Indian flight ban passes muster with many lawyers but human rights chief wants more information

Chief  Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt is championing the rights of New Zealand citizens and residents who are being inconvenienced by the Government’s decision to suspend travel from India for two weeks.  

The Government needs to be more transparent about the decision, which took effect yesterday and will remain until April 28, he huffs.

Other experts and commentators seem to have found enough evidence to be satisfied – perhaps with reservations – about the legality of the travel constraint.  

Newshub recalled Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying the move had been made due to the large number of Covid-19 cases coming into New Zealand from India.

The country is currently battling a massive resurgence of the virus, with about 116,000 new cases announced on April 6 alone.

The numbers have surged since then. Continue reading “Indian flight ban passes muster with many lawyers but human rights chief wants more information”

We should brace for the boiler ban – but $22.88m has been handed out to help businesses decarbonise

Our Beehive bulletin

The Government’s ban on new low and medium temperature coal-fired boilers and partnering with the private sector to help it transition away from fossil fuels perhaps ranked as the most important Beehive announcement yesterday.

It was the first major announcement to follow the release of the Climate Commission’s draft package of advice to Government in February and was accompanied by the distribution of dollops of corporate welfare to  the successful applicants in round one of the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund.

Fourteen companies will receive $22.88m in co-funding to help their businesses transition away from fossil fuels.

The ban on new coal boilers used in manufacturing and production will come into effect by 31 December.

A consultation document for other coal proposals can be found on the Ministry for the Environment website.

The energy announcement was one of several to emerge during a busy day in the Beehive, many of them enabling Ministers to bray about the big bucks (or small ones) they were throwing around. Continue reading “We should brace for the boiler ban – but $22.88m has been handed out to help businesses decarbonise”

NZ is absent from global group which questions WHO study – our health officials (we are told) were much too busy on Covid duty

The US and 14 other governments earlier this week issued a statement raising concerns about the recent World Health Organisation (WHO) study into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.  This was an interesting group: the US, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.

New Zealand?  Er, no.

Apparently, we didn’t have the time to read even the executive summary which had been with officials, along with the main report, in the Ministry of Health for some time.

We are told by Beehive insiders that the ministry, which we all know is singly focused on defeating Covid, hadn’t the chance to study the document.

The report is mildly critical of China, stating that the review team hadn’t had full access to background documents and records. Continue reading “NZ is absent from global group which questions WHO study – our health officials (we are told) were much too busy on Covid duty”

A speech about NZ’s response to Covid-19, the pecking order for vaccines, and race-based ideas on who should be top of the list

Our Beehive Bulletin

Covid-19 dominated the latest news from the Beehive when we checked earlier today.

Associate Health Minister Minister Ayesha Verrall delivered a speech to an international audience of medical people.

And Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Government has confirmed strict criteria for early vaccinations for people who need to travel outside of New Zealand on compassionate grounds or for reasons of national significance.

This announcement struck a sour note with the Maori Party, which unabashedly promotes race-based ideas for deciding what the pecking order should be.

The party has its dander up over the decision to allow national sports teams to be vaccinated early if they are travelling overseas for a big event.

According to RNZ, Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said this is putting sports teams over indigenous people. Continue reading “A speech about NZ’s response to Covid-19, the pecking order for vaccines, and race-based ideas on who should be top of the list”

Widening gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is the burning issue for Ardern’s government to tackle

When  a  journal   as influential  as  “The Listener” flags  the  great  divide between  the  “haves”  and  the “have nots” as the  legacy of the Covid pandemic, it’s an issue  which should be  consuming   the  attention  of every politician — especially  the politicians in a government  with  ministers  who see  themselves wearing  the  mantle  of  Michael  Joseph  Savage.

The Ardern government has not  hesitated  to  throw money  at  the problem, as  other  governments  have done,  and  massive  stimulus  from  the Reserve  Bank  has helped  get the economy   back  on track. 

But, as  economist Cameron Bagrie points out  in “The Listener’s” study,  not  everyone has been a  winner. He  says  the  K-shaped  recovery has exposed pre-existing tension points  such as race  and gender  and  who bears the brunt of a  lift in unemployment.

