Let’s further tighten the border and – oh, wait, don’t make it too tough for overseas students to come here

Hurrah.  The PM is back to posting her announcements on the government’s official website, her deputy is back in the business of self-congratulation, Rio Tinto is back in the business of sucking up cheap electricity to produce aluminium at Tiwai Point, near Bluff.  And overseas students (some, anyway) can come back to New Zealand to continue their studies.

The fourth of those announcements is of note because it came from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins just a day or so after he was banging on about the extra measures being taken to tighten border security against the corona virus in its various guises.   

The PM’s announcement was a simple one:  she has appointed Anna Curzon, Chief Product Officer for Xero and a former member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, to the APEC Business Advisory Council.

We are delighted to see we don’t have to turn to Twitter to learn what’s going on.  

News of a deal being struck between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years prompted a statement from Grant Robertson (Finance Minister) and Megan Woods (Energy and Resources Minister).  They said the Government was committed to working on a managed transition with the local community.    Continue reading “Let’s further tighten the border and – oh, wait, don’t make it too tough for overseas students to come here”

Mahuta plugs the progress of Maori at powhiri for our big APEC year

A rich mix of fresh pronouncements from the Beehive includes the delivery of an election promise to improve the wellbeing of workers with more sick leave.  Yes, this may adversely affect the wellbeing of their employers, who will be obliged to do the paying.  But this has been partly offset by a sop which extends by 10 months the rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold by 10 months.

Ministers have also advised the people who employ them (we, the people, dear reader) of:

  • The government’s intention to enable drug users and pill poppers to check on the quality of the stuff that gives them their buzz;
  • The government’s giving more protection to consumers who borrow money (at the same time as it is amassing a record-high public debt to be repaid by all consumers who pay taxes);  
  • Plans to make the public sector carbon neutral by 2025, starting with the phasing out of the largest and most active coal boilers;   
  • A bill to keep an election promise to have a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000. The new rate will apply from 1 April 2021.

Oh – and then there’s the speech delivered by Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta to APEC big-wigs, although it seems to have been pitched to resonate with a Maori audience as much as with an international one.    

The speech was delivered at a pōwhiri on Wellington’s waterfront where the local tribe, Te Atiawa, and several government ministers welcomed representatives from the other 20 APEC economies.

Mahuta  described APEC as a hugely important international event and said APEC 2021 (NZ will be the host) would be one of the largest ongoing virtual events in the world, with more than 300 meetings conducted across New Zealand.  

The pōwhiri was one of the few physical events of New Zealand’s APEC virtual host year. The first virtual APEC 2021 meeting, the Informal Senior Officials Meeting, will be held on 9 December.

Mahuta briefly brought history into considerations and attempted to make it relevant to the experience of other APEC countries:  

“It is significant to note that around 700 years ago, our ocean-navigating Māori ancestors or tūpuna traversed the vast Pacific Ocean, using the signs they observed in the stars and ocean currents to travel south to ultimately arrive here in Aotearoa. I hazard a guess that they would have stopped off at many of your homelands across the Pacific along the way to rest, recuperate and re-stock supplies for the long journey ahead.”

She mentioned the inclusiveness and environmental sustainability that have become potent  components of policy-making under our caring prime minister. 

“We seek to promote trade and economic growth that is inclusive, especially as it relates to women and indigenous peoples, to ensure APEC makes full use of the untapped economic potential of these and a number of other groups. We will also focus on sustainability, not only in response to environmental realities such as climate change, but also to facilitate a green economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The spirit of “partnership” was not overlooked:  

“APEC New Zealand Officials are working in partnership with the local tangata whenua, Te Atiawa Iwi, to ensure that we maintain our Māori cultural integrity in the way that we welcome, host and farewell our manuwhiri, our guests.”

Then global challenges were addressed (albeit briefly):

“As you may well recognise these are challenging and uncertain times. A global pandemic has cause us to be caught in the same storm and while we are experiencing the impact of this storm very differently collectively we know we must get through the other side.

“Responding to COVID-19 will be top of mind for New Zealand, and we will be looking to use a number of mechanisms to facilitate an effective, long-lasting economic response to the crisis as we set out a ‘new normal’ approach to support our resilience.

“Following the biggest economic shock in 90 years, we will focus on rebuilding confidence in the multilateral trading system. An effective, functioning and rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organisation at its centre, underpins APEC’s work to support our economies to grow together and be cognisant of the challenge before us. Promoting indigenous collaboration to broaden the diversity of our approach, and the consequent benefits to women and young people is also important.”

Mahuta declared she was heartened by the progress made by New Zealand since this country last hosted APEC in 1999. 

