PM traces shift in our independent foreign policy under Labour – and rails against ‘morally bankrupt’ United Nations

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, enjoying her  global celebrity  status  in Australia,  has  also succeeded in  clawing back  her  poll  ratings  in New Zealand.   According  to the  Roy Morgan  poll,  Labour has  risen  a  couple  of  points  to   33.5%  while  National has  edged  back a  point  to 39% since  May.

On the  Roy Morgan  sampling, the  Maori Party  would  hold  the balance  of  power.   Given the  apparent distaste of that party’s two members  in Parliament  for  parties  of the  Right, this could ensure  Labour  has  another term .

Ardern brushed off  a  question on the  ABC  about her  global celebrity  status, saying  her  total  focus  was  at  home.

“That  is  what matters  to  me”.

Nevertheless  her major  speech  in  Australia, to  the  Lowy Institute,  centred on  NZ’s  foreign  policy  and  traced  how  far   NZ  has moved since  Labour  took office in 2017. Continue reading “PM traces shift in our independent foreign policy under Labour – and rails against ‘morally bankrupt’ United Nations”

Covid is still with us, so don’t expect gang violence and ram raids to be eradicated now that Hipkins has the Police portfolio

Buzz from the Beehive

On the Beehive website, news of Kris Faafoi resigning from Parliament preceded news of the PM reshuffling her cabinet.   Indeed, Faafoi’s resignation – along with news of Trevor Mallard stepping down as Speaker of the House – provided the rationale for the PM’ reshuffle.

The timing in our email in-tray was different.  First (at 3.14pm), we learned of the Cabinet reshuffle and then (at 3.16pm) we were advised of Faafoi’s  resignation.

No matter.  The PM’s press statement said she has made changes to her Cabinet line-up following the decision of senior Minister Kris Faafoi to resign from Parliament and Speaker Trevor Mallard’s nomination to a European diplomatic posting.

There will be no mucking about with the reshuffle (which is more substantial than generally had been expected).  The changes will take effect after a ceremony at Government House this  afternoon.    Continue reading “Covid is still with us, so don’t expect gang violence and ram raids to be eradicated now that Hipkins has the Police portfolio”

Govt action against climate change includes pouring millions into troughs and inviting private sector to line up for a slurp

Buzz from the Beehive

Foreign affairs, agriculture, health and transport are among the burning issues which have been keeping our ministers, their policy advisers and their press secretaries busy in recent days.  Inviting oinkers to new freshly filled troughs was on the agenda, too.

Ministers had issued 13 new press statements when Point of Order checked this morning.  At time of writing the number of new statements had increased to 16, on subjects ranging from the agriculture sector’s agenda for dealing with climate change to the race-fixated restructuring of the health system.

On the foreign affairs front, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta was announcing additional sanctions on Russian state-owned enterprises and defence entities in response to the ongoing brutality in Ukraine, the PM was announcing a visit here this month by Samoa Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa 60 years after the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries was signed, and the PM was further announcing she will travel to Sydney this week for “an in-person meeting” with new Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Continue reading “Govt action against climate change includes pouring millions into troughs and inviting private sector to line up for a slurp”

Buzz from the Beehive: Pathway is renamed to honour our Head of State (so how will that go down with the Māori Party?)

We await the Māori Party’s response to the PM’s announcement of a walk on Rakiura/Stewart Island being renamed in honour of the Platinum Jubilee for Queen Elizabeth II.

Just a day or so earlier, a petition launched by that party was presented to Parliament. It calls for New Zealand’s official name to be changed to Aotearoa and the official restoration of the te reo Māori names for all towns, cities, and place names.

“This is not about getting rid of anything or changing who we are. It’s about reinstating the original names of this land and strengthening who we are as a nation” said co-leader Rawiri Waititi.”

His party in February called for a “divorce” from the monarchy and for “constitutional transformation “that restores the tino rangatiratanga of Tangata Whenua in this country”.

The PM’s announcement was posted on the Beehive website along with news of:- Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Pathway is renamed to honour our Head of State (so how will that go down with the Māori Party?)”

Yes, Mahuta has been mute on China’s Pacific manoeuvres, but maybe she awaits a steer from our White House-bound PM

National’s  Gerry  Brownlee  had  a  free   hit  on Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta,  whom  he  sees as   missing  in  action as  China  makes its  moves  to  become a dominant power in  the  Pacific.  These moves – potentially – pose a  security threat  to  Australia  and  New Zealand.

