PM traces shift in our independent foreign policy under Labour – and rails against ‘morally bankrupt’ United Nations

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, enjoying her  global celebrity  status  in Australia,  has  also succeeded in  clawing back  her  poll  ratings  in New Zealand.   According  to the  Roy Morgan  poll,  Labour has  risen  a  couple  of  points  to   33.5%  while  National has  edged  back a  point  to 39% since  May.

On the  Roy Morgan  sampling, the  Maori Party  would  hold  the balance  of  power.   Given the  apparent distaste of that party’s two members  in Parliament  for  parties  of the  Right, this could ensure  Labour  has  another term .

Ardern brushed off  a  question on the  ABC  about her  global celebrity  status, saying  her  total  focus  was  at  home.

“That  is  what matters  to  me”.

Nevertheless  her major  speech  in  Australia, to  the  Lowy Institute,  centred on  NZ’s  foreign  policy  and  traced  how  far   NZ  has moved since  Labour  took office in 2017. Continue reading “PM traces shift in our independent foreign policy under Labour – and rails against ‘morally bankrupt’ United Nations”

Yes, the speed limit (on one stretch of our roads) has been lifted but Wood must do much more to rate with Bob Semple

Buzz from the Beehive

Transport  Minister Michael  Wood   has been  busy  beating   his drum  over  the  move  to lift  the  speed  limit on the Waikato Expressway to  110km/h, between Hampton Downs and Tamahere.

He  points  out that the Waikato Expressway is a key transport route for the Waikato region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of the central North Island.  The features making it safer for travelling at higher speeds include having at least two lanes in each direction, a central median barrier, and no significant curves.

His press statement was among those to flow from the Beehive since Point of Order’s previous Buzz, including news of further support for Ukraine:

  • $4.5 million to provide Ukraine with additional non-lethal equipment and supplies such as medical kit for the Ukrainian Army
  • Deployments extended for New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) intelligence, logistics and liaison officers in the UK, Germany, and Belgium
  • Secondment of a senior New Zealand military officer to support International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations, and additional funding to the ICC, including the Trust Fund for Victims.

Continue reading “Yes, the speed limit (on one stretch of our roads) has been lifted but Wood must do much more to rate with Bob Semple”

Impeding food production with taxes on emissions is a bad idea when the world is tipping towards mass hunger

As the war in  the Ukraine drags  on, the  international   food  crisis  is  deepening. The  Economist put it  simply but grimly:

“The war is tipping a  fragile  world towards  mass  hunger. Fixing that is  everyone’s  business”.  

So  shouldn’t  the  New Zealand Government   be  exhorting  farmers to  go  all out to produce  as  much  as  they  can   for  this  country  to be  lifting  its  food  exports?  Is   this  the  time   for  the  government  to be erecting  new  hurdles to impede the  production  of  food?  Shouldn’t  it  delay  the  plan  to tax methane emissions for  at  least  12  months? 

Let’s look  at what  The  Economist further said:

“The  war is  battering a  global food  system weakened   by  Covid-19, climate  change,  and  an energy  shock.  Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened.

“Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.   

“The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten ‘the spectre of a global food shortage’. The  high cost  staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn.

“Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve.”

 ANZ Bank  economist Susan Kilsby, in her recent edition of the  bank’s Agri-focus, said global food prices continue to strengthen as shortages loom for basic foods such as grains.

“This means there will also be a shortage of carbohydrates to feed livestock. This won’t directly impact New Zealand food production systems, but it will impact our competitors who rely on grain to produce beef and milk. At the same time, the price of growing pasture has also gone up, as global fertiliser costs have soared.”

The shortages of those basic feed stocks would underpin global production costs and keep production in check, but it would also erode the ability of poorer countries to import the higher-value foods that New Zealand exports, Kilbsy said.

The recent lockdowns in China had disrupted supply chains and impacted demand for some of the food products we export to China.

They also were having a significant impact on the economies of many other Asian nations.

“China plans to increase fiscal spending to offset some of the impacts of the lockdowns, but the direct impact of the disruptions to supply chains will be felt even harder in many other Asian nations.