“There’s  the perceived gap between the haves and the have-nots,  with  soaring  house prices at the epicentre. And  at the  very time we  are dealing  with that, the  financial cost of  our  ageing population is rising rapidly. By 2035, a  massive two-thirds of  welfare  benefit spending is projected to be spent on NZ Superannuation—and that’s not  counting  the growing  health costs”, says Bagrie.     

Covid  has exacerbated  inequality and driven  holes in the social  welfare   safety  net. Continue reading “Widening gap between the “haves” and “have nots” is the burning issue for Ardern’s government to tackle”

Communities to lose their voice in decision-making on fluoridation – the job will be centralised under the D-G of Health

The government has struck another blow against the rights of communities to decide what is best for local citizens, but with a stronger case in support of its intervention than when it wiped out the entitlement of citizens to challenge local government decisions to change their electoral procedures.

This time the intervention is science-based:  changes to a Fluoridation Bill are aimed at  ensuring a safe, effective and affordable approach is taken to improving children’s oral heath.

Decision-making would sit with the Director-General of Health.

Another statutory change affecting the wellbeing of children is the amendment of the Child Support Act “to reduce the scheme’s complexity, improve fairness and increase compliance”.

The aim is to prepare the child support scheme to transition to Inland Revenue’s new technology platform and to further simplify the scheme’s administration.

Down south, Tourism Minister Stuart Nash set out his tourism priorities in a speech at the Otago University Tourism Policy School conference in Queenstown this morning, telling his audience that planning is under way “for a new-look tourism sector” post the COVID19 vaccination programme and when international borders re-open.

The $400 million Tourism Recovery Package in 2020 was an emergency intervention, he said. Further, structural support will be needed this year, “before we make changes to prepare for a new landscape in 2022 and beyond”.

Other Beehive releases tell us – Continue reading “Communities to lose their voice in decision-making on fluoridation – the job will be centralised under the D-G of Health”

The APEC summit – opportunities will be missed because our govt opted to make it a virtual occasion

Has  the  New  Zealand  government  made  a  diplomatic   blunder  in  converting  the APEC summit  it  is due to  host in July to a virtual event?

If  it had been  delayed  and NZ had called  a  leaders’  summit  in November,  this  country   would  have had  presidents  such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin,  the US’s  Joe Biden and China’s President  Xi  Jinping together  in Auckland.  This  would  have drawn the  global  media’s attention  to  NZ and  the  country would have  been punching above its  weight in international diplomacy.

And NZ’s  Jacinda  Ardern would have been seen  truly as a member of the  world   leadership  club.

In    bilateral  meetings  during the summit, Ardern may have succeeded in  focussing  Biden on  the  need  for  a  free trade  agreement between the  US  and  NZ or  with  China’s Xi  on how  to  build  on the $30bn target for  two-way trade.

In   hosting APEC  in person  she may even have been  able  to  influence  an  armistice  in the  trade  war  between the US  and  China.

APEC  could  have  become  a  launching  pad  for global  recovery   from the  Covid  pandemic.

As  trade  expert  Charles Finny  sees  it, the  big  value of  APEC is the senior level  interaction  and the  private  discussions that  are held on the  sidelines.

“None  of that can  really happen online, in my  view”.

Auckland  will  miss out  on  hosting  the  21  Pacific  Rim  countries.  The summit  would have  drawn thousands  of  officials, trade  experts  and lobbyists  to  the  city, enabling  hotels  and the  hospitality industry  to regain some of  the economic  benefit  lost  during Covid  lockdowns.

Even  the  senior officials  meeting,  known as  Som, which has been  taking  place in recent weeks, in other  times would have attracted  2000 people  to the  city.

The  question  being  asked  is whether  Ardern – in concentrating  so  heavily   on the  impact  of  Covid-19  on  the  country – has misjudged  the   potential  for   real   and  substantial   diplomatic gains  coming  from the personal interaction   with  world leaders.

