Parliament – Ministerial Statements – Mosque Terror Attacks

Opening and Prayer:

SPEAKER: Salaam alaikum. As part of our expression of sorrow and of our hope following the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I have invited Imam Nizam ul haq Thanvi to say a prayer. He will do so in Arabic and then it will be repeated in English by Tahir Nawaz. Following this, my colleague Adrian Rurawhe will say the parliamentary prayer in Te Reo, and it will be repeated by Anne Tolley in English.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): I wish to make a ministerial statement relating to the Christchurch mosques terror attacks. Assalam alaikum, peace be upon you, and peace be upon all of us.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition): As New Zealand woke on 15 March 2019, none of us could have imagined the horror and terror about to be unleashed on our people.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First):

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green):

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

 

Transcripts: Ministerial Statements — Mosque Terror Attacks—Christchurch

Simon Bridges and National on the Christchurch mosque massacres

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been the primary political focus in response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. She has done a very good job in many respects. She has been very good at communicating with the public generally in her media conferences, and she shows obvious empathy and rapport when dealing with those affected by the killings.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has been far less visible, understandably.

He and other politicians travelled with Ardern on a visit to Christchurch on Saturday, in a show of political solidarity.

There have been two official National party statements.

Friday:  Opposition Leader condemns Christchurch attack

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has condemned the Christchurch attacks and expresses condolences to the people of Canterbury.

“Details are still emerging but the attacks are shocking.

“We stand with and support the New Zealand Islamic community.  No one in this country should live in fear, no matter their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of the National Party are with the victims of today’s attacks, along with their families and friends. My heart goes out to all of you.”

Saturday:  Opposition Leader visits Christchurch

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today visited Christchurch alongside the Prime Minister and other Party Leaders and met with the Islamic community, some of the affected families and emergency responders.

“Now is not a time for politics. The National Party stands in solidarity with the Prime Minister and the Government in condemning the horrific and violent terrorist attack in Christchurch yesterday.

“My deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go to all those directly affected by yesterday’s events, but also to the wider Canterbury community.

“This is not something that has happened to just the Islamic community, or just to Christchurch. It has happened to all New Zealanders.

“It is foreign to everything that makes us Kiwis, our beliefs, our values, our tolerance, how we live and get along with one another.

“We offer our support in any way we can. We are with you today and tomorrow.”

Monday: Simon Bridges on RNZ on firearm laws

Change is needed, I understand that.

I am open to any and all changes.

Be very clear, I am up for change.

The National Party will be constructive.

Do you want military style semi-automatic weapons available?

He kept responding in general terms, that he is up for any and all change.

There is a Prime Minister and a Government we are supporting on this.

He says he is now waiting until the Prime Minister comes back with proposals on law changes. It sounds like bridges may have some sort of understanding with Ardern about how to proceed on this.

He could be more definitive, but in general I think it’s fair enough to see what the Government proposes. Once that is announced, Bridges will need to be more clear.

 

 

SFO investigating National Party donation

More problems for the National Party and Simon Bridges after a complaint made by ex-National MP Jami-lee Ross to the police has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

This is an investigation, not a finding, but it doesn’t look flash for Bridges or National.

Newsroom: SFO to investigate National donation allegations

The Serious Fraud Office will investigate allegations of electoral donation fraud levelled against the National Party and its leader Simon Bridges by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross.

Ross has claimed vindication over the news, but Bridges has expressed confidence his own hands are clean and called on party officials to fully cooperate with the SFO inquiry.

Police started looking into the allegations after Ross spoke to them last year, but now appear to have elevated the issue into specialist hands.

In a statement released on Tuesday morning, police said they had referred a complaint they received last October to the SFO, “in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act”.

“The complaint has been referred to the SFO as they hold the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date.”

Police said they could not comment on their own investigation while the SFO was looking into the allegations.

Also from Newsroom: Jami-Lee Ross rides again

The former National MP accused of bullying and cheating during his time in Parliament has written to all his Botany constituents asking not to be judged “on a month where personal and health-related matters became a distraction”.

The Serious Fraud investigation was made public yesterday in a two sentence statement from police:

Ross held a press conference claiming he had been doubted repeatedly but each time in this controversy had proven his critics wrong.

He’s a bit premature there, nothing has been proven about the donation yet.

Whose cracks are more problematic – Simon Bridges’ or Tova O’Brien’s?

Newshub journalist Tova O’Brien has written some scathing reports and opinions about Simon Bridges and his leadership. They have just exchanged jabs on Newshub Nation.

Bridges: “And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay.”

O’Brien responded “I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists…”

Bridges certainly has problems and challenges as National leader.

But I think it is more problematic that journalists like O’Brien use leaks to make stories out of molehills, and use polls to make baseless predictions based on nothing but a need or desire to make a dramatic story out of something relatively mundane, like a single poll taken at a fairly irrelevant time of the political year.

O’Brien broke the expenses leak story last August:  Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels

Simon Bridges is spending up large – using taxpayer funding to pay for his limousine.

Newshub has been leaked MPs’ expenses, which show the National Party leader has spent far more money on travel and accommodation than MPs usually manage to chew through.

This turned out to be a bit of a beat up. The expenses were due to be released through normal procedures a few days later anyway.

But that doesn’t come cheap.

Not due for public release until later this week, the leaked figures show Mr Bridges has been splashing cash.

