Ardern named Pacific Person of the Year

Another international accolade – NZ PM Jacinda Ardern named ‘Pacific Person of the Year’

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been named ‘Pacific Person of the Year’ by regional publication Islands Business magazine.

The magazine’s editor Samisoni Pareti said each year his publication attempted to look at the person, people or organisations that had made an impact on the Pacific.

Mr Pareti said Ms Ardern was given the 2019 title because of her work at the Pacific Islands Forum to bring consensus around the issue of climate change.

“It was prime minister Ardern’s skills at negotiation, diplomacy and her charisma… that saved the day for Pacific Island countries, Pacific Island leaders.

“She got, particularly her counterpart across the Tasman Sea, Scott Morrison to come to a middle ground when it comes to a climate change position.”

Mr Pareti said her handling of the Christchurch terror attacks was also commendable.

“That really drew our attention to Prime Minister Ardern and from then on we started watching how she performed, not only in parliament but in her dealings with crisis and her own electorate and country.

Mr Pareti said Ms Ardern had been a breath of fresh air in terms of political leadership in the islands.

“She is a young person, she is a woman, she is a mother. She has got everything that I guess one would wish upon a Pacific Island leader.

I’m not sure why those attributes would be “everything…one would wish upon a Pacific Island leader”. I don’t know of any other Pacific leaders who are as young, or women or mothers

“She listens, she is decisive, and she always tries to bring people together and is not too divisive,” he said.

She certainly appears to listen, especially in times of crisis, and is relatively non-divisive for a politician (in contrast to the deputy PM Winston Peters and MP Shane Jones, whose divisiveness is unchecked by Ardern.

Her degree of decisiveness is debatable, especially in domestic politics.

Previous people named ‘Pacific Person of the Year’ included Fiji Prime Minister Frank Banimarama and the late Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

It is only the second time the title has been given to a person of non-Pacific heritage, with former Australian Prime Minister John Howard being a previous recipient of the honour.

Interesting to see Howard was also a recipient.

Labour support trans-Pacific trade alliance

The Government is reported to be close to signing up for a trade deal with countries across the other side of the Pacific. And the Labour Party is supportive.

NZ Herald:  Labour says it will support a trade deal with Pacific Alliance

New Zealand is on the cusp of signing a significant free trade deal with Latin American and South American countries.

The Pacific Alliance, which is made up of Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru is expected to announce tomorrow morning whether it will enter formal negotiations on a new deal with New Zealand.

New Zealand would be the first country to secure a free trade agreement with the trading bloc, which is currently worth $1.1 billion in two-way trade.

Trade Minister Todd McClay is in Cali, Colombia, speaking to his counterparts from the four countries in a bid to get the negotiations underway.

Mexico and Chile were in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that has stalled now the US has withdrawn.

Unlike the TPP Labour are supporting this one:

The Labour Party said today it would support a Pacific Alliance agreement, which means any deal is likely to survive if the Government changes in September.

Foreign affairs spokesman David Parker said that like New Zealand, these four countries were looking towards Asia for trade.

“They are doing good things through that alliance to reduce trade barriers, which also affect New Zealand. So we are supportive of that.”

His party’s main concern was about any provisions which allowed investors from the alliance countries to buy land and houses in New Zealand.

Labour was also concerned about any investor-state dispute settlement provisions, which McClay confirmed would be a part of an FTA with the alliance.

Parker said Labour’s main focus if in power would be to advance a trade deal with the EU.

But a deal with the EU is likely to take quite a while.

An interesting stance by Labour – is it because the US is not a part of it?

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters was more sceptical about an FTA with the Latin American and South American countries, saying that growth in those regions had been stagnant for 30 years and that New Zealand should be dealing with bigger economies in the Americas like Brazil.

He did not necessarily oppose a deal with Pacific Alliance grouping, but said he would first want to be certain that the deal was not simply “hype and presentation” and that it was in New Zealand’s interests.

Very vague.

Todd McClay has been very busy since he took over Trade from Tim Groser at the end of 2015.

BAD SPYING…and justified spying

It’s the Herald’s turn to publish Hager claims on Pacific spying from the Snowden files.

This time spying on the Solomon Islands is revealed, but you have to read way past the shock horror headlines and lead paragraphs…

Surveillance on Pacific ‘betrayal by a friend’

New Zealand spies targeted the emails and other electronic communications of the aides and confidants of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, a top-secret document says.

…to find belated acknowledgement that  “The main category on the target list where New Zealand officials had clear justification for monitoring”.

The Herald on Sunday today reveals the first insight into the GCSB’s precise surveillance targets in the Pacific. The document was obtained by the investigative journalist Nicky Hager and The Intercept, a US news site specialising in stories about the intelligence community’s surveillance.