“The quantity of New Zealand’s meat, dairy and horticultural goods available for export globally has been impacted by either detrimental weather or labour shortages.”

Kilsby noted that He Waka Eke Noa has delivered its recommendations for pricing agricultural emissions and the Government is expected to formally adopt these recommendations in December.

“Methane emissions pricing is expected to have a larger impact on deer, sheep and beef farms than dairy farms.”  

Point  of  Order  notes  that the  government  has  been  silent  on  these  issues  (admittedly Agricultural Minister Damien  O’Connor  has  been on  missions  abroad).

But  surely   this  is time for  it to  take  the  lead  in   striving to  expand  the country’s food  production  and  exports to feed a world which The Economist says is headed for mass hunger.

Buzz from the Beehive – lots of spending, some foreign affairs initiatives and (be nervous, readers) a review of our electoral laws

Just in case the affected voters and constituencies haven’t bothered to check how much funding they are being given in Budget 2022 (or how much they have  lost in some cases), ministers have been letting them know in post-Budget press statements.

At least, they have been letting them know when the sums have been increased. They tend not to draw attention to budgets that have been cut.

Today we learn that – Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive – lots of spending, some foreign affairs initiatives and (be nervous, readers) a review of our electoral laws”

Buzz from the Beehive: Aussie PM is congratulated, US trade mission is announced, and a quintet gives war criminals cause to quaver

The country’s international relationships have loomed large in Beehive announcements since Friday.

One press statement – from the PM – congratulated Anthony Albanese and the Australian Labor Party on winning the Australian Federal election.  Jacinda Ardern said:

“Australia is our most important partner, our only official ally and single economic market relationship, and I believe our countries will work even more closely together in these tumultuous times.”

Ardern hopes to meet Albanese “in the near future” and looks forward to working with him on a range of issues including supporting New Zealanders living in Australia, making trans-Tasman business even easier, deepening our partnership with our close friends in the Pacific, and advancing our interests on the world stage.

A statement this morning announced the PM will lead a trade mission to the United States this week to support export growth and the return of tourists post COVID-19. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Aussie PM is congratulated, US trade mission is announced, and a quintet gives war criminals cause to quaver”

Buzz from the Beehive: $55 million for a bashful bunch of builders and a belated patch-up on the Solomon Islands

Another day, another Crown:iwi partnership, this time a deal between the Government and Toitū Tairāwhiti to build homes for families “who need them most”.  In this case ethnicity is the critical factor in determining this need.

On the international front, meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahua has named a new high commissioner to Solomon Islands, presumably (and belatedly) to repair the “relationship failure” she acknowledged when she confirmed that New Zealand, Australia and other Pacific nations were caught out by China’s security deal with Solomon Islands.

Mahuta said of the appointment:

“Alongside our Pacific neighbours, New Zealand remains committed to supporting stability in Solomon Islands and promoting a peaceful and secure Pacific region. We know ensuring strong diplomatic relationships is more important than ever as we continue to address the need for cooperation and cohesion across the region.”

The government isn’t telling us much about its partner in the housing venture in which it is investing $55 million..

Housing Minister Megan Woods gives us its name:

“Our commitment to working with partners like Toitū Tairāwhiti on the critical issue of improving housing for Māori is stronger than ever.”

And

“Through this innovative partnership, $55 million of investment from the Whai Kāinga Whai Oranga fund has been approved to enable Toitū Tairāwhiti to deliver up to 150 new homes.”

She further says Toitū Tairāwhiti were identified through the National Iwi Chairs Forum last year as an iwi ready to partner with the Government to deliver Māori housing in their rohe.

They have already built 51 new homes for whānau in the Eastern Bay of Plenty/Tairāwhiti region. This investment will help them to build 150 more.

But when Point of Order searched for Toitū Tairāwhiti on the internet, we failed to find a website with that name.  We did find a link to the Minister’s press statement, however – it was at the top of the list of Google’s responses.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development gives us a steer,  describing Toitū Tairāwhiti as six Iwi groups that stretch across the East Coast region which

“… has produced a plan to develop immediate housing outcomes where no current supply exists.”

