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?”

Covid-19 is doing the govt a favour by focusing attention away from its failures and follies

The  reverential   aura enveloping  the  Ardern government   is beginning to fade and ministerial  fallibilities are  emerging. Just as  suddenly, the  media  are  offering  some  space  to  critics  of  the  government.

Richard  Prebble  is  calling for a  Royal Commission into   the  government’s  handling of the pandemic response.  ACT’s  David Seymour  sees  the  government’s rollout of the vaccination programme  as  an “insulting lottery”.

The Prime Minister’s   famed  kindness  and compassion  did not extend to “Case L”  in Papatoetoe who, she said,  ignored instruction in going to work at  a  local KFC.  But  the PM’s  anger  was  misplaced: “Case L”  had  been told  she was free to go to work.   “Case L” is  said  to have been distressed  by  the  vilification she suffered  in social  media.

And  now it  is  becoming apparent how  the pandemic and the government’s response to it are wreaking  havoc among  businesses.  News media have reported  this week how   businesses  which have held on for months of  Covid-19  disruption  are  starting to fold as  pressure  mounts  with  no clear  end  in sight. Continue reading “Covid-19 is doing the govt a favour by focusing attention away from its failures and follies”

Govt’s fancy footwork on climate change will bedazzle you (but critics who want to hear the specifics may be disappointed)

Three Ministers, led by the PM, joined in chorus today to warble about a bunch of measures aimed at helping to meet New Zealand’s 2050 carbon neutral target, create new jobs and boost innovation.

Mind you, the measures mentioned seem to be more matters of decisions yet to be made rather than anything to take effect now or next week – or even next month.

Other Ministers had something more immediate to deliver:

  • The Government is investing up to $10 million to support 30 of the country’s top early-career researchers to develop their research skills. The MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship will provide each successful researcher with a one-off fellowship worth $320,000 over two years to help them grow and develop their research skills in New Zealand.
  • A $500,000 Waitomo-based Jobs for Nature project will keep up to ten people employed in the village as the tourism sector recovers post Covid-19. The worekrs will undertake local track maintenance and improve the Ruakuri bush walk and scenic reserve “and other culturally significant areas.”
  • Minister for Climate Change James Shaw has spoken with President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. He told Kerry he was pleased that one of President Biden’s first actions was to re-join the Paris Agreement.
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced three diplomatic appointments:  Alana Hudson as Ambassador to Poland; John Riley as Consul-General to Hong Kong; Stephen Wong as Consul-General to Shanghai.

But let’s get back to the PM’s song and dance act, backed by the Beehive Bugle Brigade.

The programme notes brayed Government moves on climate promises.

And – wow – you couldn’t help but be bedazzled by the almost frenzied footwork.  The Riverdance crew could only be envious:

  • The Government’s “is delivering on its first tranche of election promises to take action on climate change”, and
  • “This will be an ongoing area of action but we are moving now to implement key election promises”, and
  • “We will receive further advice and recommendations mid-year from the Climate Commission but we are cracking on with this work now.”

The PM then trilled about transport making up our second highest amount of emissions after agriculture “so it’s important we reduce emissions from our vehicle fleet”.

“Tackling climate change is a priority for the Government and remains a core part of our COVID recovery plan. We can create jobs and economic opportunities while reducing our emissions, so it’s win-win for our economy and climate.

“We will be finalising our first three carbon budgets later this year following advice from the independent Climate Change Commission, which the Government receives mid-year.

Must we wait much longer for a chart-topping hit? 

Alas, yes.  

“The Commission’s advice is likely to ask a lot of all of us and require action in all sectors.

“Today’s announcement is a good step towards what needs to be done,” Jacinda Ardern said.

At that juncture Transport Minister Michael Wood stepped up to contribute his solo:

 “We’re making progress to reduce emissions by investing significantly more in public transport, rail, costal shipping and walking and cycling – but there is more to do,” said Transport Minister Michael Wood.

“Our Government has agreed in principle to mandate a lower emitting biofuel blend across the transport sector. Over time this will prevent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of emissions from cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes.”

But an agreement in principle doesn’t actually amount to action – does it?

So what else?

“There are economic opportunities for New Zealand in strengthening our clean green brand, encouraging innovation and creating jobs. It will also help our economic recovery. A biofuel mandate has the potential to create jobs and boost the economy through encouraging a local industry.

“Officials will consult with the public and stakeholders to help the Government decide on a way forward before the end of the year.”

In other words, we haven’t got to the consulting stage yet.

“We’re also committing $50 million to help councils fully decarbonise the public transport bus fleet by 2035. By meeting our target to decarbonise the bus fleet, we can prevent up to 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which will make an important contribution towards meeting our climate targets,” Michael Wood said.

Actually, we recall this was announced in October last year.

But let’s hear him out:

“We’re moving quickly to introduce a Clean Car Import Standard to reduce emissions and Kiwis’ fuel costs. Legislation will be passed this year and the standard will begin next year, with the 105 grams of CO2/km 2025 target being phased in through annual targets that get progressively lower to give importers time to adjust. 

“The Import Standard will prevent up to 3 million tonnes of emissions by 2040, mean more climate-friendly cars are available, and will give families average lifetime fuel savings of nearly $7,000 per vehicle.

“The Government will also consider options for an incentive scheme to help Kiwis make the switch to clean cars. The Government will have further announcements on our plan to reduce transport emissions in the coming months,” Michael Wood said.

 So no FIRM action, readers.  Just the promise of action via the passage of legislation.

Never mind. Climate Change Minister James Shaw seems satisfied.

He said today’s announcement (announcement of what, exactly?) is a good first step that needs to be taken on the road towards long-term emissions reductions from transport – and that there will need to be many more steps taken after this one.

The window of opportunity we have to address the climate crisis is closing fast. Reducing emissions from transport will need to be a priority if we are to meet our targets and make sure New Zealand plays its part in keeping the climate stable. 

“For decades governments allowed emissions from transport to increase unabated. Today we begin the work to change that. In doing so I’d like to acknowledge the work of the former Minister for Transport, Julie Anne Genter.

“Together these measures will help to make our communities cleaner and healthier, and ensure the vehicles we use to get around leave a smaller carbon footprint. It is necessary first step towards making sure that the journeys we all have to take are better for the planet. The measures announced today also help advance the commitments in the Cooperation Agreement between Labour and the Green Party to decarbonise public transport and to introduce a clean car standard,” James Shaw said. 

 Latest from the Beehive

Release

28 JANUARY 2021

Government moves on climate promises

Jump starting research careers

27 JANUARY 2021

Project protects jobs and nature

Minister Shaw speaks with U.S. Presidential Envoy John Kerry

Minister of Foreign Affairs makes three diplomatic appointments

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”