But her measure of New Zealand’s progress  – dare we suggest it? – was somewhat narrowly focused on the achievements of one racial group: 

“In 1999, Māori were largely invisible in New Zealand’s hosting and were mostly reduced to ceremonial and cultural roles. However, we are determined that for APEC21, Māori will play a more prominent and meaningful role in New Zealand’s hosting. I anticipate this approach may assist broader opportunities for indigenous peoples and economies to connect in more meaningful ways.

“Over the last twenty years the Māori economy and asset base has grown exponentially enhanced further by Treaty Settlements, which have provided an economic base for our people. Today, the Māori economy is valued at around $50 billion and represents six per cent of New Zealand’s total asset base. The Māori economy includes a range of authorities, businesses, and SME employers who self-identify as Māori.

“From 2010 to 2018, Māori enterprises have increased in number by over 30 percent and employee count by 50 percent. However, the general consensus is that further diversification of the Māori asset base is required to ensure resilience in the long-term.  We are starting to see this across the Māori economy with Māori businesses branching out into new investment areas including geothermal, digital, education, and housing.

“With the Māori economy in such a solid position, we have an excellent opportunity to diversify the benefits our trade policy and within APEC over the next twenty years.”

And the progress – was there any? – of the national economy?

We may suppose MFAT officials or Mahuta’s speech writer reckoned it wasn’t worth mentioning.   

But Mahuta did acknowledge that indigenous recognition can be a sensitive subject and that the New Zealand experience is not uniformly replicated across the Asia-Pacific.

She offered this country’s help in changing their ways of doing things:   

“We are willing to share our experience and offer support to assist economies to enable the greater participation of indigenous communities in trade and economic activity, including through APEC. Economic inclusion such as this approach will contribute to greater equity and opportunity for indigenous peoples and can contribute to greater social cohesion and stability in our region”

Wrapping up her speech, Mahuta told the locally based APEC economy representatives that, because of the virtual nature of NZ’s host year, they would play an even more important connecting role between NZ officials and their home agencies.

She told New Zealand government officials they had an enormous task ahead as they prepared proposals, meeting papers, statements, projects and events during the year, all while ensuring a strong New Zealand sense of manaakitanga, hospitality.

And last but by no means least she addressed tangata whenua, Te Atiawa Iwi, and Māori organisation partners, saying 

“ … you are our Treaty partner and represent Māori cultural and economic interests in APEC and what we strive to achieve across these economies.”

In conclusion, she drew on the wisdom of her ancestor Tāwhio who said;

“Ki te kotahi te kākaho ka whati, ki te kapuia e kore e whati.

” ‘When a reed stands alone it can be easily broken, but bound in unison it stands firm, joined together, and is unbreakable!’

“That is the intent of APEC 21 that we Join, Work and Grow Together.

“No reira, Turuturu Whakawhitia mau a kia tina! Haumi e, hui e, tāiki e! Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou. Tēnā tātou katoa!”

Among the signals we pick up from this, diplomats and APEC representatives who want to understand everything Ardern’s second-term ministers tell them should get to grips with te reo fast – or recruit local staff who can do the translating for them. 

 Latest from the Beehive

2 DECEMBER 2020

Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025

  • Public sector to be carbon neutral by 2025
  • Immediate focus on phasing out largest and most active coal boilers

Government fulfils election undertaking on new top tax rate

The Government will today keep its election promise to put in place a new top tax rate of 39 per cent on income earned over $180,000.

Sir Robert Martin re-elected to UN Committee

New Zealand welcomes the news that Sir Robert Martin has been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, says Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni.

New rules to protect Kiwis from unaffordable loans

The Government is making sure all consumers who borrow money get the same protections, regardless of where they get their loans.

1 DECEMBER 2020

New visitor attraction to boost tourism

The opening of the first major new tourism attraction since the global outbreak of COVID-19 closed borders to international travellers will provide a welcome boost to visitor numbers in our largest city, says Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

Govt moves on drug checking to keep young New Zealanders safer this summer

The Government will pass time limited legislation to give legal certainty to drug checking services, so they can carry out their work to keep New Zealanders safer this summer at festivals without fear of prosecution, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

Public Service Commissioner reappointed

Minister for the Public Service Chris Hipkins announced today that Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes CNZM has been reappointed for three years.

Pōwhiri marks the start of a critical year for APEC

New Zealand kicked off its APEC host year today, with a pōwhiri taking place on Wellington’s waterfront with local iwi Te Atiawa, and a number of Government ministers welcoming representatives from the other 20 APEC economies.

Speech at APEC 21 Opening Pōwhiri

Kei aku rangatira no ngātapito e whā o te ao huri noa, tātou e huihui mai nei. Tēnā rā kōutou katoa.