While  foreign  affairs  experts  are  expressing  alarm  and calling  on  the  government  to  urgently repair NZ’s  run-down defences, specifically  equipping  our  army  with  missiles  and  drones, there  is  silence  from both  Mahuta and Defence  Minister Peeni Henare.

Brownlie  says Mahuta

“….needs to front up and explain what she’ll be doing to salvage New Zealand’s relationship with the Pacific.

“Last week, we heard that China is seeking a sweeping agreement with ten Pacific Island countries, covering everything from national security to climate change and education. Three countries have already signed up or indicated their support; the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Samoa. Continue reading “Yes, Mahuta has been mute on China’s Pacific manoeuvres, but maybe she awaits a steer from our White House-bound PM”

Buzz from the Beehive: nine NZ personnel head for Europe while peace-keeping deployment in Solomons is extended

The PM has been focussed on the horrors of the war in Ukraine and on offering Kiwi help while her Foreign Affairs Minister – doubtless with a wary eye on China – has been fixed on helping maintain peace and stability in the Solomon Islands.

Two of their colleagues, meanwhile, were fascinated by the glitz of Hollywood and the pizzaz of the Academy Awards presentation (although this was not without a moment of violence).

On the home front, other members of the Ardern team variously were announcing –

  • The introduction of the Fair Pay Agreements Bill to Parliament.  These agreements are intended to improve wages and conditions for employees, encourage businesses to invest in training, “and level the playing field so that employers who are trying hard to offer fair terms don’t get undercut and disadvantaged”. This means the government aims to reduce a company’s ability to compete.
  • Awards of funding (described as a $3.6 million investment) to 16 national and regional organisations to increase opportunities for young people with disabilities in sport and recreation. Moreover, Sport and Recreation minister Grant Robertson has dipped into “my Ministerial Discretionary Fund” to support Special Olympics with a $44,000 grant.
  • The closure of depleted scallop fisheries in Northland and most of the Coromandel to allow them to recover.

What might have sounded like a bold decision to provide further military support to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russian invaders actually entails the dispatch of nine Defence Force staff to other countries in Europe. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: nine NZ personnel head for Europe while peace-keeping deployment in Solomons is extended”

Buzz from the Beehive: Nanaia is bound for Fiji (where perhaps she might ask why NZ wasn’t invited to talks with US big-wig)

Fiji must be thrilled – one of our very busy ministers has visited that country in recent days, another is planning to visit, and a third has been involved in a webinar conference. of the New Zealand-Fiji Business Council.

The minister who has been and gone was Peeni Henare, whose mission was defence-focused.

The minister who engaged in the virtual conference was Rino Tirikatane, who delivered a speech at the Fiji Trade Recovery Roadshow Webinar.  We assume he spoke from the Beehive.

And the minister who will visit – the icing on the cake, so to speak – is Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.  She departs for Fiji next week, her first trip to the Pacific since announcing New Zealand’s Pacific Resilience approach last year.

The announcement was posted on the Beehive website along with news that …

  • Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has classified the storm that caused significant flood damage across the Tairāwhiti district and Hawke’s Bay region a medium-scale adverse event, “unlocking Government support for farmers and growers”.  The sum of $150,000 is being made available to help the region’s farmers and growers recover from the heavy rain across Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay, bringing total Government support to $325,000;
  • The Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, has launched a plan to boost employment outcomes for former refugees, recent migrants and ethnic communities.  This was her first press statement since October 28, when she announced a new Vaccine Uptake Fund to support COVID-19 vaccination among ethnic communities.   

Nanaia Mahuta announced her plans in the mix of English and te reo that has become the argot of Ardern ministers and (increasingly) mainstream news media:

“This visit is an important step in reconnecting Aotearoa New Zealand with our Pacific whanaunga, and an opportunity to engage on key issues facing our region,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

She did not provide a translation for the uninitiated, but Point of Order took time out to check out what she had said: 

whanaunga

      1. (noun) relative, relation, kin, blood relation.

Mahuta will meet with Fiji’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama; attend an event at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; participate in a Fijian women leaders’ roundtable; and visit development projects.

She departs on Monday subject to the Fijian Government’s COVID-19 protocols, and will return on 31 March.

During his visit, Peeni Henare met with his Fijian counterpart Minister of Defence, Inia Seruiratu, to, among other things, “secure the Pacific”.

According to RNZ, Henare said New Zealand was concerned about the region’s security, defence capabilities, as well as its post-pandemic economic resilience.

That’s great. But the Point of Order team became uneasy on learning that, on the issue of United States engagement in the Pacific, Henare said it wasn’t clear why the New Zealand government was not part of Pacific talks in Fiji, during the February visit of the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Our Minister of Defence doesn’t know why we weren’t part of those talks?

