International activities, one way or another, have influenced several ministerial announcements over the weekend.
The best news was that our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, at long last had left the country to engage in the work of being a Minister of Foreign Affairs on foreign soil. She met with Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne, in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains for the biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations.
Obviously there was much to talk about (which would have taken the Minister’s mind off Three Waters reform). The statement mentions:
Strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific, the preservation of “the liberal international order” to underpin stability and prosperity in the region and foster a sustainable regional balance where all countries – large and small – can freely pursue their legitimate interests.
Their strong support for open, rules-based trade based on market principles.
The role of the Pacific Islands Forum in projecting a strong and unified Pacific voice on the global stage.
Their commitment to ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, the importance of regional partnerships to stability, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and the role of AUKUS in this network.
Their commitment to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Yes, we know the PM has delivered the keynote address to a global business audience at the APEC CEO Summit, the largest business conference in the Asia-Pacific region that runs adjacent to APEC’s Leaders’ Week meetings. She called for political and business leaders to work together to build a strong, equitable and sustainable recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
But was there anything fresh in what she had to say?
Not that Point of Order could find, at first blush, which is why we focussed instead on press statements by the Government Communications Security Bureau and its minister, Andrew Little.
In his statement, GCSB Director-General, Andrew Hampton, announced that two of the satellite communications interception dishes and radome coverings at Waihopai will be retired and deconstructed, while the station near Blenheim will remain an operational facility.
The Minister in charge of the country’s Covid-19 response, Chris Hipkins, was wrong to say former PM John Key’s description of New Zealand as a “smug hermit kingdom” is an insult to New Zealanders.
The Point of Order team – for starters – are much more inclined to weigh the merits of what Key said in a newspaper column than feel insulted, take offence, or complain about racism, as too many people do nowadays rather than engage in a robust discussion.
Key’s column set out five suggested strategies to get vaccination rates up and end a reliance on managed isolation at the border.
Hipkins said these are generally already being enacted or looked at.
We do admire the wellbeing-focused Ardern government’s readiness to announce “free” services, even as the public debt comes under pressure from policy responses to the latest Covid-19 lockdown.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins today announced a counselling service that – he hooted – is free for teachers and support staff across all early learning services, kōhanga reo, kura, and state and state-integrated schools.
It was among the latest press releases posted on the Beehive website.
Teachers and support staff across all early learning services, kōhanga reo, kura, and state and state-integrated schools can now access free COVID-19 Employee Assistance Programme support, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.
On the home front, the Government has pitched in $600,000 to help the recovery for people affected by the weekend’s violent weather and welcomed the New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s decision to take the Government’s improved pay offer to members and to lift strike notices.
Internationally, the PM has had a chat with President Biden and chaired an APEC leaders’ meeting on Covid-19 and conference.
And her government is providing $2 million (more than has been committed so far for the relief of weekend weather victims) to help Pacific businesses.
At the weekend we expanded on the PM’s chat with Biden (see HERE).
It has taken nearly nine months but finally the government has spelled out its foreign policy, much to the relief of neighbours, allies and friends. Speeches by both Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and now Prime Minister Ardern have been followed closely in many capitals.
It’s no coincidence that President Joe Biden called PM Ardern this week.
Ostensibly, the call preceded the PM’s Zoom meeting with APEC leaders. The real reason seems to be that – at last – Washington DC has heard the policy, in person, from NZ ministers.
It’s full steam ahead for the economy, according to the latest GDP statistics and a Finance Minister who eagerly drew attention to the new data.
Our farm industries, generally, are doing nicely, too, thank you, in spite of head winds which include a growing raft of government regulations.
But prospects of the America’s Cup being defended in this country are in the doldrums. That’s bad news for yachting buffs (but great news for taxpayers).
GDP increased 1.6% in the first three months of 2021, much better than the Treasury forecast of a modest decline of 0.2% in May’s Budget or (with the benefit of more recent data) economic commentators’ forecast of an increase less than 1%.
Internationally, the OECD average was 0.3%.
The economy was 2.4% above where it was in the March quarter last year.