New Zealand spies targeted the emails and other electronic communications of the aides and confidants of the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, a top-secret document says.

The document shows the Government Communications Security Bureau programmed a powerful electronic surveillance system to scoop up documents from the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, who has spoken of his outrage at the intrusion into Solomon Islands affairs.

Another on the target list was anti-corruption campaigner Benjamin Afuga, who has expressed concern over the identity of his confidential sources.

Afuga reacted with horror at the prospect of sources who had acted as whistleblowers having their identities known to anyone other than himself.

“People who trust me and have confidence in me reporting unethical practices. They usually send these through email.”

There’s some irony in that with both Afuga and Hager being happy to publicise confidential information but expressing concern over revealing the identity of their own confidential sources.

Dated early 2013, the document lists names that have been identified as the inner circle of the then-Solomon Islands government led by Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.

Lilo’s Chief of Staff, Robert Iroga, – whose name is one of six on the targeting list – said the revelation would damage New Zealand’s image in the Solomon Islands.

“I’m shocked to hear about the intrusion of the New Zealand government into the sovereign affairs of a country like ours. I would like to condemn the [New Zealand] National Government for its actions. This creates a pretty bad image of New Zealand as a friendly government in the Pacific.”

He may be shocked but shouldn’t be surprised that other countries spy.

More details in:

Can’t take my eyes off of you, neighbour

Why did the GCSB intercept emails to and from Solomon Island officials? Nicky Hager and Ryan Gallagher report.

New Zealand spies programmed an internet mass surveillance system to intercept messages about senior public servants and a leading anti-corruption campaigner in the Solomon Islands, a top-secret document reveals.

They like using the term “mass surveillance” but it’s always unclear how ‘mass’ the surveillance is.

Mass surveillance is the intricate surveillance of an entire or a substantial fraction of a population.

While there are specific claims there are also typical Hager-type assumptions.

XKeyscore would have searched through the South Pacific communications intercepted by the GCSB and highlighted those containing the specified Solomon Islands target names and search terms.

In the case of the Solomon Islands, the government and civil society targets appear to be respectable people working in the best interests of their country.

The Solomon Islands have suffered from civil war in the last twenty years and the Solomons was described by some as a ‘failed state’. New Zealand and Australia were involved in sizable security mission there early this century and again in 2006.

The Government was insolvent in 2002.

So keeping an eye on them sounds like sensible foreign intelligence gathering, depending on the type and degree of surveillance used.

Targeting emails associated with these officials would have provided day-by-day monitoring of the internal operation of the Solomon Islands government, including its negotiations with the New Zealand, Australian and other Five Eyes governments.

Further through the article acknowledges possible justification for some surveillance.

The Solomon Islands went through a period of ethnic violence and unstable government in the late 1990s and early 2000s known as “The Tensions”. This led to the 2003 deployment to the Solomons of New Zealand, Australian and Pacific Island police and military peacekeepers. Most recently, in 2006, allegations of government corruption sparked riots in the capital, Honiara, with much of Chinatown destroyed.

This means some intelligence collection, relating to the violence and militant groups, is understandable. However, full monitoring of the government, public servants and even the anti-corruption campaigner, especially by 2013, appears disproportionate.

The main category on the target list where New Zealand officials had clear justification for monitoring, as part of the peacekeeping mission, was militant groups. The list includes “former tension militants”, “malaita eagle force” and “malaita ma’asina forum”.

This was in the last quarter of the article. “The main category on the target list” was far from the main focus of these revelations, it was only mentioned deep in their coverage, after all the shock horror headlines and lead paragraphs. This is unbalanced reporting.

Some holding to account of spying is important although it can be idealistic to expect spies to be able to only monitor justifiable targets and not see anything else.

Questions need to be asked about what purpose revealing this level of detail serves. New Zealand has been a significant contributor to helping the Solomon Islands in difficult times in the recent past.

If another civil war or uprising occurs security of the Solomon Islands may depend on good intelligence having already been gathered.

Spying bad, except when it does some good is a difficult balance to achieve.

And if the Solomons government doesn’t trust New Zealand and Australia due to revelations like this and rejects their help then their security situation could become much worse.

Surveillance and security do not have simple and clear boundaries.

Hooton: Snowden should be executed

Matthew Hooton proposes a fairly drastic sentence for Edward Snowden.

Tomorrow in , Nicky Hager and exclusively reveal the high-tech tools with which NZ spies on NZers in Pacific.


This is actual treason.

Snowdon should be executed

These people. Hager and @rj_gallagher, are not “media”, they are far-left activists promoting the interests of NZ’s adversaries.

They’re publishing info on intelligence gathering techniques of interest to China, Russia & #ISIS. That is the issue.

That’s a quick sentence considering Hooton (presumably) doesn’t know what will be revealed tomorrow.


