Polls portend the toppling of Peters and his extraordinary political career – replacing him in Foreign Affairs won’t be easy

Will  we  miss him  when  he is  gone?

Love him  or  loathe  him,  Winston  Peters   is  one   of the  extraordinary  characters  on the  NZ  political  stage.  Through  his  remarkable  career,   he  has  registered   the  highs — and  lows — of  politics.

But  now  after  his  latest stint  as  Deputy Prime Minister  and  Foreign  Minister, the latest opinion polling show he is  facing political  oblivion.  NZ  First’s support  has shrunk to  just 1%.

This  perhaps  comes  as  no  surprise    after   the  financial  shenanigans  involving    the  NZ  First  Foundation,  despite  Peters   asserting  the  party  and  MPs   have been  “exonerated”.

 The  Serious  Fraud  Office  announced  last week  that two  people  are  being charged  after  a  probe  into  the  foundation.

The   SFO investigation discovered  credible  evidence   of   criminal  wrongdoing   at  the foundation,  which has  no other purpose  than to  serve  the  NZ  First  Party.

No matter how  Peters rails  against  the  SFO,  the  hard  truth  is that one of the  country’s  major  law  enforcement  agencies  is charging  two  people  with  connections  to the  NZ  First  Party, even if  they  are  not current members  of it. Continue reading “Polls portend the toppling of Peters and his extraordinary political career – replacing him in Foreign Affairs won’t be easy”

MFAT is dealing with Trump and the world as it is on Peters’ watch, not as Kiwis might want it to be

Foreign Minister Winston Peters, despite his Northland isolation, has been working the phones with global counterparts from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pacific leaders.

His recognition that NZ has to deal with what it has and the way things are is said to have energised Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a way not experienced in recent times.

We might think the Australians have displayed less than the true Anzac spirit and the NZ vox pop doesn’t care much for Donald Trump, but he is President of the United States and MFAT doesn’t deal with what New Zealanders might wish for.

Lambton Quay contacts tell Point of Order the US Administration has been extremely helpful to NZ on several issues including extracting cruise liner passengers who would have been otherwise impossibly stranded,  with the White House pitching in to deal with state governors, port authorities, various US agencies and unhelpful mayors. All this has been done under the radar. Continue reading “MFAT is dealing with Trump and the world as it is on Peters’ watch, not as Kiwis might want it to be”

Cronyism scandal: Aussies join NZ in holding money back from the Commonwealth Secretariat

It’s great to hear the Anzacs are sticking together and Australia has joined New Zealand in withholding funds from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The Sydney Morning Herald says the Morrison government will slash funding to the secretariat in retaliation to a cronyism scandal that has sparked an international feud over its secretary-general.

In a decision that undermines Baroness Patricia Scotland’s plan to remain in the top post, Australia has cut $800,000 from a fund earmarked for the London-based Commonwealth body and will refuse to hand over the remaining $500,000 unless flaws in how it operates and hands out lucrative contracts are fixed.

As Point of Order reported on February 1, New Zealand is withholding $3 million of funding for the secretariat.

A brief statement has been issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Continue reading “Cronyism scandal: Aussies join NZ in holding money back from the Commonwealth Secretariat”

Why Peters should put the PGF aside for a moment and tell us about NZ’s relationship with the Commonwealth

It’s not like Winston Peters to miss an opportunity to make the headlines.

Point of Order accordingly is bemused by a report in London’s Daily Mail about New Zealand deciding to hold on to 2.5 million pounds owing to the Commonwealth Secretariat.

This amounts to a saving to taxpayers of more than $5 million in NZ dollars – something we thought Peters would want to crow about.

But it isn’t mentioned in any of the dozen or so press statements from Peters’ office so far this year.

Hence we have cause to be sceptical.

