Mahuta reaches out to our Aussie neighbours while O’Connor builds digital trade ties with Canada

Our foreign affairs and trade ministers have been hard at work, forging stronger relationships with our Aussie neighbours and Canada.

Their colleagues meanwhile have been spending our money on projects to promote tourism and keep weeds out of a world-famous national park.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash announced the approval of an application for $3.75 million to help develop events on the Thermal Explorer Highway that links communities across Waikato, Rotorua, Lake Taupō and Ruapehu.

This is the first investment to be confirmed from the $50 million Regional Events Fund announced as part of the government’s $400 million Tourism Recovery package.

Other proposals from Northland to Southland are going through final stages of approval.

Conservation Minister Kiri Allan was busy attacking weeds, announcing a new Jobs for Nature project to stop invasive weeds spreading into Fiordland National Park.

The Southern South Island Alliance has allocated $345,000 Jobs for Nature funding annually to the Fiordland Buffer Zone project, providing 12 full time equivalent jobs across the two-year life of the project. Continue reading “Mahuta reaches out to our Aussie neighbours while O’Connor builds digital trade ties with Canada”

Biden and our PM are keen to talk: climate change (rather than the weather) and Covid-19 will be on the agenda

PM Jacinda Adern will call president-elect Joe Biden shortly. Both are keen to talk and the agenda will be broad. She will probably focus on climate change and his undertaking to return America to the Paris accords. With the coronavirus still raging in the US (yesterday the US passed 10 million infections) she may be able to share some of NZ’s experiences.

In her recent statements the PM has shown a strong interest in the US-NZ relationship, picking up where Winston Peters left off. There’s also a not-so-subtle indication that she will focus on the core relationships – the US, UK, EU, Australia and major Asian capitals –  leaving the new foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, minding the rest.

Biden was here in 2016 and he knows the territory. His easy affability will engage with Ardern’s positivity and general friendliness. Like the PM on her election and her pledge to govern for all New Zealanders, Biden, in his first major speech, said he planned to do the same for all Americans. Continue reading “Biden and our PM are keen to talk: climate change (rather than the weather) and Covid-19 will be on the agenda”

Mahuta and Henare – key appointments which show NZ no longer should be regarded as a European outpost

Diplomatic eyebrows were raised when PM Jacinda Ardern named Nanaia Mahuta as Minister of Foreign Affairs. She  is the  first  woman  to  hold   the  portfolio  and  she  got  the   job   ahead   of   more  highly ranked  figures  including Andrew  Little  and  David  Parker,  who  were  understood  to  be  interested  in steering  policy in this  field.

Mahuta’s only international experience seems to have been as associate trade minister in the previous government but Beehive insiders say David Parker – as Minister of Trade and Export Growth – was loath to let anything of substance out of his reach  in that field.  In the past three years every press statement in this portfolio was released in Parker’s name except for a few released in the name of Damien O’Connor as Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth.  We found none released in Mahuta’s name, although she did issue some trade-related statements as Minister for Maori Development.

As  a  politician  she has been   relatively  self-effacing, although in her  own  fields   she  is  said  to  be   thorough   and  careful.  but  Ardern  offered  a  powerful  rationale   for  Mahuta’s  elevation to  one of the  key  ministries, pointing to her aptitude  for  building  strong relationships.  She  might   also  have mentioned  that  Mahuta  listens  carefully to  her  advisers. Continue reading “Mahuta and Henare – key appointments which show NZ no longer should be regarded as a European outpost”

After we learn the Greens’ role in the new government, the focus should turn to who gets jobs such as Foreign Affairs

Media attention since the general election has focused largely on the shape of any formal relationship between Labour and the Greens in the formation of the next government.     

But the need for party leaders to negotiate, talk or whatever with other party leaders to forge a government partnership is very different from three years ago.

The 2017 election on September 23 was followed by a prolonged bout of negotiations which ultimately resulted in the announcement on October 19 that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and his party had chosen to put Labour into power.

Peters landed the jobs of deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister in the new government.

At this year’s election Labour won an outright majority on election night and does not need a coalition partner to form a government. Continue reading “After we learn the Greens’ role in the new government, the focus should turn to who gets jobs such as Foreign Affairs”

Without brakes there should be no holding back Ardern – and the lobbyists are signalling their great expectations

Huge  expectations     now    rest   on  the    newly  re-elected   Ardern    government.  Just  as the  pioneering  Labour    government   did in the  1930s   under  Michael  Joseph  Savage  and the fourth  Labour  government   did under  David  Lange  in the  1980’s,  it  has  won a  stronger  mandate   to  fulfill  its  programme.   

So  will  it  become    truly  transformational  – as it   first promised  in  2017 – or  will  the  economic  recession  threatening    NZ  overwhelm   the  new  ministry? 

Election   night  delivered a fairy-tale  outcome   for   the  politician  dubbed  by The   Economist  as   “Jacindarella” ,    but  will  the   second term  not  only  restore    NZ  to  full  employment  and prosperity    but  confirm   the  Ardern   government    as   the  most progressive  since the  days of  its  founding prime minister?   

