Political Roundup: NZ’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership

* Geoffrey Miller writes –

 Times are changing in New Zealand foreign policy.

That seems to be the message from New Zealand’s new triumvirate of ministers with responsibility for foreign affairs and defence – Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta and defence minister Andrew Little.

Jacinda Ardern’s departure as Prime Minister was always going to provide an opportunity to adjust New Zealand’s positioning. In particular, Hipkins’ decision to appoint Andrew Little as defence minister – replacing Peeni Henare – seems to have been a strategic move.

From the top, Hipkins has struck a more ideological tone in his most substantive comments on foreign policy to date, promising in a recent interview that New Zealand would maintain ‘steadfast support for Ukraine and its people as they continue to defend their homeland, and in doing so, the principles that we hold dear’.

The comments appeared notably more forceful than what amounted to the final word on Ukraine made by Jacinda Ardern while she was Prime Minister, made in mid-December when the New Zealand Parliament hosted a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Continue reading “Political Roundup: NZ’s foreign policy hardens under new leadership”

Maori caucus – by the looks of things – has had a say in who should benefit from $15m of cyclone relief funding

Buzz from the beehive

Point of Order hasn’t kept count of the millions of dollars the Government has been pouring into cyclone-devastated communities in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

But we don’t recall the several announcements suggesting there might be a discriminatory element to the way the beneficiaries would be determined. If there was a need for help, then that’s where the money would go, although – fair enough – funding for farmers would probably go to farmers, and funding for horticulturalists would go to horticulturalists. And so on.

The assistance announced today, on the other hand, reminds us that the Maori Caucus still carries a lot of clout within the Government despite the change of leadership and signs given by the new prime minister that he would be easing back on politically ticklish issues such as co-governance.

And the Maori caucus unabashedly sees things through an ethnocentric lens, especially when public funding is up for grabs.

Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson and Minister for Whānau Ora Hon Peeni Henare announced a new funding package while meeting with whānau at Waipatu Marae in Hastings today.   Continue reading “Maori caucus – by the looks of things – has had a say in who should benefit from $15m of cyclone relief funding”

Two  views of how the war in the Ukraine is impacting on  a small  country in the Pacific  

Last  year,  when she  was  still Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern described the state of world affairs as “bloody messy”. Since then there have been few, if any, signs of improvement.  The   war in Ukraine delivered an economic  jolt to NZ, and  its effects  have  barely  dissipated. The war’s expansion would bring more pain for local business and consumers.

Without the military or economic scale to influence events directly, NZ relies on its voice and ability to persuade.

But by placing its faith in a rules-based order and United Nations processes, it also has to work with – and sometimes around – highly imperfect systems. In some areas of international law and policy, the machinery is failing. It’s unclear what the next best step might be. Continue reading “Two  views of how the war in the Ukraine is impacting on  a small  country in the Pacific  “

Political lessons from Ukraine: Part 2

More direction on economic reform does not necessarily make things clearer on the political side.

We’ve just had the remarkable saga of Germany’s Chancellor Scholz doing his best to stop Ukraine getting a timely supply of German-built Leopard tanks. 

Even his Green party foreign minister was moved to remind him that “We are fighting a war against Russia” (diplomats have since been at some pains to explain that this does not mean that Germany is a formal party to the conflict).

Continue reading “Political lessons from Ukraine: Part 2”

We know what the PM thinks of David Seymour – but how does he stack up alongside Vladimir Putin?

Buzz from the Beehive

Ukraine loomed large in the latest announcements and the one speech posted on the Beehive website in the past 224 hours.

The speech came from the PM, telling us what she said in her address to Ukraine’s President Zelensky on the occasion of his addressing the New Zealand’s Parliament.

Prime Minister’s address to President Zelenskyy

Yours is a country at war and you are at the helm, leading your people through a crisis.

The name of Vladimir Putin, curiously, is missing from the speech.

Can you imagine Winston Churchill railing against the Nazis without telling us what he thinks of Hitler? 

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta made two announcements that would have been encouraging for the Ukrainian leader: 

Further humanitarian support to Ukraine for winter hardships

Aotearoa New Zealand is providing more humanitarian aid to support the people of Ukraine as the conflict enters the winter months, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today.

