Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies

We have had the chance to scan the new Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade agreement and – if Trade Minister Damien O’Connor can negotiate similar terms for us – the prospects look hearteningly good for NZ.

Beef and sheep meat tariffs on Australian exports to the UK will be eliminated after 10 years. Sugar tariffs will be removed after eight years, and dairy tariffs after five years.

Short and medium grain milled rice will get immediate duty-free access once the FTA is in place.

During the countdown to tariff-free trade, Australian producers will gain incremental access to the British market.  Beef producers gain immediate access to a duty-free quota of 35,000 tonnes (rising to 110,000 tonnes a  year in a decade).  With sugar exports, producers have immediate access to a duty-free quota of 80,000 tonnes, rising by 20,000 tonnes each year.

Dairy farmers will also have access during the transition period to a duty-free quota for cheese of 24,000 tonnes. This will rise to 48,000 tonnes by year five. Continue reading “Here’s hoping Damien O’Connor can strike a trade deal with the UK on terms similar to those secured by the Aussies”

The Aussies are aiming for economic growth but the Ardern Govt (clucking about wellbeing) seems to prefer Zombification

Is the  reality  of the  Ardern  government’s  policies   beginning  to  hit  home?  A slow, tentative  return  to  what might be regarded  as pre-Covid   normality  is  coming  into  sharper   focus as  government  fumbling, particularly  over the Covid  vaccination rollout, stirs  anger in  communities.

Just  as  Finance  Minister Grant  Robertson  extols the performance  of  the  economy  under his  stewardship, Kiwis are waking up  to  how  much better Australians  are  doing. We  shrank by 1% in  the  last  quarter of 2020 while  Australia grew by 3%.

The  international tourism  industry,  which pre-Covid had become NZ’s top foreign exchange earner,  is  virtually dead, and the  absence  of  international students  is  dealing  a  body blow to educational  institutions, even  down  to  primary  schools.

Even  more  concerning are ominous signs that things may  get  worse. A  headline  this  week pointed  to  the fact  that exporters  can no longer make forward freight bookings between Australia and NZ as international shipping companies abandon the relatively remote and marginal trans-Tasman routes in favour of profitable routes between China, Europe and the United States. Continue reading “The Aussies are aiming for economic growth but the Ardern Govt (clucking about wellbeing) seems to prefer Zombification”

Govt invests $16m in space venture with Ngai Tahu runanga – while protecting culture and biodiversity for good measure

The Government has invested $16 million in buying plots of land as part of a new partnership with Ngai Tahu, this one launched to take part in this country’s fledgling space industry.

It was described as “an exciting multi-pronged aerospace project” and – Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods proclaimed – it is coming to Kaitōrete Spit, a 25km stretch of land on the Canterbury coast.

It’s thanks to “a special commercial joint venture” between Kaitōrete Limited (Te Taumutu Rūnanga and Wairewa Rūnanga) and the Crown,

“ …  which will unlock jobs – including aerospace, develop a space launch and R&D facilities, protect cultural interests and the unique bio-diversity of the area.”

But wait.  There’s more:

“Project Tāwhaki is a special partnership with both Rūnanga that will rejuvenate a nationally unique environment, honour deep cultural relationships, and provide amazing opportunities to tap into the multi-billion-dollar aerospace economy. This is a very exciting day.”

We trust this venture fares better in winning the hearts and minds of local Maori than Rocket Lab has done at Māhia Peninsula in the Hawke’s Bay. Continue reading “Govt invests $16m in space venture with Ngai Tahu runanga – while protecting culture and biodiversity for good measure”

China, CER, co-operation and Covid-19 will be on the agenda when Anzac leaders meet in Queenstown

Scott Morrison  may  be  looking for a  break  after a  tough year  when he arrives in Queenstown at  the weekend,  but there’s  a  heavy  agenda  awaiting him.  It’s time  for Australia  and  NZ  to  rekindle  the  spirit  of  CER,  as  they battle the  aftermath  of the Covid pandemic, and  confront an  increasingly assertive global  power  in  China.

The visit will be the first face-to-face meeting between Ardern and her Australian counterpart since NZ shut its borders due to the pandemic. Morrison last met with Ardern in Sydney in late-February 2020, the day the first Covid-19 case was discovered in NZ.

Ardern,  announcing the  visit, said the Covid-19 recovery, regional and security issues would be discussed.  Those  issues  have  become  more  acute.

On  one  side  there  is  growing evidence that  the  pandemic  arose  not  from transmission  from animals  in  Wuhan, but  from a state-owned laboratory  in that  city.

On  another front,  both  countries  are  making  only  slow progress  with their  vaccination  programmes  (which opens  up  the  issue:  why didn’t  the two  governments  co-operate   in setting  up  a joint programme  to  produce  under  licence  one or  more  of the vaccines?). Continue reading “China, CER, co-operation and Covid-19 will be on the agenda when Anzac leaders meet in Queenstown”

Immigration reset (reflecting the govt’s tourism strategy) includes scheme to favour foreigners flush with dosh for investing here

The government has announced its preference for immigrants with money, much the same as its tourist industry strategy favours tourists with plenty of spending stuff.

This policy was contained in a lengthy rundown on immigration issues which emerged from the Beehive as “the immigration reset”.

The PM will be able to chat about this reset with her Australian counterpart soon.  A trans-Tasman leaders meeting  – in the Queenstown area, which is benefiting hugely from government initiatives to lift what are supposed to be its flagging fortunes – will be held at the end of the month.

We imagine the PM sought oodles of expert advice to enable her – if asked – to demonstrate the enormous contribution that flying two PMs with their entourages to Queenstown will make towards creating a carbon-free nation.