Indeed  there  is  some  concern  that   damaging  tensions  have   been  allowed  to  creep  into  relations  with our  closest friend  and ally Australia   partly through  the anti-Covid pandemic. The  trans-Tasman   bubble   has   not  eventuated, though  earlier  it  had seemed  it  might  begin in March.  Australia’s  Scott  Morrison has indicated  he  would  go  ahead  with  the  bubble,  but Ardern  is  still  determined to  “eliminate”  Covid  (and  she  is supported by the majority of  New Zealanders).

Earlier the  trans-Tasman   tension was exacerbated  when Export Trade  Minister Damien O’Connor   advised  Australia  “to follow us  and show more respect”  to  China  and Foreign Minister  Nanaia Mahuta suggested  NZ  could act  as  mediator between  China and  Australia.

The  bad  press  those  ministers  got  in  Australia  was  compounded  when Ardern’s sidekick on Covid,  Chris Hipkins,  was  reported as  saying  that Australia, through its deportees to  NZ,  was sending its garbage back across the Tasman.  Ardern had to  get on the  blower smartly  to Morrison to cool things down   before  spanking  her ministers.

Young Maori (but only in three regions) will benefit from a $5.4m training package while the PM opens the border (just a teeny bit)

Our Beehive Bulletin

The racially targeted spending of $5.4 million – or “positive discrimination”, if that’s what you prefer to call it – was announced today in a statement which mentioned the impact of Covid-19 as part of the rationale.

The money will help up to 150 Māori train and gain qualifications in Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Northland-Tai Tokerau and the Bay of Plenty.

The PM brought more Covid-19 news at the weekend, after coming under pressure from political opponents and some commentators to ease the economic damage done by measures to curb the pandemic and open the country to more visitors (in tune with appropriate safeguards, of course).

She has obliged – well, sort of – by announcing that passengers from Niue can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand on Wednesday 24 March NZT (Tuesday 23 March Niue time).

“Niue has no reported cases of COVID-19 and its stringent border controls mean we can be confident it is safe to commence quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Niue,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Among other Beehive pronouncements – Continue reading “Young Maori (but only in three regions) will benefit from a $5.4m training package while the PM opens the border (just a teeny bit)”

Lockdowns and the slow rollout of vaccines look likely to take their toll on the PM’s popularity

Is  the  smooth  run  for  the  Ardern  government  coming  to  an  end?  It  is  still  riding  high in the polls, but almost  imperceptibly the mood   appears   to be  changing.

Jacinda Ardern  may still be enjoying   a  status  few  other  prime  ministers  have attained but the fallibility  of  some of her ministers is coming  more  clearly  into  focus.

More  particularly, where  the government won so much kudos  in  its  response to   the Covid-19 pandemic, it  now  seems to  have lost its magic  touch.

Ardern herself appears  to be becoming  more defensive, pulling  out of her regular slot  on the Mike Hosking ZB  programme.

The latest  lockdowns  accentuated the  hardship  inflicted  on  business, particularly in Auckland, and   the  rollout  of  the Covid vaccination programme  has  been disappointingly  slow. Continue reading “Lockdowns and the slow rollout of vaccines look likely to take their toll on the PM’s popularity”

Medicinal cannabis regulations are extended while the NZDF fixes its sights on Covid-19 and DOC aims to eradicate pests

Our Beehive Bulletin

While Point of Order was preparing its previous post on medicinal cannabis, Health Minister Andrew Little was announcing transitional medicinal cannabis regulations are to be extended by six months to 30 September.

He brought COVID-19 into considerations, explaining that restrictions to deal with the pandemic have limited the abilities of companies to apply under the regulations.  This has affected global supply chains and added challenges to suppliers seeking to have products assessed.

Meanwhile the New Zealand Defence Force has set its gun sights on the virus and gone on the offensive.

For a raft of reasons set out in a press statement, Defence Minister Peeni Henare says it makes sense to vaccinate the whole uniformed force, numbering about 9500 personnel.

Conservation Minister Kiri Allan brought Covid-19 into considerations, too, when announcing a project to restore nature and sustain jobs in South Westland

But let’s get back to the extension of the transitional medicinal cannabis regulations.

Continue reading “Medicinal cannabis regulations are extended while the NZDF fixes its sights on Covid-19 and DOC aims to eradicate pests”