Ardern competing with Brexit mess in trade talks with UK, EU

Jacinda Ardern is in the UK to have trade talks with Theresa May, but with the turmoil over Brexit there is probably not much that can be achieved at this stage.

NZ Herald:  PM Jacinda Ardern to meet Theresa May during time of Brexit tumult

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets her embattled British counterpart Theresa May tonight (NZT) she will be hoping the latter will not be too distracted by the Brexit turmoil in her own country to discuss trade.

Ardern, who is in the UK for a brief visit before heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, has put trade at the top of her agenda, saying free-trade agreements with both Britain and the European Union are priorities.

But trade agreements are unlikely to be priorities for the UK or EU at the moment.

Ardern will be seeking a reassurance from May that New Zealand will be no worse off, including in trade, following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

May will be much more concerned about how ;worse off’ the UK may be if she doesn’t sort out her Brexit mess – or if she does sort it out.

“My visit to the UK is an opportunity to underline New Zealand’s position as a natural and long-standing partner for the country as it redefines its global role post-Brexit,” Ardern said in a statement last week.

That ignores the fact that the UK dumped New Zealand “as a natural and long-standing partner” in the 1970sw as they turned to Europe and the EU.

While May will hear Ardern’s reminder that New Zealand is high on the list of countries Britain wants to negotiate free trade agreements with, it likely won’t be high on her list of short-term priorities.

Before Britain is in any position to negotiate free trade agreements, the House of Commons must first agree on a way forward or face a so-called “hard Brexit” on March 29 – that is leaving the European Union with no plan.

Ardern is at Davos for two days before heading to Brussels for meetings with European Council and Commission leaders.

Where she will also probably struggle to make much trade headway.

Some nice things will probably be said after both the UK and EU meetings, but it is unlikely much of substance will come out of either at this time.

 

First CPTPP Commission meeting agrees on expanding trade

The first meeting of the Commission of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has agreed on provisions to expand the trade agreement.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker – CPTPP meeting agrees guidelines to expand trade agreement

The first Commission meeting of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has reached agreement on guidelines to expand the trade agreement.

Minister for Trade and Export Growth David Parker welcomed the agreement on accession procedures – one of the decisions made by the 11 signatories at the first Commission meeting held in Tokyo today.

“New Zealand has always supported the concept of CPTPP as an open accession agreement, having been part of the original P4 agreement alongside Brunei, Chile, and Singapore.

“It was very pleasing to see CPTPP come to fruition with its entry-into-force at the end of December. I welcome the idea that those willing to meet CPTPP’s high standards and objectives are now able to join the Agreement over time,” David Parker said.

“I do not expect formal applications in the near future, but we look forward to continuing discussions with interested economies on the basis of these guidelines.

“In the meantime, I look forward to seeing the remaining signatories complete their domestic processes and join the seven who have ratified the Agreement to date.”

The TPP was timely given the uncertainty over trade with Britain and the EU (Jacinda Ardern is in London trying to talk trade today, before doing likewise with the EU this week), and also the trade turmoil surrounding Donald Trump (who withdrew the US from the TPP).

Parker is Labour’s most experienced Cabinet Minister and one of their better performers.

There’s some irony in Parker’s promotion of the TPP after Labour’s opposing of it when in Opposition (or at least appearing to oppose it by opposing some parts of it).

The world is actually becoming a better place

Despite a lot of bad news and dire predictions NZ Herald repeats a story from The Conversation on Seven charts that show the world is actually becoming a better place.

Obviously that means better for people overall, there are some who have had a deterioration in their situations, like in Syria and Yemen (wars are always crap for people, but there are fewer and smaller wars these days).

Of course this doesn’t look intoo the future and what may happen through things like over-population, pollution, depletion of resources and climate change.

Swedish academic Hans Rosling has identified a worrying trend: not only do many people across advanced economies have no idea that the world is becoming a much better place, but they actually even think the opposite. This is no wonder, when the news focuses on reporting catastrophes, terrorist attacks, wars and famines.

Who wants to hear about the fact that every day some 200,000 people around the world are lifted above the US$2-a-day poverty line? Or that more than 300,000 people a day get access to electricity and clean water for the first time every day?

These stories of people in low-income countries simply doesn’t make for exciting news coverage. But, as Rosling pointed out in his book Factfulness, it’s important to put all the bad news in perspective, reports The Conversation.

While it is true that globalisation has put some downward pressure on middle-class wagesin advanced economies in recent decades, it has also helped lift hundreds of millions of people above the global poverty line – a development that has mostly occurred in South-East Asia.

one of the big facts of economic history is that until quite recently a significant part of the world population has lived under quite miserable conditions – and this has been true throughout most of human history. The following seven charts show how the world has become a much better place compared to just a few decades ago.

