The govt has changed direction on Covid-19 – and today Ardern’s ministers are waltzing into global and transport issues

Just two weeks ago the prime minister was standing in the Beehive theatrette to tell the country the government was still aiming to return to zero cases.   This week she was promising a phased end to Covid restrictions in Auckland, under a three-step plan, which moves away from the current elimination strategy.    

She acknowledged the elimination strategy was coming to an end, saying it had served New Zealand well.

Since then, the PM has said Cabinet has agreed to the use of vaccine certificates in New Zealand as a tool in high-risk settings including large events and the government is consulting on their use in places like hospitality.

According to Stuff, Ardern today will announce plans to roll out Covid testing much more widely, on the strength of a report from Professor David Murdoch, of Otago University, who leads the Government’s testing advisory group.

Ardern is reported to have said his work will form the basis of “a new rigorous testing regime that will be central to our strategy to control the virus” over coming months. 

And about time, too, ACT leader David Seymour huffed: Continue reading “The govt has changed direction on Covid-19 – and today Ardern’s ministers are waltzing into global and transport issues”

Pike River mine settlement is reached – but socialists accuse the govt of a cover-up to protect the culpable capitalists

More money to help Covid-affected business, more money for humanitarian work in Afghanistan, more money to protect kauri …

Ministers have been busy dishing it out over the past two days.

But there’s no hint of a “$” sign or any mention of the word “payment” in a joint statement released today in the names of Bernard Monk, Andrew Little, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, and the Attorney General of New Zealand.

A note accompanying the statement says:

“The Parties have agreed on terms to fully and finally settle the proceeding and will jointly issue the below statement.”

At Point of Order, our monitors are programmed to try to winkle out the cost to taxpayers, when the government talks of a full and final settlement.

But money was not mentioned in the statement on this settlement, which is rooted in litigation stemming from the deaths of 29 men in the Pike River mine on 19 November 2010.

We wait with interest to see how the settlement is regarded by the World Socialist Web Site, which last month reported this statement from the Socialist Equality Group (New Zealand):

This statement kicked off:

“New Zealand’s Labour Party-led government has ordered work to start on a final seal at the entrance to the Pike River coal mine. Its aim is to permanently entomb the 29 bodies of the workers who died in a series of underground explosions in November 2010, and to prevent the forensic examination of crucial evidence, including an underground fan, that could establish the precise cause of the disaster.” Continue reading “Pike River mine settlement is reached – but socialists accuse the govt of a cover-up to protect the culpable capitalists”

Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies

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This article has been contributed by CHRISTIAN NOVAK, who has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in history from the University of Sydney.  He is working for a private company in Wellington in a government relations role.  

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While attention has been focused largely on the US and its allies as they abandoned Afghanistan, China and Russia have been waiting in the wings to fill the void.  From energy and construction projects to military and diplomatic initiatives, both countries will be an integral part of any international effort to influence and/or reign in Taliban behaviour.

Although Beijing senses an opportunity to press its belt and road interests, it worries that the disorder created by the Taliban could spill over the narrow border it shares with Afghanistan into Xinjiang province.  Indeed, the Taliban has long acquiesced to the presence of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which contains Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang – where more than 1 million are being held in “re-education” programmes.

When Taliban representatives travelled to Tianjin for a two-day visit in July, the delegation assured China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that it would “not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China”. Beijing, in turn, reiterated its commitment to not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

But such goodwill doesn’t immediately translate to trust. Over the past two decades, Uighurs have launched several terror attacks in China in pursuit of their own independent state.  As a result, Beijing will be watching on closely to see if Taliban leaders can bring some sort of control to the beleaguered country.

But Beijing remains pragmatic and is prepared to exercise patience in pursuit of potential returns, such as its Mes Aynak concession.

Back in 2007, the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation won rights to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit in Afghanistan, which is said to be the second largest in the world. Continue reading “Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies”

Biden’s ratings are rocked by chaos in Kabul but the US appreciated NZ’s contribution to the evacuation

The war in Afghanistan is over after 20 years, according to a defiant speech by President Joe Biden, but the withdrawal  has left him and his administration wobbling.

Biden’s  personal poll ratings are now at 36%, down from 50% previously, while those of his vice president Kamala Harris are only 46% and she is failing to make political headway.

He faces strong domestic challenges. The House and Senate have passed two bills to fund infrastructure and a huge $US3 billion bill to fund a rang of measures from healthcare through education to social welfare.  The latter is mired in internal Democratic party struggles, largely because Biden wants to fund it largely through raising taxes from an average 23% to 28% and capital gains to 43%.

This sticks in the craws of moderate Democrats and most Republicans and is unlikely to proceed in its current form.

Later in 2022 the US will hold mid-term elections and already the parties are gearing up. The Democrats need lose only five seats in the lower house to surrender control to the Republicans (and end the career of Speaker Nancy Pelosi) while the Republicans need to gain only one seat in the Senate to control the upper house. This would leave Biden a lame duck.

On past results over 60 years, the party holding the White House also loses the lower house.