Did he try to find out?

He proceeded to say he welcomed US military support in the region.

Henare made it clear that NZ defence regional support would focus on maritime surveillance and humanitarian assistance.

So far, so good. But:

He also hinted that the United States was an important ally to have, when issues arose over Chinese interests in the Pacific Region.

Here’s hoping the reporter misinterpreted his remarks and that he did something more than just hint about our relationship with the US.

Fair to say, what followed was clear:

“We always welcome the US engagement in the Pacific because we can’t do it alone but we want to be very clear that it is our priority. They’ve made it clear their position on China,” Henare said.

“I’ve said to them as a defence minister, and as a country, that while we’re mindful of what’s happening in the South China Sea, in order for us to be a key part of security in this region, we must be able to secure the Pacific, we must be able to show with our limited capability that we can be responsible for our own backyard.

“For example, New Zealand only has two frigates, sending them to the South China Sea means that we leave a particular hole in the Pacific.”

“So we need to be quite smart about the way we engage but we welcome the US. I’ve spoken with Secretary Austin, their Defence Secretary on a number of occasions, and he’s committed to the Pacific too and I look forward to that relationship,” he said.

Latest from the Beehive

Government supports flood-affected Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay farmers and growers

Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has classified the storm that caused significant flood damage across the Tairāwhiti district and Hawke’s Bay region a medium-scale adverse event, unlocking

More fulfilling jobs for our Ethnic Communities

Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Priyanca Radhakrishnan has today launched a plan to boost employment outcomes for former refugees, recent migrants and ethnic communities.

Foreign Minister to visit Fiji

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta departs for Fiji next week, her first trip to the Pacific since announcing New Zealand’s Pacific Resilience approach last year.

NZ is thanked for ‘swift’ action against Russia – but did Jacinda Ardern blush when Ukraine’s PM expressed his gratitude?

Foreign affairs and defence matters account for the only two press statements from the Beehive since our previous report on Beehive Buzz.

One statement advised that Defence Minister Peeni Henare will depart tomorrow for bilateral visits to Fiji and Australia, to meet with counterparts to reaffirm New Zealand’s commitment to regional security in the Pacific and discuss ways to strengthen defence cooperation with partners.

The other statement gave an account of a chat between our PM and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. She had called him “to reiterate New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine and its people, and our unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s aggression”.

This statement says:

“… Prime Minister Shmyhal thanked New Zealand for being one of the first countries to take swift practical action against Russia’s aggression. As he noted, when it comes to the importance of the global response, there is no bigger or smaller country, there are only countries that are reacting.”

This might surprise some Kiwi commentators, who were bothered by the time taken for our government to take substantive action in response to the Russian invasion.  But at least our PM has identified the villain of the piece:

“I conveyed our condemnation of President Putin’s unprovoked, unjustified and illegal attack on Ukraine – an attack which continues to unnecessarily claim the lives of so many innocent people,” Jacinda Ardern said. Continue reading “NZ is thanked for ‘swift’ action against Russia – but did Jacinda Ardern blush when Ukraine’s PM expressed his gratitude?”

Labour is giving opposition politicians plenty of issues to exploit as it is stalled by ‘an end-of-year fug’

If  it’s  true  that Labour’s great run is  now  ending,  Opposition parties  should  be vibrating  with  new-found  confidence.

This  may be the   case   with  ACT,  but  so far  there has  been  little sign of  it in National.  In fact   judging  by  the  volume of  speculation  about  National’s leadership  among  the  political  cognoscenti  in  the  weekend  media, the  inner  circle of  the party is stressed  out over  its  leadership.

A  party on top of  its  game certainly would  be  scoring  some   big  hits. On the  other  hand  it  may  be  argued that  the  preoccupation with  Covid has stifled interest  in other political  issues.

Still, as  economic uncertainty  deepens, and  managing the  Covid  Delta  variant  exposes the  government’s vulnerability, the   country  is  looking   again for  something  different,  if only  to  measure  accurately how  the government is  performing.

Beyond  the  leadership issue, the  problem   for  National   is  that it  does  not speak  to  all  elements  of  its  base. It  appears  singularly  out of  tune with  the  regions  and particularly   with  farmers, who are  facing  vocal  lobby groups campaigning  against  what they call  “dirty  dairying”—  never  mind  it is dairy export earnings  that  are sustaining the country’s  balance of payments. Continue reading “Labour is giving opposition politicians plenty of issues to exploit as it is stalled by ‘an end-of-year fug’”

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”