I won’t include the charts here but this is what they claim:

1. Life expectancy continues to rise.

During the Industrial Revolution, average life expectancy across European countries did not exceed around 35 years. Now it is getting close to 80. It has risen to over 70 in most other parts of the world, except Africa but even there it is on the rise and now over 60.

2. Child mortality continues to fall

More than a century ago, child mortality rates were still exceeding 10% (and were much higher than that 200 years ago). This halved overall, and for many parts of the world it is close to 1%.

3. Fertility rates are falling

 UN population estimates largely expect the global population to stabilise at about 11 billion by the end of this century.

That’s still a lot more than the current population of about 7.5 billion.

4. GDP growth has accelerated in developed countries.

Low-income countries, including China and India, have been growing at a significantly faster pace in recent decades and are quickly catching up to the West. A 10% growth rate over a prolonged period means that income levels double roughly every seven years. It is obviously good news if prosperity is more shared across the globe.

5. Global income inequality has gone down

While inequality within countries has gone up as a result of globalisation, global inequality has been on a steady downward trend for several decades. This is mostly a result of developing countries such as China and India where hundreds of millions of people have seen their living standards improve.

6. More people are living in democracies

As of today, about half of the human population is living in a democracy. Out of those still living in autocracies, 90% are in China.

7. Conflicts are on the decline

Throughout history, the world has been riven by conflict. In fact, at least two of the world’s largest powers have been at war with each other more than 50% of the time since about 1500.

While the early 20th century was especially brutal with two world wars in rapid succession, the postwar period has been very peaceful. For the first time ever, there has been no war or conflict in Western Europe in about three generations.

All of these indicators are positive for us here in New Zealand. We live in the best of times ever in human existence, in one of the most human friendly parts of the world. We have a lot to be thankful for, but shouldn’t be complacent about future challenges.

National’s Upston criticised for ‘soft on benefit sanctions’ claim

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation has hit back against National’s Social Development spokesperson  saying “the Government going soft on benefit sanctions, saying it was sad when parties seek to punish people with ‘inadequate incomes’.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni: ““MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned”

Louise Upston (National): “The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work”.

Ensuring people get benefits and assistance they are entitled to has been an issue for some time. There has also been obvious philosophical differences between National and other parties over whether benefits shouldn’t be difficult to get, that they should be more of a choice for those who feel they need assistance. National opposes benefits being a sort of lifestyle choice.

Carmel Sepuloni:  Benefit rates remain low

The total proportion of working age people on a main benefit is 9.9% compared to 9.8% in the December quarter last year.

Rates on main benefit are different from the official unemployment rate, which was last recorded at 3.9 percent, down from 4.7 percent at the same time the previous year.

“The latest benefit figures show that more people who are applying for hardship assistance are getting it. The need has been there for years but under this Government people know where to go when they need support.

“This has seen a rise in the level of hardship assistance being given, particularly food grants and emergency housing grants.

“MSD has made significant shifts in its service delivery over the last year to improve its service culture and ensure that people are getting the support they are entitled to and that they are not unfairly sanctioned, driving them and their families into further poverty.”

Louise Upston (National MP):  Benefits up as Govt makes it easier to do nothing

The number of people claiming the job seeker benefit has increased by 11,000 because the Government is going soft on benefit sanctions and those who don’t want to work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Over the past year there has been a 42 per cent decline in the number of people who have been sanctioned for failing to meet the basic criteria which goes with receiving taxpayer’s money. That includes simply turning up to appointments.

“Given that unemployment has decreased, it’s inexplicable that the number of people on a jobseeker benefit would increase so rapidly and that the Government would make it easier for people to avoid work.

“The Minister needs to explain why so many more people are lining up for benefit, while at the same time there aren’t enough people to plant Shane Jones’ ‘billion’ trees or to pick fruit from our orchards.

“For the past ten years the total number of people on benefit has been decreasing because the National Government was focused on creating jobs and getting people into work, and making sure people met their obligations.

“Now for the first time in a decade with unemployment at record lows the number of people on benefits has increased rapidly – by more than 9000.

“It’s especially disappointing to see that the number of 18-24 year-olds receiving a benefit has increased by 10 per cent. It’s this age group which needs the most encouraging to get into work to avoid a lifetime of benefit dependency.

“National is aspirational for all New Zealanders. We believe that people deserve a fair go, but not a free ride. Employment is the best way to lift families out of poverty.”

National have a hard line ‘tough but fair’ approach that is quite different to the softer ‘more compassionate’ approach of the current Government.

About 134,000 people are receiving jobseeker support, an 8.3 percent jump from last year.

About 8500 sanctions were applied in the December 2018 quarter, a decrease of more than 6000 compared to the previous year.

