Psst! The whispers among diplomats in the capital draw attention to shortcomings on NZ’s foreign-policy front

Does New Zealand have a contemporary foreign policy, let alone a defence policy? Some of our nearest and dearest are beginning to wonder.

Ambassadors in Wellington are among the world’s most discreet but word is beginning to trickle out.

What is the government up to?  Why does it move at glacial speed on foreign-policy issues when there is plenty of energy – evidently – for social policy issues and the improvement of Kiwis’ wellbeing?

Oh – and when will ministers travel again? A senior official left for an overseas visit last week and our contacts in Wellington tell us it was treated almost as though he was making the first flight to the moon.

Going away from NZ? What about the Covid-19 risks, how will quarantine be managed once home?  What of the risk that he might bring Covid back with him?

We are taking only a little levity here but there is a developing opinion that the Ardern government doesn’t have its act together. Continue reading “Psst! The whispers among diplomats in the capital draw attention to shortcomings on NZ’s foreign-policy front”

Thinking about the threat from Beijing and bringing Cabinet on side may be the explanation, if Jacinda seems distracted

If PM Jacinda Ardern looks more distracted and concerned these days she has good reason.  Housing, child poverty, economic recovery and Covid 19 might be sufficient, but there’s a foreign policy challenge looming: China.

Until very recently, New Zealand’s friends and allies, principally Australia and the US but also Singapore, Japan and South Korea, had reason to believe this country would continue its fence-sitting role with Beijing despite ominous developments in the People’s Republic.

The NZ business community, notably companies with extensive China links such as Fonterra, have hoped this Switzerland-type attitude might continue: you trade with both the good and the bad and you don’t make judgments. You let foreign governments run their own domestic affairs.

This is precisely the line from NZ that China and Russia gladly accept.  Never mind the internal repression, the quashing of democracy, the territorial land and seas grabs – let’s keep business rolling.

Times have changed and now NZ is on the cusp.  China is front and centre for the Cabinet.

Continue reading “Thinking about the threat from Beijing and bringing Cabinet on side may be the explanation, if Jacinda seems distracted”

Mahuta’s fixation with indigeneity leaves us curious about how she will grasp (delicately, no doubt) the Chinese nettle

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta could have – or should have? – addressed the Diplomatic Corps in Wellington long before now about the direction in which New Zealand’s foreign policy will be taken on her watch.  She has had the job for three months, after all.

But no.  The diplomats journeyed to the Bay of Islands, near the spot where “180 years of treaty partnership between the indigenous Maori inhabitants and the British settlers who arrived here” will be celebrated this weekend.

Wow.  That took care of “The Crown”.

The speech has been posted on The Beehive website along with –

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that Matariki will be celebrated on Friday 24 June next year. “Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday; a time for reflection and celebration, and our first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori,” she said.
  • A record quarterly high in the number of new homes consented is regarded in the Beehive as evidence that the residential building sector is responding to Government support to get new houses built.
  • The Government is welcoming the approval for the Ngā Ūranga ki Pito-one section of Te Ara Tupua, the walking and cycling link between Wellington and Lower Hutt.  The 4.5-kilometre long, five-metre wide shared path will run along Wellington Harbour’s coastal edge, away from State Highway 2 traffic.

Continue reading “Mahuta’s fixation with indigeneity leaves us curious about how she will grasp (delicately, no doubt) the Chinese nettle”

Five Eyes – it gives NZ a stronger voice as well as providing insights for shaping policy

Intelligence officials are discounting Helen Clark’s pronouncement that NZ has lost its “independence” through its participation in the Five Eyes intelligence arrangement that links NZ with Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. Her enthusiasm as prime minister for the flood of intelligence is well remembered by the intelligence community.

Rather, they say, in an increasingly troubled world, the arrangement is extending the flow of information and provides Wellington with a stronger voice. It has become a useful tool for promoting shared values and it remains an international forum in which NZ can play a significant role in shaping policy

Earlier this month, as China announced its final assumption of power in Hong Kong, the group issued a rebuke as Washington, London, Ottawa and Canberra criticised China for undermining the “one country, two systems” framework that was meant to determine Hong Kong’s future for 50 years after its handover from British rule in 1997. Continue reading “Five Eyes – it gives NZ a stronger voice as well as providing insights for shaping policy”

A Pacific sojourn for the PM should be relaxing, compared with other burning issues on NZ’s foreign policy agenda

Thank heavens for the Pacific!  PM Jacinda Ardern is off again, radiating good cheer and best wishes on her colleagues to the north.

She is headed for Tuvalu for the 50th Pacific Islands Forum, where climate change is expected to dominate discussions.

But this makes a change from her otherwise tedious round of foreign engagements.

Check: a wonderful ‘phone call with Boris Johnson, Britain’s most recent prime minister, promising priority for an NZ-UK free trade agreement.

Problem: US National Security Adviser John Bolton had just left the room promising Boris the UK would be “first off the rank” in a cracking US-UK free trade agreement, managed perhaps sector by sector (don’t mind World Trade Organisation strictures on such processes). Continue reading “A Pacific sojourn for the PM should be relaxing, compared with other burning issues on NZ’s foreign policy agenda”

Pacific Reset – what Labour really thinks about it will be seen when US ships arrive

Left-wing  blogger Chris Trotter,  in  one of his  recent essays, questions whether PM Jacinda Ardern is really running the government or is merely its figurehead.

He  cited  several  examples of the PM  appearing to be unaware  of  key policy decisions  and  questioned  whether allowing her leading Cabinet Ministers to simply get on with the job is a central feature of her management style.

I hope  not.  It would suggest that Ardern has chosen the role of figurehead rather than leader. That her job is to supply the warm and sympathetic face of the Coalition Government while the heavy-hitters of her Cabinet – Winston Peters, Grant Robertson, David Parker, Phil Twyford, Meagan Woods and Shane Jones – carry out the day-to-day business of governing the country”. Continue reading “Pacific Reset – what Labour really thinks about it will be seen when US ships arrive”