News of the handout for housing and the diplomat headed for Honiara was among a handful of statements posted on the Beehive website since our previous report on what ministers are doing.

Others dealt with new sanctions targeting disinformation and those responsible for cyber attacks on Ukraine and the protection of whistleblowers.

Latest from the Beehive

11 MAY 2022

Government partners with Toitū Tairāwhiti to deliver up to 150 new homes for whānau

Up to 150 new homes will be built for whānau who need them most thanks to a new partnership between the Government and Toitū Tairāwhiti, Minister of Housing Hon Dr Megan Woods and Associate Minister of Housing (Māori Housing) Peeni Henare have announced.

10 MAY 2022

New sanctions target disinformation and malicious cyber actors

As part of the Government’s ongoing response to Ukraine, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced new sanctions targeting disinformation and those responsible for cyber attacks on Ukraine.

Government bolsters protection for whistleblowers

Significant improvements are being made in New Zealand workplaces to better protect whistleblowers.

New High Commissioner to Solomon Islands announced

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Jonathan Schwass as New Zealand’s next High Commissioner to Solomon Islands.

Reading for Putin

While he won’t have time at the moment, Russia’s Vladimir Putin might profit from flicking through ‘The Day Will Pass Away: The Diary of a Gulag Prison Guard 1935-1936’ by Ivan Chistyakov and published by Pegasus Books.

He might pause on the passage on page 38:

“27 December 1935. Commissioner Morozov [Frost in Russian] from the Third Section: what can he actually do, what guidance is he supposed to offer, when he doesn’t have a clue about the situation or the measures we have already taken, when he doesn’t know that we have already tried everything, we’re not our own enemies, and we’re not trying to get ourselves awarded fatigue details or arrested.  All they do is swear at us, punish us: the commissioner, the political adviser, the company commander, the head of the Third Section. That’s all any of them can do. Who is there to advise, support and explain? Nobody. Just get on with your job!”

The ring is familiar to anyone who has been in a bureaucratic hierarchy under impossible pressures.

Which brings out the importance of the degree of choice in any system.

Not that there was very much of that in Chistyakov’s case.  In the summer, he was a Muscovite technician, unconscripted, catching the tram to work and going to concerts.

By Christmas time, he was working in 50 degrees of frost, sleeping in all his clothes and dreaming that the bathhouse might get fixed.  As a prison guard officer, he was well up the hierarchy.

His diary entries suggest that his incentive to do his job (or be seen to do it) was the implicit threat that he might drop down to join the zeks.  Their incentive – also effective – was a sliding scale of daily bread ration, from 2 kg to 100 grams.

You might suspect that keeping a diary was a sign that he wasn’t cut out for the job.  In any event he was ‘repressed’ a year later and presumably joined the prison population.  In 1941, he died at the front near the town of Tula, not far from his beloved Moscow.

Now Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s version of the system has come a long way in the last eighty years and we can comfortably assure ourselves that its brutality is substantially mitigated.  It is unquestionably less bad.

But strip away the material improvements and the essentials look pretty similar.

That is important for understanding what is happening in Ukraine right now.

Putin acquired power by offering Russians more attractive choices than others.  But they look less attractive now – particularly for the soldiers called upon to fight and perhaps die on Chistyakov’s battlefields of eighty years ago.

The choices for military age Ukrainian men might not seem terribly good to us, but they have better and more honourable choices than Russians.  And so far that seems to march with a greater willingness to fight.

The latest reports from well-informed observers like the Institute for the Study of War suggest that the Russian military is regrouping and using its weight of materiel to grind out a solution in the east.  Enough to avoid toppling the structure of choices which Putin has been erecting since his presidential inauguration on 7 May 2000.

An embarrassment of choices too for us in the west.  Many of them hard. Whether to give Ukrainian fighting men the equipment they need to win – or just to survive? Whether to continue to pay record prices for Russian carbon? Whether it is realistic to tell voters that the costs are all going to be carried by multinational companies? Whether it is in our interests to aim for a stalemate that minimises our own short-term financial damage?

Or even whether to try to help change the choices available to today’s Ivan Chistyakovs.