1 News: Advocate hits back over National’s call for more benefit sanctions

Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation says it is sad when political parties seek to punish a certain percentage of people with inadequate income.

the easing of disciplinary action is being applauded by Kay Brereton from the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation.

Ms Brereton said she knew of people who had been docked for not attending an appointment, because they were at their part-time job.

The increase in people on the jobseeker benefit might be because more people were now being deemed eligible, she said.

She said it was sad political parties thought a certain percentage of those with inadequate income should be punished.

Some see limits to what assistance can be obtained, and inadequate assistance (not enough money), as punishment. Greens have gone as far as advocated for a virtual no questions asked approach to giving out benefits and grants.

National’s ‘firm, fair’ approach is seen by some as unfair and even draconian, but al they can do from Opposition is complain about the easing up on sanctions against people who appear (to some) to choose a benefit over work.

There has to be a balance between providing state care, assistance and money but encouraging people to be responsible for their own financial situations and earning money for themselves. There continues to be a significant difference between National’s tougher approach and the current Government’s more lenient leanings.

Media watch – Monday

21 January 2019

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Social chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Social only, no politics, issues or debate.

Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Monday

21 January 2019

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

World view – Monday

Sunday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Lime scooter introduction has had mixed response

Since the introduction Lime scooters were launched in Dunedin 10 days ago there has been a lot of free publicity for a commercial enterprise, but not all of it has been good.

It is now common to see clutters of scooters cluttering footpaths in the mornings, but they get scattered during the day. Out and about yesterday there were quite a few being used.

There has been some stupidity. It only took a day for someone to try one down Baldwin Street – I didn’t see it explained how they got it up. The electric scooters don’t do well on hills. I saw someone having to push one up London Street (just off George Street) after giving up trying to power up. There’s a lot of hills in Dunedin, but there’s quite a bit of flat too, especially around the CBD and University and Polytech campuses.

There have been reports of a steady stream of injured riders going to the Emergency Department. This isn’t surprising. I haven’t seen anyone wearing a helmet, and I saw someone riding one wearing jandals, so feet are obviously at risk.

There has been one serious accident that has raised serious questions. An international student was knocked off a scooter by a truck in the early hours of Friday morning – Scooter rider out of surgery, remains serious.

There has been an unconfirmed report that the scooter went through a red light, but regardless of that questions are being asked about being able to use one at night, the scooters don’t have lights and are supposed to be taken off the road at night.

ODT:  Don’t ‘demonise’ Lime scooters over crash – Bidrose

An investigation is ongoing, but the ODT has been told the woman rode through a red light at the intersection and into the path of the truck.

A police spokeswoman would not confirm that, saying the Serious Crash Unit had examined the scene but “we are not able to speculate on the cause of the crash while the investigation is ongoing”.

Lime also refused to answer specific questions about why the scooter was on the street at that hour of the morning.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Dunedin City Council that included a requirement for scooters to be removed from public places each evening.

The ODT understands “juicers” — those who collect and charge the battery-powered vehicles — have been told to collect scooters needing charging from 9 o’clock every evening.

All other scooters were to be off the streets by midnight, and were not to be returned again until the following morning.

There have been inevitable reports of pedestrian clashes with scooters on footpaths. This has also been an issue in other places where the scooters have been introduced. And this has prompted calls for speed restrictions.

Stuff:  Government looks set to impose 10kmh Lime scooter speed limit

Work is under way on law changes that will impose a 10kmh speed limit for Lime electric scooters, with the Government set to consult on the new rules early this year.

But the scooters soon became a topic of controversy, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff ordering an urgent scooter safety report in October after councillor Christine Fletcher was almost hit by a rider.

Goff later raised safety concerns with Transport Minister Phil Twyford. In his letter, he asked that the Ministry of Transport instruct police to pull up “dangerous scooter use” and raised the possibility of a e-scooter speed limit.

Stuff has been provided with a copy of Twyford’s response.

It shows the Government is considering a package of law changes called Accessible Streets, which aim to increase the safety of all users on the footpath.

“Among the proposed measures is a proposed maximum speed limit for all vehicles that are allowed on the footpath,” Twyford wrote.

“I expect that this package will be ready for consultation in early 2019.”

A spokeswoman for duty minister Grant Robertson said the maximum speed limit proposed under Accessible Streets was 10kmh.

If implemented, the limit would apply to Lime scooters being used on the footpath, she said.

A spokesman for Goff said the mayor would like to hear from the public on what speed would be appropriate.

10 kmh seems too over the top, I can walk that fast.

I don’t know how they could be just limited to that on footpaths. A blanket 10 kmh limit would possibly stuff the market for Lime.

A speed limit along with compulsory helmet wearing would be more of an issue. And what about requiring safe footwear, and even knee, elbow and hand protection? Scooters could easily be regulated out of contention as a viable transport alternative.

