Govt should count the deportees sent back from Oz, then phone Canberra for tips on how to be rid of trouble-makers

In a lame explanation for the state’s failure to prevent the stabbings inside Coundown LynnMall on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the government has acted as quickly as it could to bring in changes to terrorism laws that will cover the planning of a terrorist act.

The Crown tried – and failed – to charge Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen under the Terrorism Suppression Act because planning to commit a terrorist attack is not an offence under current law.

Robertson said legislation to cover planning a terrorist attack, introduced this year, is well progressed and the select committee is close to completing its deliberations.

Slowly but surely – we are told – is the way to do things.

“In these areas it is important to get this right,” he told Morning Report.

“The consequences of getting it wrong are large, and from the government’s perspective we think the policy work has been done, the bill is in and the public have now had their say we now get on with passing that law.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the Immigration Act.

Robertson said work was under way with this legislation, too.

But could he and his government try picking up the pace?

At Point of Order, we say yes, it could – and if it wants to find out how, then a quick phone call to Scott Morrison across the ditch should provide some ideas. Continue reading “Govt should count the deportees sent back from Oz, then phone Canberra for tips on how to be rid of trouble-makers”

NZ does better than Australia at Covid messaging but signals a different approach

Jacinda Ardern’s government got better press than Scott Morrison’s when it announced details of its ‘reopening’ strategy earlier this week.

This may seem a surprise given that both governments have no immediate plans to actually reopen – rather the contrary in fact.

Continue reading “NZ does better than Australia at Covid messaging but signals a different approach”

The problem with Australia’s opening plan is that it closes things

Australian PM Scott Morrison is under pressure from a Delta Covid outbreak that just won’t go away and a vaccination programme which – what shall we say – lacks urgency.  

So it’s the right time to bring out a bold long-term plan for re-integrating Australia into the modern world.

Continue reading “The problem with Australia’s opening plan is that it closes things”

Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue

Trade minister Damien O’Connor dines with his UK counterpart Liz Truss tomorrow  to begin the heavy-lifting on a NZ-UK free trade agreement.

The early signs are ominous.  Ozzie PM Scott Morrison managed to attend part of the G7 meeting in Cornwell where Australia’s FTA agreement was raised with the UK’s Boris Johnson.

Morrison says he’s waiting for ‘the right deal’ before the UK-Australia free trade agreement (FTA) is finalised, and the UK is eager to launch its post-Brexit economy by securing free trade agreements covering 80% of its trade within the next three years.

The UK Department for International Trade believes a trade deal could secure an additional £900 million ($1.6 billion) in exports to Australia.

In 2019-20, two-way goods and services trade was valued at $36.7 billion, making the UK Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Morrison hopes to finalise the FTA tomorrow if certain issues can be dealt with.

But elements of the Australian FTA have created alarm within the UK. The National Farmers’ Union publicly begged for tariffs to remain on Australian beef and sheep.

NFU president Minette Batters says a tariff-free trade deal with Australia will jeopardise UK farming and could cause the demise of many, many beef and sheep farms throughout the UK.

There are several challenges for NZ.  It’s just as well, therefore, that O’Connor is accompanied by NZ trade supremo Vangelis Vitaly, a recognised world authority on trade policy.  Continue reading “Let’s wish O’Connor well, as he dines with UK Minister in quest to secure a free trade deal – but Aussies are higher in the queue”

Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget

It has taken nearly eight months of her prime ministership but finally the outlines of Jacinda Ardern’s foreign policy are beginning to take shape.

The Queenstown summit was a great success. You couldn’t have slipped a finer tissue paper between Ardern and Aussie PM Scott Morrison on China, the Indo-Pacific and regional security.

And Five-Eyes?

Perhaps not the latter because it is still not clear how this government views this age-old arrangement which began as a post-World War II intelligence-sharing exchange.

Ardern and her part-time foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta started off by claiming it should be kept as an intelligence-only organisation. Continue reading “Ardern says the right things about China but Foreign Affairs calls for more ministerial time and Defence needs a bigger budget”

China, CER, co-operation and Covid-19 will be on the agenda when Anzac leaders meet in Queenstown

Scott Morrison  may  be  looking for a  break  after a  tough year  when he arrives in Queenstown at  the weekend,  but there’s  a  heavy  agenda  awaiting him.  It’s time  for Australia  and  NZ  to  rekindle  the  spirit  of  CER,  as  they battle the  aftermath  of the Covid pandemic, and  confront an  increasingly assertive global  power  in  China.

The visit will be the first face-to-face meeting between Ardern and her Australian counterpart since NZ shut its borders due to the pandemic. Morrison last met with Ardern in Sydney in late-February 2020, the day the first Covid-19 case was discovered in NZ.

Ardern,  announcing the  visit, said the Covid-19 recovery, regional and security issues would be discussed.  Those  issues  have  become  more  acute.

On  one  side  there  is  growing evidence that  the  pandemic  arose  not  from transmission  from animals  in  Wuhan, but  from a state-owned laboratory  in that  city.

