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?”

Govt funding for Air NZ is among the big issues around future of our tourism industry

As  reports pile  up on the success of  vaccines against  Covid 19, is  it  time  for  New Zealand  to think of how  it  will  return  to   normal?

The  vaccines  will  not  simply eradicate  the virus, so governments will need to  start thinking about  how  to live with it.

The London “ Economist”  last week pointed  up the problem for NZ, a country which it  said had  sought to be  Covid-free by bolting its  doors  against the  world.

“ In this  way it has kept registered deaths to just 25, but such a draconian policy makes no sense as a permanent defence.   NZ is  not  North Korea. As vulnerable Kiwis  are vaccinated , their  country will come  under growing pressure to open its  borders—and  hence to  start to tolerate endemic Covid-19 infections and deaths.”

The task  for  governments is  to  work out  when  and how  to switch from emergency  measures to policies that are  economically  and socially  sustainable indefinitely.  The  Economist reckons the  transition  will  be  politically  hard   in  places  that have invested  a  lot  in being covid-free. Continue reading “Govt funding for Air NZ is among the big issues around future of our tourism industry”

O’Connor phones to mollify the Aussies after trumpeting the pay-off from mollifying Beijing

Trade  Minister Damien  O’Connor  trumpeted  this week that the  New Zealand  and  Chinese  governments had signed  an upgrade to  the free trade agreement  between the  two countries.

We suspect he will be more coy about his contribution to the New Zealand–Australia relationship because his trumpeting – loud enough to cross the Tasman – included advice to Canberra to “show respect” and act more diplomatically towards China.   

The Aussies have been riled by those remarks, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Senior Australian government officials are infuriated at Mr O’Connor’s comments, which they see as a continuing pattern of New Zealand not joining other allies in standing up to China’s growing assertiveness in recent months.

China’s relations with Canberra remain frozen as a consequence of the Morrison government’s call for a Covid-19 inquiry and a series of punitive trade actions has been taken against Australian export sectors. Continue reading “O’Connor phones to mollify the Aussies after trumpeting the pay-off from mollifying Beijing”

NZ comes into the reckoning as Aust lifts its defence capability while shifting focus to the Indo-Pacific region

The US is ramping up its pressure on China while Australia – focusing its defence policy on the Indo-Pacific – emphasises America’s critical role as a stabilising force in the region.  The Aussies regard NZ as a key player, too – and even the Americans now call us allies.

President Trump this week removed Hong Kong’s special status and now regards it as part of mainland China. Then David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said if Beijing continues to block Philippine access to fishing waters in Scarborough Shoal or militarise outcroppings there, the US would regard those as “a dangerous move.”

The US will no longer remain on the sidelines when China uses “gangster tactics” to get its way in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he said, noting that four years ago, an international arbitration panel ruled against China and said Scarborough Shoals belonged to the Philippines.

Beijing ignored the ruling, calling it “a piece of paper,” he recalled.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing had failed to put forth a lawful, coherent maritime claim in the South China Sea. That means Washington accepts only Beijing’s territorial claims to 12 nautical miles from its coast or natural islands it controls.

China asserts it has territorial control of much of the South China Sea, bounded by what it calls the Nine-Dash Line and enforced by quasi-military installations built on artificial islands.

Australia’s Defence Strategic Update, unveiled last week, gives priority focus to its immediate region, defined as running from the eastern Indian Ocean through south-east Asia to Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific is now a priority focus.

Its new strategic objectives include shaping Australia’s strategic environment, deterring actions against its interests and respond with a “credible military force when required.” This is a significant shift as the 2016 Defence White Paper spread the effort over national, regional and global issues.

Launching the new document, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia had not seen such global, economic and strategic uncertainties since the 1930s. The Indo-Pacific was now the “epicentre of rising strategic competition” where the risk of miscalculation and even conflict is heightening.

Relations between China and the US were fractious at best. Australia’s interests lay in having an “open, sovereign Indo-Pacific, free from coercion and hegemony”.

In a separate speech, Defence Minister Marise Reynolds said Australia watched closely as China actively sought to gain greater influence in the Indo-Pacific and supported China when it pursued mutual interests in security, prosperity and stability.

The paper lists New Zealand as one of Australia’s “important partners” alongside Japan and the US which remains central to its planning and is “critical” to regional security and stability.

Canberra projects defence capability spending will reach around $A270bn until 2029-30.  This includes new frigates to replace the Anzacs, new submarines and the F-35 joint strike fighter.

The cost of new Defence equipment is considerable. For example, $A9.3bn is earmarked for area-denial with R and D into long-range hypersonic weapons; new long-range anti-ship missiles at $A800m; $A15bn on deployable ballistic missile defence and up to $A7bn on smart sea mines and underwater surveillance.

Then there is $A15bn to be spent on defensive and offensive cyber capabilities, command and control systems and electronic warfare systems, and $A7bn on space including Australia’s own satellite communications system.

This new focus on the Indo-Pacific at the expense of global operations (think of Afghanistan and Iraq) has been broadly endorsed by the Labor Party and confirms the largely bipartisan approach taken in Australia.

The new paper is being studied closely in NZ. At one end of the spectrum, it will be seen as yet another example of a “regional sheriff” but this overlooks how geographically close the region is to the Australian homeland – and the extent to which Canberra has invested heavily in the south-west Pacific.

Defence Minister Reynolds said the security environment had deteriorated far more quickly than predicted. This required a significant response and Australia acknowledged it had to do more “heavy lifting”, encourage others to do so and not rely on just one nation.

The US, she said, remained the “bedrock of peace and security in the region”.

Whatever trade gains are made in NZ-UK trade talks, we should brace to share them with Australia and the US

Trade Minister David Parker is gung-ho about getting a trade deal with the UK sewn up. He says NZ and the UK have strong trade and economic ties.

“NZ is pleased to be among the first countries to negotiate a trade agreement with one of our oldest friends”.

With a New Zealander, Crawford Falconer, in charge of the UK trade negotiating team, Parker, like the rest of the country, will be hoping for a favourable deal.

But as the UK is getting to grips with what NZ is seeking, it is also locked in negotiations with Australia and – moreover – is looking to seal trade deals with the US and Japan.  In that context, the negotiation with NZ may seem only a footnote.

For NZ, the difficulty may be that if it gets a deal done first with concessions from the UK, particularly on dairy and meat, then the UK may feel obliged to offer the same terms to Australia, and perhaps even the US.

The same day Parker was announcing the trade talks between NZ and the UK are to kick off,  Aussie Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, in Canberra, was telling Australians he was seeking an FTA with the UK and was aiming to “open up new doors for our farmers, businesses and investors”. Continue reading “Whatever trade gains are made in NZ-UK trade talks, we should brace to share them with Australia and the US”