Mahuta did mention Putin in this statement:

“Russia’s targeting of energy and other civilian infrastructure is deplorable. As Ukraine faces a harsh winter, Putin’s actions have further disrupted electricity supply, and are harming the health, safety and well-being of already vulnerable communities.”

New sanctions on Iran over role in Ukraine

New sanctions are being imposed on Iran for its supply of weapons technology to Russia causing death and injury to Ukrainian civilians, as part of our continuing response to the war.

In her speech this morning, Ardern told Zelensky that in response to his address, he would hear loudly and clearly that this is not a forgotten war.

And nothing could be more emblematic of that I hope, than so many parties of the New Zealand parliament, on the other side of the world coming together to condemn Russia’s war, and stand firmly and clearly with you.

But in the judgement of Stuff’s Thomas Manch, the PM was outperformed by National’s Chris Luxon-  Continue reading “We know what the PM thinks of David Seymour – but how does he stack up alongside Vladimir Putin?”

Ukraine: what’s to negotiate?

As the Kremlin’s spokesman tells us – somewhat improbably – that regime change was never Vladimir Putin’s goal, the debate on whether Russia and Ukraine should be negotiating gets another bounce.

Depressing – but necessary – to bear in mind that a settlement will rest more on power than on justice.

Some other lessons from the conflict also seem to be getting neglected.

Continue reading “Ukraine: what’s to negotiate?”

Take that, Mr Putin: More support for Ukraine is to be provided by NZ

Buzz from the Beehive

Sticking it to the Russians by providing more support for Ukraine  was the most significant news item officially posted on the Beehive website since our previous report.

An announcement about immigration regulations and visas might have nudged it as a headline grabber, butit didn’t mention “nurses”.

The latest posts tell us our hard-working ministers have been –

Appointing the next Ambassador to Argentina announced

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced the appointment of Kathryn Beckett as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to Argentina.

Kathryn Beckett has most recently served as the Unit Manager of the United Nations, Human Rights and Commonwealth Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She has also served as Counsellor at the New Zealand High Commission in Vanuatu and as First Secretary at the New Zealand Embassy in Viet Nam.

She will be accredited to Uruguay and Paraguay, based at New Zealand’s Embassy in Buenos Aires and takes up her position in April.

Extending and enhancing our assistance to Ukraine

The names of the PM, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare are attached to this announcement.

They said New Zealand is extending its defence commitments and providing further support and personnel to assist Ukraine, as part of the Government’s ongoing response to Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion.

New Zealand will contribute $1.85 million to the World Food Programme for emergency assistance across the globe.

“This builds on earlier food security support to other countries in early 2022,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

The decisions made:

  • Training: Extend New Zealand’s support to the United Kingdom armed forces-led operation to train Ukrainian personnel, with the deployment of one infantry training team numbering up to 66 NZDF personnel from 30 November 2022 to 31 July 2023.  At present the NZDF has two infantry training teams totalling 120 personnel training Ukrainian personnel in the UK.
  • Intelligence: Extend the NZDF’s existing intelligence contribution of up to 12 personnel in the UK, as well as New Zealand-based open source intelligence staff, from 30 November 2022 to 30 June 2023. In addition the NZDF will provide two additional support positions to the UK for the same period.
  • Command and administration support: The deployment of up to eight NZDF personnel to Europe from 30 November 2022 to 31 July 2023 to assist deployed NZDF personnel throughout Europe supporting Ukraine’s self-defence efforts.
  • Logistics: Recommence the deployment of four personnel from 30 November 2022 to 30 June 2023 to a logistics hub in Europe to support Ukraine.
  • Liaison: Extend the NZDF’s existing liaison officer contributions in the UK and Europe from 30 November 2022 to 30 June 2023.
  • Global food security support: $1.85 million to the World Food Programme to help address global food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine.
  • NATO Trust Fund: Additional $1.85 million contribution for non-lethal military equipment and supplies for Ukraine’s self-defence during the northern winter.

More information about sanctions, travel bans, and export controls against Russia; as well as diplomatic, military and economic support to Ukraine can be found on the MFAT site here.

Granting  more visas through a resumption of the parent category

Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced the Government is ensuring skilled migrants can resettle in New Zealand with their families

It  is resuming selections of the Parent Category Expressions of Interest (EOIs), to make New Zealand an even more attractive destination for high skilled migrants looking to resettle long term.

