas.

True, James Shaw and his sizeable entourage are attending this week’s COP26 climate change-fest in Glasgow.  PM Jacinda Ardern wanted to attend COP26, we understand, but APEC is in the way and she will address the leaders’ meeting on November 11.

Why the reluctance to travel when every other country’s ministers are aloft and away?

Good question.  Even Joe Biden, who is loathe to travel offshore because of Covid-19 considerations for the 78-year-old US President, will be pitching his stall at Glasgow.

Some put the reluctance down to the strong domestic focus by the PM’s office under chief of staff Raj Nahna, who is widely seen as a Labour apparatchik from Auckland.  The communications team is headed by Andrew Campbell, who joined from the Greens.

They guard the gate closely and Grant Robertson is about the only minister with easy access. Continue reading “Stay-at-home ministers are missing out on giving the personal touch to NZ’s foreign relationships”