NZ forces take part in Five Power exercise in S.E.Asia – Henare may head for Malaysia soon, too

Both the RNZAF and RNZN are deeply engaged in Bersama Gold 2021, an exercise under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) linking Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom and now under way in the waters between Malaysia and Singapore.

In one of the biggest deployments in recent times, the RNZAF has sent a P-3K2 Orion and the navy the fleet replenishment ship HMNZ Aotearoa and the frigate HMNZS Te Kaha. The latter will join the exercise after completing a week of sailing with the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21 in the South China Sea.

Our contacts are coy about whether this might involve Te Kaha in a transit of the Taiwan Straits with the carrier strike group.

The FPDA is an arrangement in which all five countries agree to consult one another on measures taken separately or together in response to any attack or threat of attack to Malaysia or Singapore. Under the FPDA several exercises have been held since the formation of the agreement in 1971.

The ongoing Bersama Gold 2021 exercise is an enlarged biennial Bersama Shield exercise but  was renamed to Gold to reflect the 50th anniversary of the FPDA. Continue reading “NZ forces take part in Five Power exercise in S.E.Asia – Henare may head for Malaysia soon, too”

Aussie ministers head overseas on defence and security mission – their Kiwi counterparts seem to prefer foreign affairs via Zoom

Australia’s defense and foreign affairs ministers have begun a four-nation tour to press economic and security relationships within the Asia-Pacific region as tensions rise with China.

Peter Dutton and Marise Payne are visiting Indonesia, India and South Korea and will  end their travels in the United States.  In Washington DC they hope to conclude a raft of major defence and strategic agreements, including the provision of new missile technology.

This raises the question of New Zealand’s Defence Minister, Peeni Henare, and his handling of those sorts of issues.  Apart from issuing the occasional media statement, he seems to be missing in action.

True, he does have other portfolios – Minister of Whanau Ora and associate minister of Health, Housing and Tourism.  Beehive insiders say he seems to pay little attention to the Defence portfolio.

As with his mentor, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, he is said to be reluctant to travel.  This  seems at odds with the demands of both portfolios because each of them requires a network of personal contacts, which is impossible to sustain by Zoom. Continue reading “Aussie ministers head overseas on defence and security mission – their Kiwi counterparts seem to prefer foreign affairs via Zoom”

From Covid lockdown to Kabul – Hercules takes off on evacuation mission

It’s out of the Covid frying pan in Auckland and into the fire of Afghanistan for a  Defence Force deployment charged with evacuating Kiwi nationals and Afghan allies from that benighted country.

We learned of this from a Stuff account of the PM’s 1pm Covid-19 press conference, when she said Cabinet had approved up to 80 personnel to support the international response.

According to Stuff, an Air Force C130 Hercules departed Auckland at about 10.20am today, carrying some of the contingent. Continue reading “From Covid lockdown to Kabul – Hercules takes off on evacuation mission”

Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending

Labour  Defence  Minister  Peeni Henare  has  signalled the  government  is  planning  to  trim   the defence  budget.  He says Covid-19 means the Budget is now much tighter and defence will look different under Labour than it did under its coalition with NZ First.   

This  comes as  Australia, New Zealand’s primary ally,  is pursuing a defence strategy aimed at countering the rise of China, while warning that Australia faces regional challenges on a scale not seen since World War II.  

Australia is  re-equipping  its  armed  forces  with a  10-year  budget  of  $A270m. But  for NZ, the  planned $20bn outlay on  new defence equipment  is the latest Covid-19 casualty, with a range of options to scale it down now before the finance minister.

The major investment in a range of new military hardware and upgrade was announced by former Defence Minister and NZ First MP Ron Mark in 2019 .

Henare says that when he got the job last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “was quite clear that she wanted Labour, us, to put our fingerprint on defence”, but what that looks like would be influenced by Covid-19. Continue reading “Money is tight for some things on Ardern’s watch – her Defence Minister has signalled a fiscal assault on military spending”

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”

Xmas thoughts on the redistribution of our wealth: tax collectors have the claws to grab it for politicians to play Santa

sowell
Thomas Sowell … he shares his thoughts on Santa and political handouts.

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has alerted us not to the latest bucket of government handouts (seasonally gift-wrapped) but to an observation from American economist Thomas Sowell which mentions both government grants and Santa Claus in a few pithy sentences.

We were tempted to draw Shane Jones’ attention to Sowell’s observation but – hey – it’s Christmas. And why pick on him for special mention?

All ministers have some say in the redistribution of the billions of dollars collected by the Inland Revenue Department.

And we note that Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare yesterday confirmed an extra $50,000 to assist the Whakatāne community with immediate needs following the eruption of Whakaari White Island.

The contribution will be made to the Whakatāne District Council Mayoral Relief Fund and follows an earlier Government contribution of $50,000 to the fund. Continue reading “Xmas thoughts on the redistribution of our wealth: tax collectors have the claws to grab it for politicians to play Santa”

It helps to be targeted, when the govt sets out to improve the wellbeing of a few vulnerable citizens

The word “targeted” – when the Government brays about its spending decisions – can camouflage a great deal.

In the case of “targeted social support funding for 450 Manawatū-Whanganui whānau“, announced during the week, it camouflages the government’s emphasis on ethnic considerations. 

The statement was issued in the names of Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare, who said the expansion of an iwi, community and government initiative will improve the wellbeing “of 450 of our most vulnerable Manawatū-Whanganui families”.

But it appears that non-Maori – no matter how desperate their plight or how vulnerable they might be – aren’t too high on the list of the 450 selected to have their wellbeing improved.

This impression was strengthened when the Ministers said:
Continue reading “It helps to be targeted, when the govt sets out to improve the wellbeing of a few vulnerable citizens”

Watching the troughs: how did the politicians dish out our money this week?

Point of Order is keeping an eye on how taxpayers’ money is being spent – or given away – by the Ardern Government.

Ministers typically get a warm glow from announcing spending decisions, grants or the establishment of new troughs within the authority of their portfolios.

Last week we added up the figures they injected into their press statements over the previous seven days. Our tally was $290.6 million (much of this accounted for in one grand announcement for scientific research from Megan Woods).
Continue reading “Watching the troughs: how did the politicians dish out our money this week?”