We say this because the other big statement of note in the past day or two came from Climate Change Minister James Shaw. He was chuffed that Budget 2021 helps deliver on the Government’s commitment to a carbon-neutral public sector by 2025. Continue reading “Immigration reset (reflecting the govt’s tourism strategy) includes scheme to favour foreigners flush with dosh for investing here”

Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded

There was an international flavour to two of the new statements from the Beehive and a cosmic flavour to a third, when we checked earlier in the day.  But the most ominous announcement, signalling big changes in the offing very close to home, emerged from the office of Nanaia Mahuta, as Minister of Local Government.

She advised us – or warned us, maybe – she has appointed a team to review our local government arrangements.

She mentioned the evolution of local democracy.

Evolution?  Or further erosion?

One outcome could be a quickening of the pace of change that already has weakened citizens’ right to decide who should govern them and their ability to hold their governors to account for their performance at three-yearly elections.

On the international front, we learned – Continue reading “Overhaul ahead for local authorities and their governance – the big issue should be whether local democracy is enhanced or further eroded”

The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta was  probably expecting  her speech this week  on New Zealand’s policy  towards  China  to be  widely  read, but not to have  produced  the  savage   reactions  it  did in some  quarters.

In our examination  of  the  speech, Point  of  Order  drew  attention  to how  Mahuta  had  delivered  a  poke  in the  eye  to  NZ’s  allies — and  sure  enough,  this  was  the feature   which got most  attention  across the  ditch.

At  home  the ACT  party was  fired  up by  praise  for the  speech  from  China.  It  found this approval,  coming from a communist dictatorship, as “deeply concerning”.

ACT’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Brooke van Velden says it’s hard to imagine how Nanaia Mahuta could fail harder than being praised by a communist dictatorship and shunned by  democratic allies.

She  noted international media are commenting that NZ has “broken with its Five Eyes partners as it pursues a closer alliance with China” and that “Five Eyes becomes four”. Continue reading “The view of Mahuta’s speech from across the Tasman: we are selling out our neighbours – and the West – to pander to Beijing”

Yes, we impose sanctions (when the UN says we should) and will despatch an Orion to ensure they aren’t breached

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has had a busy two days.  Hard on the heels of echoing the title of a book edited by academic writer Manying Ip to headline an important policy speech, she was announcing the visit here this week of Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne for ministerial consultations.  

That should be a fun event, especially Mahuta’s explaining some of the Five Eyes stuff that emerged from her policy speech.

 This morning, she was  answering RNZ questions about easing back from the Five Eyes alliance.

Asked about what this would mean for situations like Uighur Muslims in China – which other nations have put sanctions in place over – Mahuta said:

“New Zealand doesn’t have a sanctions regime like those countries.

“We favour diplomacy that involves dialogue, which ensures we build multilateral support for the things we advocate on that will protect our values and our interests.”

Mahuta said New Zealand could impose travel bans but it was “really important” that the country upheld international “rules and norms and the institutions that support that and ensuring that when we act that we act with the support of the United Nations”.

 In other words, if we have properly grasped her explanation, sanctions will be applied only when the UN says we should – and when the UN says we should, the sanctions become compulsory. Continue reading “Yes, we impose sanctions (when the UN says we should) and will despatch an Orion to ensure they aren’t breached”

Beyond the bubble, the PM could score political points by restoring trans-Tasman harmony and rekindling the CER spirit

At  last  the trans-Tasman bubble  is  inflating. New Zealanders  are so excited that few  are bothering  to question  why it  took so long and government ministers  are pleased  that  the  media  furore is  concealing  its  failure  on several fronts, not  least in the vaccination  programme, which is proving to be one of the slowest  among  the  world’s  advanced  economies.

That  furore has  also  obscured  the  fact  that Australia opened up  to NZ  six  months ago.

Then  there  has been  the  wrestling  match in  Cabinet  over  just  when  the bubble should begin,  with Jacinda  Ardern applying  the handbrake  because of the  risk that  any  outbreak, particularly with some  of the newer variants, would put a blot on the  government’s pandemic performance.

ACT’s  David  Seymour  says

“Jacinda  Ardern couldn’t  treat us like lucky little prisoners any longer”. Continue reading “Beyond the bubble, the PM could score political points by restoring trans-Tasman harmony and rekindling the CER spirit”

Biosecurity Minister shows signs of a foot-in-mouth affliction – it doesn’t require culling but will he be put out to pasture?

According to his critics, Damien O’Connor may well have contracted a nasty dose of foot-in-mouth disease.

Whether his personal struggle with the condition is good or bad for a bloke who happens to be our Minister of Biosecurity is arguable.  The portfolio requires the Minister and his ministry to ensure against foot-and-mouth disease sneaking into the country (among a formidable list of threatening pests and diseases).

Foot-and-mouth is much more virulent than foot-in-mouth and an outbreak on our farms would be calamitous for the economy.

Foot-in-mouth, on the other hand, is common among politicians and tends to be more damaging to the afflicted politician and his/her party than to the national economy.

Accordingly, when it is detected, the authorities do not declare an emergency and immediately put down the politician and cull every other beast within a certain distance, as would happen with livestock, although a polls-sensitive PM might be tempted to demote the culprit and put him or her out to pasture on the back benches.

Mind you, a politician might be accused by Opposition politicians or media commentators of having foot-in-mouth disease when others think the accused politician’s remarks were eminently sensible.

Damien O’Connor found himself embroiled in a trans-Tasman brouhaha when he suggested Australia could improve its relationship with China by following this country’s lead and showing more respect to the Asian powerhouse. Continue reading “Biosecurity Minister shows signs of a foot-in-mouth affliction – it doesn’t require culling but will he be put out to pasture?”