Herald slant on Pacific reaction to ‘spying’

NZ Herald released ‘EXCLUSIVE” details about New Zealand spying on Pacific countries yesterday. Today they have a slanted article on reaction from Pacific countries.

Are they deliberately trying to justify what they have published? Or are they oblivious to their emphasis on one side of limited  response?

The headline is NZ breached our trust – Tongan PM.

First paragraph:

Leaders of Pacific nations are beginning to speak out about claims New Zealand has been keeping too close an eye on their people and one prime minister has called the move a breach of trust.

As will be shown later the Herald is seeking comment from them, which is different to “speaking out”.

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who was elected last December, said he would raise the issue in his first meeting with Prime Minister John Key.

“It means New Zealand breached the trust that has been established between the two countries,” he told Radio NZ’s Checkpoint programme.

However, Mr Pohiva said if New Zealand authorities felt the information they had gathered needed to be shared with other world leaders, then that was up to them.

“Remember Tonga is small and we have nothing to hide. It may be a serious matter for superpowers.”

Headlines involve cherry picking, but “breach of trust” is part of what otherwise seems a moderate and unconcerned response once you read past the “however”.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi slammed the media for sensationalising the issue and supported any monitoring of his country.

“Samoa doesn’t have anything to hide. Our daily lives are an open book. We follow good governance principles of transparency and accountability,” he said.

“As the leader of this country, I maintain frank and open lines of communication with all our diplomatic connections.”

Tuilaepa acknowledged the matters of a small island nation in the Pacific probably had no significant value to the world’s top leaders.

“We are not a security risk to any small island nearby and I’m sure the phone conversations by an old matai [chief] and his son in New Zealand for a taulaga [money] envelope will not be of interest to the FBI of the great USA.”

The Herald didn’t choose ‘Samoan Prime Minister slams media sensationalising‘ for their headline.

Commentators have also pushed the idea that China’s growing influence within the Pacific – particularly in Samoa and Fiji – has a lot to do with monitoring information in the region.

Commentators “pushed the idea” while the Herald just put balanced information out there? Yeah right.  They pushed their sensationalised exclusive while seeming to grudgingly tack on some alternate reality on the end of their self justification.

Auckland University Professor of Pacific Studies Damon Salesa said there was a shift happening within the region that world leaders were starting to catch on to.

The increase in spying was in keeping with “the intensification of interest in the Pacific with the rise of China,” he said. “We should consider it disappointing we are acting this way among our closest allies but most people working in this sphere are not naive about it.”

What would be disappointing about Pacific neighbours being helped and potentially protected by New Zealand intelligence gathering?

Requests for comment from leaders from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, French Polynesia, Niue, Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands went unanswered last night.

So after the lead phrase “Leaders of Pacific nations are beginning to speak out ” we find out that the Herald is requesting responses but most Pacific leaders approached have chosen not to “speak out”.

– additional reporting: David Fisher

Fisher has written articles opposing intelligence gathering and ‘spying’ for yonks and was credited with the revelation articles.

David Fisher David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

EXCLUSIVE: GCSB collects phone calls, emails and internet data from NZ’s closest and most vulnerable neighbours, secret papers reveal

New Zealand is “selling out” its close relations with the Pacific nations to be close with the United States, author Nicky Hager has said.

Hager, in conjunction with the New Zealand Herald and the Intercept news site, revealed today how New Zealand’s spies are targeting the entire email, phone and social media communications of the country’s closest, friendliest and most vulnerable neighbours.

So it appears that David Fisher is doing follow-ups that support his exclusive revelations, that he worked with Nicky Hager on.

Hager is well known as an ‘investigative journalist’ who opposes intelligence gathering, and who has a habit of cherry picking data (illegally gathered in this case and for his ‘Dirty Politics’ election bomb last year) to support his activist slant.

This is a shame. There’s some aspects of this that deserve public attention, but appearing to be driven by an agenda does make it appear slanted.

Our spying coukd benefit Pacific neighbours

There’s been a mixed reaction to the ‘revelation’ that New Zealand spies on Pacific countries, both locally and from the Pacific. I’d like to add some points I haven’t seen brought up (but probably have somewhere).

There’s obvious cons to spying on generally friendly nations.

But there could very easily be pros as well.

Potential terrorism could be detected from the Pacific. And detecting that could benefit New Zealand and also other Pacific countries – I’m sure if our GCSB detected warning signs of an impending terrorist attack on say Rarotonga or Niue then helping them protect themselves or helping protect them would possibly be appreciated.

And it’s also possible our relationship with Five Eyes and access to intelligence from other participating countries could help to protect not just us and other Pacific countries.

Spying in the Pacific has it’s dangers and intrusions, but it could as easily have benefits. And possibly more benefits than risks.