On  another front,  both  countries  are  making  only  slow progress  with their  vaccination  programmes  (which opens  up  the  issue:  why didn’t  the two  governments  co-operate   in setting  up  a joint programme  to  produce  under  licence  one or  more  of the vaccines?). Continue reading “China, CER, co-operation and Covid-19 will be on the agenda when Anzac leaders meet in Queenstown”

Aussie Budget is worth reading, if you want a steer to where Robertson will take us next week

New  Zealanders  who  want  a  preview   of  Finance  Minister  Grant   Robertson’s  budget  next week  need  only take a  quick  read   of the  latest  Australian   budget  presented  in Canberra  last  night.

The  Liberal-National  coalition  is  promising a  huge  spend-up,  with  the   Federal Treasurer, Josh  Frydenberg,  being immediately accused  of  delivering a  “Labor-lite” document.

As  in  NZ, Australia’s is a  deficit-laden budget as the leadership strives to sustain a recovery from a coronavirus-induced recession.

Setting  the scene, the Federal government  reminds  the voters: Continue reading “Aussie Budget is worth reading, if you want a steer to where Robertson will take us next week”

NZ comes into the reckoning as Aust lifts its defence capability while shifting focus to the Indo-Pacific region

The US is ramping up its pressure on China while Australia – focusing its defence policy on the Indo-Pacific – emphasises America’s critical role as a stabilising force in the region.  The Aussies regard NZ as a key player, too – and even the Americans now call us allies.

President Trump this week removed Hong Kong’s special status and now regards it as part of mainland China. Then David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said if Beijing continues to block Philippine access to fishing waters in Scarborough Shoal or militarise outcroppings there, the US would regard those as “a dangerous move.”

The US will no longer remain on the sidelines when China uses “gangster tactics” to get its way in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he said, noting that four years ago, an international arbitration panel ruled against China and said Scarborough Shoals belonged to the Philippines.

Beijing ignored the ruling, calling it “a piece of paper,” he recalled.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Beijing had failed to put forth a lawful, coherent maritime claim in the South China Sea. That means Washington accepts only Beijing’s territorial claims to 12 nautical miles from its coast or natural islands it controls.

China asserts it has territorial control of much of the South China Sea, bounded by what it calls the Nine-Dash Line and enforced by quasi-military installations built on artificial islands.

Australia’s Defence Strategic Update, unveiled last week, gives priority focus to its immediate region, defined as running from the eastern Indian Ocean through south-east Asia to Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific is now a priority focus.

Its new strategic objectives include shaping Australia’s strategic environment, deterring actions against its interests and respond with a “credible military force when required.” This is a significant shift as the 2016 Defence White Paper spread the effort over national, regional and global issues.

Launching the new document, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia had not seen such global, economic and strategic uncertainties since the 1930s. The Indo-Pacific was now the “epicentre of rising strategic competition” where the risk of miscalculation and even conflict is heightening.

Relations between China and the US were fractious at best. Australia’s interests lay in having an “open, sovereign Indo-Pacific, free from coercion and hegemony”.

In a separate speech, Defence Minister Marise Reynolds said Australia watched closely as China actively sought to gain greater influence in the Indo-Pacific and supported China when it pursued mutual interests in security, prosperity and stability.

The paper lists New Zealand as one of Australia’s “important partners” alongside Japan and the US which remains central to its planning and is “critical” to regional security and stability.

Canberra projects defence capability spending will reach around $A270bn until 2029-30.  This includes new frigates to replace the Anzacs, new submarines and the F-35 joint strike fighter.

The cost of new Defence equipment is considerable. For example, $A9.3bn is earmarked for area-denial with R and D into long-range hypersonic weapons; new long-range anti-ship missiles at $A800m; $A15bn on deployable ballistic missile defence and up to $A7bn on smart sea mines and underwater surveillance.

Then there is $A15bn to be spent on defensive and offensive cyber capabilities, command and control systems and electronic warfare systems, and $A7bn on space including Australia’s own satellite communications system.

This new focus on the Indo-Pacific at the expense of global operations (think of Afghanistan and Iraq) has been broadly endorsed by the Labor Party and confirms the largely bipartisan approach taken in Australia.

The new paper is being studied closely in NZ. At one end of the spectrum, it will be seen as yet another example of a “regional sheriff” but this overlooks how geographically close the region is to the Australian homeland – and the extent to which Canberra has invested heavily in the south-west Pacific.

Defence Minister Reynolds said the security environment had deteriorated far more quickly than predicted. This required a significant response and Australia acknowledged it had to do more “heavy lifting”, encourage others to do so and not rely on just one nation.

The US, she said, remained the “bedrock of peace and security in the region”.

How centre right parties win and lose elections these days

As New Zealand’s politicians contemplate a September election, are there lessons for them from the successes of right of centre parties in Australia, the US and UK – and their failure in Canada?

Caution is needed in drawing conclusions, given a few well-placed ballots can be the margin between radiant success and crushing failure.  Reference the election of Donald Trump with fewer votes than Hilary Clinton in 2016, and last year’s defeat of Andrew Scheer’s Canadian Conservatives despite winning more votes than Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party.

But one thing to reflect on is what right of centre parties stand for – and what the median voter thinks they stand for. Continue reading “How centre right parties win and lose elections these days”