The first selection of EOIs has been made and will continue to be selected in date order with the oldest EOIs being selected first. Selections will take place every quarter, with up to 2,000 visas a year granted to people with existing expressions of interest.

More information on the Parent Category and EOI process can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website.

Appointing a Judge and Associate Judge of the High Court

Attorney-General David Parker announced High Court Associate Judge Peter Andrew has been appointed a Judge of the High Court, and Tauranga King’s Counsel Grant Brittain has been appointed an Associate Judge of the High Court.

They will take up their appointments on 21 November 2022, sitting in Auckland.

Why Britain left

If you want a palimpset of reasons for why the UK brexited the European Union, look no further than Bloomberg’s headline:

“EU Will Propose Crisis Tool for Supply Chain Emergencies: Bloc wants ability to require certain orders be prioritized; Plan expected to be made public this month; some see overreach.”

OK.  And then the detail:

“The European Commission wants the power to force companies to fill orders within the European Union first during times of crisis, or risk fines.

According to a draft document seen by Bloomberg News, “the Commission may, in exceptional circumstances,” require companies to accept such priority rated orders of “crisis-relevant goods.””

Well it sounds reasonable.  But then:

“If they don’t, companies could face fines up to “1.5% of the average daily turnover in the preceding business year for each working day of non-compliance,” the draft said.”

Hmm. So that may be why:

“ … Nine EU countries — including Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands — warned this summer as the proposal was being drafted that it could overstep the bloc’s authority.”

The policy springs from the EU’s well-remembered failures in coordinating the actions of its member states in the early stages of the Covid pandemic.

If enacted, the powers to suspend private contracts and direct company production would represent a remarkable restraint – and indeed control – of trade.  But arguably on the lines of the powers of the US government in similar circumstances, its supporters would retort.

What is less clear is why the combined national powers of the EU’s 27 member states to manage crisis (under the wise guidance of the EU) are not enough.

The EU policy rests on the truism that because elected national governments find it hard to cooperate, power must steadily aggregate at a higher level. So far the traffic has been one way.

Now, while the UK government dealt better with the vaccine and medical supply issues that so embarrassed the EU, many would say that since Brexit it has been no slouch itself when it comes to generating bad policy.  

But you could also argue that it hasn’t built an instrument for its creation; that it is clearly responsible when it fails; and that it is less overt in taking failure as a reason to push policy further.

And these coordination issues are not mere technical problems, they are the essence of politics.

Take the biggest issue of the year: Ukraine.

The actions of the German government (and those of a few other European countries) suggest they believe their economic and security interests are served by appeasing Vladimir Putin – up to a point.  Others very much do not. So agreement on a meaningful EU common policy is impossible.

In this instance, you might agree that’s not good. But do the benefits of a political union which would allow a single body to enforce a common foreign policy (including say a decision to go to war) outweigh the costs of political diversity in a continental union with nearly 500 million citizens?

Great exam question. Discuss.  Additional marks will be awarded for incorporating America’s 250-year examination of the pre-inclusive proposition that all men are created equal.

So Europe’s don’t-look-at-us approach is less a weakness of the European Union, and more a reflection of the diversity of its interests (even if one believes some of them to be mistaken). And conversely, a common policy will arise from shared fear of Russian political influence, rather than different political machinery.

The belief that Europe’s problems are those of political machinery and can be solved by transferring power to higher and more technocratic levels to ensure uniform outcomes, starts to assume the dimensions of a category error (although the average Brexiteer could be forgiven for only intuiting this proposition).

Therefore Europe’s more sensible national leaders will, as Bloomberg reports, perform their traditional function of curbing the EU’s more outrageous demands.

Exiled from this demanding chore, Britain’s new PM will have the less-traditional responsibility of examining and disgorging political responsibilities and associated powers which accumulated during Britain’s membership of the EU and have yet to be reshaped. This will offend many people.

And the sheer scale and all-embracing nature of this task should not be underestimated. Just look at Boris and company’s tortured efforts to reach a compromise which keeps Northern Ireland embedded in the United Kingdom without a further decisive break with the EU.

Liz Truss does seem cheerfully ready to offend many of the right people but one fears that it may take serious economic weather before enough believe it’s really necessary.