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”

PM states the obvious about flagging Fonterra but RNZ fails to press her on the “what if” matter of a foreign takeover

The most important bit of government policy we gleaned from a Morning Report interview with the PM today is that  the government will not intervene to ensure the financial wellbeing of Fonterra and its 10,000 or so farmer suppliers because there’s no suggestion of it failing.

But if it does fail – what then?

A big dollop from the Provincial Growth Fund, perhaps.

After all, the PGF became the prospective source of financial help for the crippled Westland Milk before China’s Yili dairy company came to the rescue by taking it over.

Except that Shane Jones, the Minister in Charge of PGF Handouts, makes no secret of his unkind thoughts about Fonterra’s managers.

But Radio New Zealand’s Susie Ferguson did not press Jacinda Ardern on the question of what the Government would do if the country’s biggest company DID teeter on the brink of collapse – or was about to be sold to a foreign company. Continue reading “PM states the obvious about flagging Fonterra but RNZ fails to press her on the “what if” matter of a foreign takeover”

Mass shootings in US could trigger softening of Trump’s position on the Christchurch Call

Might the US now sign up to PM Jacinda Ardern’s call to  action after President  Donald Trump trenchantly denounced white supremacy in the wake of the mass shootings over the weekend in Texas and Ohio and cited the threat of “racist hate”?

The language was unequivocal:

In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” he said at the White House.

Trump avoided endorsing the kind of broad gun control measures Democrats and gun-control activists have sought for years, instead calling for stronger action to address mental illness, violence in the media and violent video games and warned  of the perils of the internet and social media. Continue reading “Mass shootings in US could trigger softening of Trump’s position on the Christchurch Call”

Sure, the PM made the Vogue cover – but polls suggest some of the lustre has been lost

PM Jacinda Ardern has been flying her government’s flag in the  Tokelaus,  as  well  as  featuring on the cover  of  Vogue,  achievements  few of  her  predecessors   have managed.

Such  events   have almost  certainly  strengthened  the  conviction of  those  who believe   she has  focussed  the eyes of the world as never before   on this country.

In  any case, when  Opposition  Leader  Simon Bridges  attacked Ardern  for  being  a  “part-time prime minister”  it  was almost  as if he had committed  some  kind of  sacrilege.  The  NZ Herald’s cartoonist reacted  with what he no doubt thought was a  clever  drawing  showing Bridges scraping  the bottom of the barrel.

Ardern’s  mate  Grant  Robertson  was  hot under the collar, too.  He raged that Bridges  had  been  “disrespectful to the office of  prime minister”  and was engaging  in  “dirty politics”.  Not  only that, but there  were  “sexist overtones”   in   what Bridges  was  saying. Continue reading “Sure, the PM made the Vogue cover – but polls suggest some of the lustre has been lost”

The omens are promising for a US-NZ free trade agreement – but our PM must meet with Trump

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has done the hard yards, trade officials and diplomats have put in long hours – but NZ won’t achieve a free trade agreement with the US until PM Jacinda Ardern sees President Donald Trump.  That’s the way these things work.

New British PM Boris Johnson has already been on the phone to Trump and this week his new trade minister, Liz Truss, is heading to Washington DC, on much the same lines as Peters  has pursued.

Trump says he is keen to do a deal with the Brits – in part to thumb the US nose at Europe and bring the UK closer into the US orbit.

Our contacts in the US capital believe that, at official level, all the signs are right to launch a US-NZ FTA round. Both parties want to dance. Continue reading “The omens are promising for a US-NZ free trade agreement – but our PM must meet with Trump”

Ardern and Peters at odds on China’s expansion into the Pacific

PM Jacinda Ardern isn’t too fussed about China’s expansion in the Pacific.

This is hardly surprising since she has been in Samoa, a recipient of recent Chinese largesse.  But it does reinforce the view among NZ officials that she and Foreign Minister Winston Peters do not see eye to eye on the issue.  On Peters’ recent Washington DC visit he reiterated his concerns; these are shared by the US, which is planning to ramp up its activity in the region.

Ardern’s  sangfroid is not shared across the Tasman.  There, Australia and the US have expressed concern about Cambodia giving China exclusive rights to a Cambodian naval installation in the Gulf of Thailand in a hitherto undisclosed agreement. Continue reading “Ardern and Peters at odds on China’s expansion into the Pacific”

Law and order rules are being rewritten as Ardern bridles at accusations of leadership failure

It has been a momentous week for the country’s justice system and old-fashioned notions of “law and order”.

First, the Ardern government has said it is considering a report which  recommends the abolition of prisons.  A Maori-led review of the justice system is also urged by this report.

Second, the PM has intervened in a land dispute in Auckland and thereby over-ridden the role of the courts.  

Getting rid of prisons is the remedy ingeniously proposed to reduce the high ratio of Maori inmates in our prisons.

The proposal is contained in the Ināia Tonu Nei: Māori Justice Hui report (here) released during the week. Continue reading “Law and order rules are being rewritten as Ardern bridles at accusations of leadership failure”