Buzz from the Beehive – and our science minister proudly declares her position on mātauranga Māori

Here’s what our Ministers have been up to over the past 24 hours (at least, here’s what they have proclaimed, announced or disclosed in press statements).

One statement landed in our in-tray around the same time as we were posting our report on the tohunga and the knowledge he brings to the challenge of fog dispersal at airports.  It came from Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, who declared she was proud to be backing mātauranga Māori scientific research.

In effect, she has also declared where she stands in the controversy  that has split the science community on mātauranga Māori and science.

Latest from the Beehive

13 APRIL 2022

COVID-19 research fund for future health planning

Researchers looking at the COVID-19 pandemic are being invited to apply for grants from a new fund.

C-130 Hercules departs for Europe to support Ukraine

A New Zealand Defence Force C-130H transport aircraft departed for Europe today to help partner militaries support Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion, Defence Minister Peeni Henare

12 APRIL 2022

Winter tourism gets a lift with new ski workers

Winter tourism is getting a lift from a Government decision to allow 275 experienced workers to enter the country to support businesses operating ski fields and snow sports destinations.

Chris Black, Ruth Dyson appointed as Chair, Deputy Chair of EQC Board

Recently retired chief executive of the Farmers’ Mutual Group, Chris Black, and former Christchurch MP, Ruth Dyson have been appointed Chair and Deputy Chair of the Earthquake Commission Board.

Government delivering improvements to children’s lives

The Government has released its first statutory Annual Report for the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and its third Child Poverty Related Indicators Report.

Proud to be backing mātauranga Māori scientific research

Sixteen projects including a horticultural and food enterprise, a study into intergenerational iwi knowledge, and ways of bringing traditional and modern engineering streams together will receive funding through the latest round of the Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund.

Where Boris goes, we go – govt deployment to help Ukraine is agreed in response to UK request for logistical support

“NZ troops to  help Ukraine”  blared the   headline on the Dominion-Post’s  front page this morning.  Full  marks   for phrasing  it  so  delicately.

The Ardern  government, which  only  last  week  appeared  to   be  stepping  back from  considering  what it  called  “lethal aid”  to  war-torn Ukraine, reversed  that  stand on  Monday.  Now  it is  dispatching  one  of  its     Hercules  to  Europe with  around 50 service  personnel.

Cabinet  looked  at  sending a  contingent  of  LAVs,   and  also Javelin  missile launchers, but  set  those  aside.

Announcing  the  deployment, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern  said: Continue reading “Where Boris goes, we go – govt deployment to help Ukraine is agreed in response to UK request for logistical support”

Buzz from the Beehive: While Shaw grapples with gases, the PM will be jetting off to promote trade

Here’s what our Ministers have been up to over the past 24 hours (at least, here’s what they have proclaimed, announced or disclosed in press statements).

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta’s attention has been diverted (all too briefly, we fear) from the Three Waters programme to helping the people of Ukraine.

Actually, the deployment of a C-130H Hercules and 50-strong team to Europe to further support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion was made by the PM, but Mahuta’s name – and the name of Defence Minister Peeni Henare – are included in the press statement.

The PM also announced her intention to lead a trade mission to Singapore and Japan.  While she is in Singapore (Point of Order suggests) she should check out the way the government there deals with a potentially volatile mix of races.

Latest from the Beehive

12 APRIL 2022

Aotearoa primed to go further and faster to cut emissions and limit warming

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says today’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory release from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) underlines the case for accelerated action to reduce emissions.

Primary sector workforce support in dairy, meat and forestry

Critical skills gaps in the primary sector are being eased with a decision that opens the door for 1,580 additional experienced workers to come to New Zealand for jobs in the dairy industry, meat processing, and forestry.

11 APRIL 2022

New Zealand sends C130 Hercules and 50-strong team to Europe to support Ukraine

The Government will deploy a C-130H Hercules and 50-strong team to Europe to further support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

Prime Minister to lead trade mission to Singapore and Japan

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead a trade mission to Singapore and Japan to support New Zealand’s economic rebuild through reconnecting with two of its closest Indo-Pacific economic and security partners.