For what it’s worth, a Daily Mail report yesterday was headed Baroness Scotland is hit by £2.5m cash snub as New Zealand pulls funds from her Commonwealth Office because it has ‘no confidence in how she’s running it’

The report tells us: Continue reading “Why Peters should put the PGF aside for a moment and tell us about NZ’s relationship with the Commonwealth”

Speculation builds on Brook Barrington’s successor to take charge at MFAT

Cabinet’s appointments committee meets shortly for the last time this year and one of its principal agenda items will be finding a new CEO for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade to replace Brook Barrington, who will take over as head of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet in February.

There has been some interesting twists to the process. As with all CEO appointments, it is run by the State Services Commission which engages a specialist recruiting firm. However, Commissioner Peter Hughes has faced down criticism from within the public service and beyond after he used a little-known clause of the legislation when he despatched current DPMC CEO Andrew Kibblewhite to Justice and moved Justice CEO Andrew Bridgman to Ministry of Defence and Barrington to DPMC.

Continue reading “Speculation builds on Brook Barrington’s successor to take charge at MFAT”

Greens are among the few grinches as political and business leaders welcome CPTPP

Trade and Export Minister David Parker  this week couldn’t disguise  the satisfaction  he  got out of announcing  the CPTPP trade and investment pact  comes into  effect next month.  The  timing means  NZ  will benefit from not one,  but two rounds, of  tariff cuts  almost  immediately  in key markets.

Even though  Labour  was  cool  about the proposed pact when  National  was in power    – and doing the hard yards in negotiations – Parker  can take the  credit for  getting  the  job  done, just as   National  took the  credit for the free  trade pact with China  which the previous  Labour government had initiated.

Continue reading “Greens are among the few grinches as political and business leaders welcome CPTPP”

Peters leads NZ away from trying to balance relations with US and China

A seismic shift is under way in NZ’s geopolitical relationships. Led by Foreign Minister Winston Peters, the Coalition government has eased away from the previous National government’s ready accommodation with China and the presumption that NZ could easily balance United States and China relations to a more hard-nosed approach.  Several elements have contributed.

First, a powerful pro-Beijing faction in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has lost influence.

Second, the present government is more attuned to current geopolitical shifts in NZ’s immediate north-west. Now there is a new, sharper understanding of the implications of a move by China into contacts with NZ’s immediate Pacific environment such as the Cook Islands. Continue reading “Peters leads NZ away from trying to balance relations with US and China”

Diplomatic appointments attest to Peters’ progress in revitalising MFAT

Winston  Peters has been  flexing  his  political  muscle  so vigorously in recent weeks  it  has   drawn  attention away  from   his  diplomatic   activity.

He  made it   clear,  when he  took over the  Foreign  Affairs  portfolio, that he  was intent on  rebuilding morale in the  ministry and  extending  New Zealand’s  diplomatic  reach.

He   underlines these  objectives   when he  announced  several new  diplomatic  appointments, notably  with the posting of Brad Burgess  as NZ’s first Ambassador to Ireland.  He says Burgess is ideally suited to the role. As resident Ambassador, he will support NZ’s interests both in Ireland and, more broadly, in Europe as the negotiations toward the EU-New Zealand FTA are in progress. Continue reading “Diplomatic appointments attest to Peters’ progress in revitalising MFAT”

Wanted: a CEO who can bring lost prestige back to MFAT

The mega shuffle of public service CEOs  (which   Point of  Order   noted  in  a   June  13 post, State Services: What’s behind the “Upheaval”) throws up some  significant challenges for the States Services Commission.

Most interest is focused on a   replacement  for  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s CEO, Dr Brook Barrington, who will move to the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet early next year to become, in effect, the government’s senior public adviser.

The State Services Commission – and probably Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters – will be reluctant to follow Murray McCully’s example in the last government of bringing in a private-sector replacement CEO.  MFAT itself has two good candidates: Bede Corry, currently deputy CEO, and Chris Seed, about to finish his term as high commissioner in Canberra.

Given Peters’ early pronouncement of Australia constituting NZ’s most important diplomatic relationship, Seed may have his nose in front. Continue reading “Wanted: a CEO who can bring lost prestige back to MFAT”