Already  lobby  groups   are hammering    at the  door.

Working people and their unions have expectations that a new government without a handbrake will move faster and further to support people and the environment,  says    the  CTU’s  Richard   Wagstaff. Continue reading “Without brakes there should be no holding back Ardern – and the lobbyists are signalling their great expectations”

The PM announces a strategic partnership with Vietnam while Sepuloni connects the needy with social services

Latest from the Beehive

Having severed her relations with a wayward member of her ministerial team, the PM turned to foreign affairs and trade and set about strengthening the country’s relations with Vietnam.

She met virtually with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to discuss the importance of the New Zealand-Vietnam relationship and to formally announce its elevation to a Strategic Partnership.

Trade between New Zealand and Vietnam reached more than $2 billion in the year to March 2020, making it our 15th largest two-way trading partner. Vietnam is projected to be one of the fastest growing economies in Asia in the next few years.

Details of the Strategic Partnership are contained in the Joint Statement released by the Prime Ministers following today’s meeting, available here:

Strategic Partnership status indicates the strong growth in the New Zealand and Vietnam relationship and our converging interests. It will enable for improved access and cooperation on matters of mutual interest and benefit.

Improved relationships – or “connections”, in this case – is the aim of an initiative announced by Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni, but there is a jobs element to the announcement, too. Continue reading “The PM announces a strategic partnership with Vietnam while Sepuloni connects the needy with social services”

Challenge for NZ defence planners is determining how to align with the new strategic environment

NZ defence planners have begun a new defence assessment, due next year, to help guide governments for the next decade. They face a radically changing strategic environment with uncomfortable choices looming for NZ.

China provides the major challenge. Already more assertive politically and economically, it has strengthened its defence forces with blue-water capabilities ranging from nuclear submarines to aircraft carriers and long-range precision missiles. Its intelligence agencies are some of the best in the region.

To counter this, a new group is emerging, known as the “Quad”, which links India, Australia, Japan and the United States in primarily air-sea surveillance of the region the Americans now call Indo-Pacific. Continue reading “Challenge for NZ defence planners is determining how to align with the new strategic environment”

A billion (or so) will give RNZAF a new Hercules fleet but many more billions are being spent on revised wage subsidy scheme

One press statement  from the Beehive yesterday sounded more like advertising – or a barker’s pitch – than a Government announcement.  Another advised of two diplomatic appointment, one of them – has the woman who landed the post done something wrong? – to protest-troubled and politically volatile Hong Kong.

And yes, as happens almost daily, there was news about the spending of big bucks.  Defence Minister Ron Mark announced the Coalition Government’s confirmation of the purchase of five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft to replace the existing fleet.

This is part of a $1.521 billion project that also will deliver a full mission flight simulator and other supporting infrastructure.

But bigger bucks are involved in the major announcement of the day.   The Government has lowered the required revenue drop threshold for its wage subsidy scheme from 50% to 40%.  This will allow 40,000 more businesses to become eligible for the new eight-week scheme from 10 June, covering up to 910,000 workers.

Up to 230,000 businesses are forecast to become eligible.

Small businesses are also being given more time to apply for the Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme, with the application date being extended from 12 June to 24 July. Continue reading “A billion (or so) will give RNZAF a new Hercules fleet but many more billions are being spent on revised wage subsidy scheme”

There’s Budget money for the primary sector – but not nearly as much as for the tourist industry ($400m) or Maori ($900m)

A press statement that seemed to have missed the bus on Budget day was among the announcements, proclamation, edicts and what-have-you posted on the Beehive website yesterday.

It came from Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor who presumably wanted to show the rural community he has been earning his keep and that Budget 2020 makes major investments in the primary sector that will support more than 10,000 people into jobs.

But if we tot up the numbers in his statement, it’s not nearly as much major investment as the $900 million for Maori or the $400 million for the tourist industry.  Taxpayers (or will it come from the government’s lending sources?) will be called on to cough up – Continue reading “There’s Budget money for the primary sector – but not nearly as much as for the tourist industry ($400m) or Maori ($900m)”

What they have done now (for better or worse) – a check on proclamations from the Beehive

The Point of Order Keep on Eye on ‘Em Monitor shows these proclamations, edicts, announcements, boasts and what-have-you have flowed from the Beehive in the past few days –

The State of National Emergency to support the COVID-19 response (if you were not informed of this already) has been extended a sixth time for a further seven days.

A State of National Emergency enables the people managing the response in an emergency – it’s COVID-19 in this case – to exercise powers they would not normally have, but might require now to implement and enforce these measures.

The announcement emanated from the office of Peeni Henare, Minister of Civil Defence, who reminded us the initial declaration was made on March 25.

The first announcement – we note – was made by the Prime Minister.

State of National Emergency declared to fight COVID-19

Continue reading “What they have done now (for better or worse) – a check on proclamations from the Beehive”