But  let’s get back to the war. Continue reading “Biden’s ratings are rocked by chaos in Kabul but the US appreciated NZ’s contribution to the evacuation”

Henare is grilled over NZDF’s evacuation mission but the numbers left in Afghanistan are still being counted

Defence  Minister  Peeni  Henare in  Parliament  yesterday stoutly  defended the  government’s actions  in Afghanistan — even though an  estimated 375 people were left behind when evacuation flights  were   halted.

Critics  contend that if Cabinet hadn’t taken the weekend off, many of those 375 might  have  been  airlifted  out.

Henare  brushed  aside  questions about why  the Immigration  Department  had  turned  down  resettlement applications  in  July.   

He  did  claim, however,  there had been “an exceptionally fast response”  on August 19 when  he  and a ministerial colleague approved the deployment of an NZDF C-130 Hercules aircraft and up to 80 NZDF personnel, some to operate on the ground at the Kabul airport and the remainder to be based out of an airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Continue reading “Henare is grilled over NZDF’s evacuation mission but the numbers left in Afghanistan are still being counted”

Debacle in Afghanistan – NZ can’t escape criticism for its role in the West’s shameful exit from Kabul

“Biden’s  Debacle”:   The  Economist said  it  all  with those words on  its  cover  page  headline  last  week.  The  Guardian  Weekly   chimed  in   with “So Long: The  End of  the  American  Century”.

In its editorial, The Economist said: 

“If  the  propagandists of  the Taliban had  scripted the  collapse  of the  20-year  mission to  reshape  Afghanistan , they  could  not have come up  with more  harrowing images….Afghans were  left  in  such  a  horrifying   bind   that  clinging to the  wheels  of  a  hurtling  aircraft seemed  their  best  option.

“ It is  an appalling  outcome for  Afghanistan’s 39m   people”. Continue reading “Debacle in Afghanistan – NZ can’t escape criticism for its role in the West’s shameful exit from Kabul”

While the Brits brace for Christmas without turkeys, NZ leads APEC initiative on food security

Not enough turkeys for Christmas?

Calamity.

Not in this country (so far as we know), but in Britain, where the British Poultry Council is pressing the UK Government to deal with the culinary consequences of shortages of workers resulting from the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The British food industry faces huge disruptions that have forced leading restaurants – including Nando’s and KFC – to reduce their service or to close.

Poultry producers have warned that serious staff shortages caused by Brexit could mean there are not enough turkeys to go round this Christmas.

Supermarkets have also been struggling to fill shelves amid a serious shortage of HGV drivers that is affecting areas such as milk deliveries.

But a Canadian farming newspaper has drawn attention to a much more critical issue: famine is looming as developing countries struggle to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus with unpredictable and limited vaccines.

About 41 million people are at risk of starving to death in 2021. Continue reading “While the Brits brace for Christmas without turkeys, NZ leads APEC initiative on food security”

From Covid lockdown to Kabul – Hercules takes off on evacuation mission

It’s out of the Covid frying pan in Auckland and into the fire of Afghanistan for a  Defence Force deployment charged with evacuating Kiwi nationals and Afghan allies from that benighted country.

We learned of this from a Stuff account of the PM’s 1pm Covid-19 press conference, when she said Cabinet had approved up to 80 personnel to support the international response.

According to Stuff, an Air Force C130 Hercules departed Auckland at about 10.20am today, carrying some of the contingent. Continue reading “From Covid lockdown to Kabul – Hercules takes off on evacuation mission”

The Herculean challenge of getting the RNZAF into the skies

The Point of Order team was wondering why it took the RNZAF so long to ready an aircraft for the Afghan mission.

One of our contacts provided this information:

The problem is that the air force has only three out of five Hercules in service (one of them only recently back from an extended operational training exercise in the US).  Two are in long-term maintenance at Blenheim.

Currently there are no active Boeing 757s. One of these is in heavy maintenance in Christchurch while the other is grounded without engines at Whenuapai, awaiting new engines being recycled from a US boneyard  It seems the air force had been unable to secure regular supplies because of Covid and the demand for freighter engines.

Then there is the question of pilots. Some of the 757 and Hercules pilots are undergoing training on the new Boeing P-8A Poseidons and the air force has not, in recent years, been over-endowed with aircrew.

As if that wasn’t challenge enough for the air force, the government is under pressure from Finance Minister Grant Robertson to strip around $4 billion from the long-term defence capability programme.

Biden’s credibility goes down with Afghanistan’s collapse – and the NZDF scrambles to bring back Kiwi contractors

Afghanistan collapsed quicker than the Wallabies’ scrum and President Joe Biden now looks set to pay the price politically.

Kabul surrendered without a shot while the US departure from the benighted country’s capital was described by the Wall Street Journal as “Saigon on steroids.”

The New Zealand Defence Force has had to scramble to secure an RNZAF Hercules which will head to the United Arab Emirates tomorrow to help the allied evacuation.

There are as many as 40 New Zealanders in Afghanistan, all believed to be working as contractors, including security.

The last NZDF forces departed in April.

Biden defends the withdrawal of US forces as a policy set in train by former president Donald Trump. After 20 years, he says, this was enough.

But the US military has been forced to send in 6000 soldiers and marines to protect departing US nationals. Continue reading “Biden’s credibility goes down with Afghanistan’s collapse – and the NZDF scrambles to bring back Kiwi contractors”