Government extends business debt relief to October 2021

To assist with the ongoing economic recovery from COVID-19, rules allowing affected businesses to put their debt on hold have been extended by 10 months.

30 NOVEMBER 2020

Bill introduced to support workers with 10 days sick leave

The Government is delivering on a key commitment by introducing a Bill to Parliament to expand sick leave entitlements from five days to ten days a year, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood announced today.

Progress on pay equity for DHB staff

Today’s initial agreement between DHBs and the PSA on pay equity for clerical and administration staff is an important step toward better, fairer pay for this crucial and largely female workforce, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

 

APEC gets our PM as its new leader (along with an overhaul of its Vision to improve the wellbeing of all its people)

The PM moves fast.  Yesterday she announced she would attend the annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and associated events “virtually”.  Early today – the second and final day of this event – she announced she has taken over the leaderhsiup of APEC.  

We imagine she has done this with much less difficulty than Joe Biden is having in taking over leadership of the USA from a highly aggrieved and capricious Donald Trump.

These APEC announcements were among several posted on the Beehive website since Point of Order last reported on how our ministers are earning their keep.

Most of the others assured us we were prudent not to turn off the Point of Order Trough Monitor simply because Shane Jones no longer can dispense handouts from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund and/or the One Billion Trees programme.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor is a dab hand at dispensing, goodies, too, and has stepped up to the plate to announce more than $6 million will be spent on helping farmers improve the health of rivers, wetlands, and habitat biodiversity in Canterbury and Otago as well as improving long-term land management practices. Continue reading “APEC gets our PM as its new leader (along with an overhaul of its Vision to improve the wellbeing of all its people)”

Malaysia has missed out on hosting APEC next year – and a virtual conference means we miss out on bringing world leaders to NZ

An interesting tale of international diplomacy has emerged over NZ’s decision to turn next year’s round of APEC meetings – including the leaders’ summit – into a virtual event.

NZ had to fight off a determined bid by the 2020 host, Malaysia, which hoped it could have its hosting rights carried over to next year because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.  That would have meant NZ lost out because South Vietnam will host APEC in 2022.

Hanoi reportedly insisted on the previously agreed rotation and finding a solution involved lobbying in APEC’s 20 other capitals. Had Malaysia been successful, NZ would have had to wait another decade.

Wellington might have scored an own goal, however, by converting the November 2021 leaders’ meeting into a virtual event. Some observers felt this decision could have been delayed till early next year, possibly around February. Continue reading “Malaysia has missed out on hosting APEC next year – and a virtual conference means we miss out on bringing world leaders to NZ”

Govt makes it easier to care for new-born babies – but how does this ease a challenging demand for resources such as water?

Latest from the Beehive –

The Beehive Bugle Brigade doubled the blare about the baby boon, which is being boosted from today.

A statement from the PM and Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced July 1 marks progress for workers, families

Iain Lees-Galloway, speaking as Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, more baldly highlighted the cost to taxpayers with a statement headed Six months with baby and $20 more a week for new parents

Lees-Galloway focused on the increase to paid parental leave, which kicks in today.  This provides another four weeks, taking New Zealand up to a full six months (26 weeks, up from 22 weeks) leave for new parents, and the maximum weekly payment will increase by $20 a week.

Each year the parental leave payment is adjusted to reflect the rise in the average wage. The parental leave payment accordingly will be raised from $585.80 to $606.46 a week, before tax, from today. Continue reading “Govt makes it easier to care for new-born babies – but how does this ease a challenging demand for resources such as water?”

What they have been up to in the Beehive (for better or worse) – jobs stats bring cheer from Grant Robertson

The Point of Order Keep on Eye on ‘Em Monitor taps into the proclamations, edicts, announcements, boasts and what-have-you that flow daily from the Beehive.     

 

The latest batch of ministerial statements from the Beehive includes three items that triggered the Point of Order Trough Monitor (two Provincial Growth Fund announcements and the revelation of a new $25 million research fund in the science domain) and three announcements related to COVID-19.

One of the COVID-19 statements essentially was another brag from Grant Robertson about the splendid job he was doing as Minister of Finance before this pesky pandemic wreaked havoc socially and economically. It was triggered by the latest employment statistics.

Stats NZ reported yesterday that the number of employed people rose by 19,000 over the March quarter, while the number of unemployed was up by only 5,000. The employment rate rose to 67.5%, while the unemployment rate also rose slightly from 4% to 4.2%, remaining near its lowest levels in a decade.

Wages were also rising at an annual rate of 3.6%, with average ordinary time hourly earnings up to $33.14. This was well above inflation at 2.5%.
Continue reading “What they have been up to in the Beehive (for better or worse) – jobs stats bring cheer from Grant Robertson”