Like anything new the Lime scooters in Dunedin have received a mixed reception. They could be a good thing, but are not without their problems.

 

 

 

Crises keeping leaders away from Davos, Ardern opportunity

A number of world leaders will be absent from the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland due to domestic crises. However the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will attend, and has a heavy workload.

Reuters: Gloomy forecast for Davos: crises aplenty, but few world leaders

An array of crises will keep several world leaders away from the annual World Economic Forum in Davos next week, which takes place against a backdrop of deepening gloom over the global economic and political outlook.

Some 3,000 business, government and civil society figures are due to gather in the snow-blanketed ski resort, but among them are only three leaders of the Group of Seven most industrialized countries: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte.

Donald Trump, who stole the Davos limelight last year with a rare appearance by a sitting U.S. president, pulled out of this year’s event as he grapples with a partial U.S. government shutdown.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also skipping the meeting as he seeks to respond to the “yellow vest” protests, while British Prime Minister Theresa May battles to find a consensus on Brexit.

Outside the G7, the leaders of Russia and India are shunning Davos, while China – whose president, Xi Jinping, was the first Chinese leader to attend the elite gathering in 2017 to offer a vigorous defense of free trade – is sending his deputy instead.

So a lack of big names in the world. The problems that may be addressed in their absence:

Anxieties over trade disputes, fractious international relations, Brexit and a growth slowdown that some fear could tip the world economy into recession are set to dominate the Jan. 22-25 Alpine meeting.

The WEF’s own Global Risks Report set the tone this week with a stark warning of looming economic headwinds, in part because of geopolitical tensions among major powers.

So where does Ardern fit in? She has quite a bit to do, with no baby distraction on this international trip.

Fran O’Sullivan: It’s Jacinda Ardern’s chance to shine — but can she show substance too?

Will Jacinda Ardern measure up to the star billing she has been accorded by the World Economic Forum (WEF) at its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week?

The WEF highlighted Ardern’s participation among four other “leaders and luminaries” — including naturalist Sir David Attenborough, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prince William — in the key press statement announcing the lineup for Davos 2019.

This is quite striking for a political leader barely into her second year as New Zealand’s Prime Minister and yet to chalk up significant and sustained domestic results.

An extraordinary opportunity for an unproven leader of a small, remote country.

Ardern’s star status will inevitably burnish the PM’s credentials as a “next generation leader” with her finger on the international pulse and an instinct for emerging issues.

But how the Prime Minister translates her growing reputation in key offshore circles into concerted political results at home will ultimately be how she is judged.

Will she be viewed as a political curiosity in the vein of former Labour Prime Minister David Lange, whose communication skills obscured his failure to command his Cabinet?

It will take some time yet to see how Ardern measures up on substance and significant achievements.

The WEF has invited Ardern to join three panels — more than many other “minor” leaders — which will enable her to play to her undoubted communication strengths and position New Zealand (under the Coalition Government) as being progressive on some big issues of our times.

Ardern’s first panel is on is “Safeguarding Our Planet“, where panellists will be asked to address how leaders can take action to safeguard people and the planet.

Other panellists include Afira Sakano, who is chair of Japan’s Zero Waste Academy; Attenborough; former US Vice-President Al Gore, who has carved out a reputation as an environmentalist; and Anand Mahindra, an Indian industrialist.

Ardern’s next panel is “More than GDP“, which will enable her to promote New Zealand’s first “wellbeing Budget”, which Finance Minister Grant Robertson will unveil this year.

The preamble to the panel says it is widely recognised that GDP alone is an inadequate measure of a nation’s progress. “Human capital, well-being, innovation, resilience and agility alongside GDP are critical measures of economic and social progress.”

Again, the panellists will be asked to address what government, business and civil society leaders can do to better capture the less-tangible factors of inclusive growth.

Other notables on this panel include OECD chief Angel Gurria.

He will join Prince William for Ardern’s final panel, which is on mental health.

Ardern says she intends to speak out against “false protectionism and isolation” at Davos, and also in visits to London and Brussels, where she will be promoting trade initiatives in the wake of the Brexit debacle.

“I hope other leaders will come to see more compassionate domestic policy settings as a compelling alternative to the false promise of protectionism and isolation,” she says.

It is interesting to see mental health in the mix.

This raises one of Ardern’s problems so far, talking big but delivering small, or failing to take urgent action on what have been claimed to be urgent issues – like mental health.

It was claimed that mental health care in New Zealand was in crisis two years ago, but incoming Ardern-led Government set up yet another inquiry, and while a report has been delivered the Government are yet to say what they are going to do about it.

Talking up compassion is fine to an extent, but actually delivering in a substantive way is something that Ardern and her Ministers have step up on.

So Ardern is about to step up on the world stage at Davos. It will be interesting to hear what she ways, and to hear the world reaction.