Travel and accommodation topped $113,973, and most of that – $83,693 – was spent on travelling the country by road and in style.

And it was revealed recently that the leader of the Opposition is ‘charged’ far more than Ministers:

It was National leader Simon Bridges’ $83,693 in VIP transport costs in the June quarter last year were the catalyst for the breakdown between the party and MP Jami-Lee Ross after they were leaked to the media early.

Bridges’ VIP transport would have been $33,281 if he had been charged at the same rate as ministers.

As stated there the leak through O’Brien led to the Jami-Lee Ross debacle, which Newshub was very involved in (various journalists, not just O’Brien), with headlines like:

In one particularly odd report O’Brien discussed various possibilities about the leak – Tova O’Brien says ‘anyone’ could have leaked Simon Bridges’ expenses – but presumably she knows how it happened and who the leaker was, as they leaked to her.

Last month O’Brien fronted a series of stories on a Newshub/Reid Research poll, which was scathing of Bridges, and also grossly overstated to importance of a single poll.

The poll result is newsworthy. Dramatic claims about what might happen as a result of the poll is very poor journalism – it is trying to make a huge story out of just one poll. O’Brien followed up with: Tova O’Brien: Simon Bridges’ trifecta from hell

This is a trifecta from hell for Simon Bridges:

  1. National has plunged under his leadership;
  2. Voters don’t want him as Prime Minister, and;
  3. Judith Collins has overtaken him in the preferred Prime Minister stakes.

And it just gets worse…

Four weeks later, nothing much has changed. In fact, Bridges’ performance as leader has improved a bit, he has effectively applied pressure to the Government over their botched handling of the Tax Working Group report, particularly the possibilities of a Capital Gains Tax.

More recent polls suggest that the Newshub poll may have been more of a temporary drop than a sign of a trend – see UMR and other polls – Labour and National even – which highlights the overblowing of O’Brien’s and Newshub’s coverage of their poll (they also, unusually, held back the results for a week).

On Newshub Nation yesterday questions were asked about polling:

What are you going to do to turn around your poor personal polling, Simon?

I think actually, just what I’ve said to you. It’s two things. Firstly, elections are a referendum on the government. It’s governments that lose elections. At the moment, I think they’re going about that pretty well, from my perspective, with some of the things that they are doing and not doing. What I need to make sure National is doing…

People do say that Jacinda actually won the last election, though.

Well, I think Winston Peters won the last election. I think there’s quite a few that say that as well. He won it for her, and now Michael Cullen’s doing a good job to try and win it for her again – or lose it for her, perhaps. But I’ll hold the government to account. I’ll make sure that National is developing plans so people have got a real choice at the election, and they’ll make up their minds when that election comes.

At what point do you decide you need to step down for the good of the party?

I won’t be. And I know that will disappoint your commentators today such as David Slack and Tova O’Brien, but I’m here to stay. I believe in what I’m doing, I think I’m the best person for the job, and I lead a terrific team that is putting out policy, that is leading the debates. We’re going to continue doing that.

So we’ll definitely see you as leader at the next election?

You sure will.

So Bridges made a direct reference to O’Brien, who was on the panel. She responded directly:

Perhaps if he keeps talking rubbish like, um but actually there’s there’s…who’s the leader of the National Party has absolutely no bearing on me or any other journalist.

I think it’s problematic that Simon Bridges keeps having these cracks at press gallery journalists, um, for reporting the facts, for reporting on his leadership. It’s not our fault that he has abysmal poll numbers, it’s not our fault that he’s failing to resonate with voters, it’s not our fault that people in his caucus are murmuring to us on the sidelines and talking about his leadership.

I think there’s no doubt that Bridges has problems as leader of the National Party. One of these problems has been a person or people leaking information to O’Brien with an obvious intention of establishing Bridges’ leadership.

But I think more problematic are the actions of journalists like O’Brien who seem to be deliberately fomenting dysfunction and disunity to create stories and to create headlines.

Journalists should not be immune from criticism by politicians. I think that Bridges is justified in having a mild crack at O’Brien given the nature of some of her coverage, her leaker enabling, and some of her unjournalistic dramatics in some of her stories. Bridges hasn’t been her only target, but she seems to see him as fodder for fame as maker rather than a breaker of stories.

Newshub Nation – Simon Bridges on CGT and other tax questions

Will Michael Cullen front up on Nation next? (for $1k a day).

Is our tax system fair as it stands? Fair to whom? It’s a bit of an impossible question.

Paternalistic Speaker protecting Ardern in Parliament

There have been claims already that Speaker Trevor Mallard has protected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament when under attack by the Opposition.

This came up again after an exchange in Question Time yesterday, where Simon Bridges moved from questions about CGT effects on KiwiSaver to Ardern’s business experience:

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we’ve acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates.

So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.

Ardern brought the Speaker into the discussion.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn’t understand small business very well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she’d run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It’s a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I’d be interested in how many times he’s had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.

SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.

Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.

Ex MP Tau Henare:

Ardern was noticeably irritated from early in this exchange.

Richard Harman at Politik: Temper flash from the PM

What appeared to be a flash of temper from the Prime Minister in Parliament yesterday is an indication of how much the capital gains tax debate seems to be getting to her. She and Ministers are getting bogged down in detail as they answer endless questions about how the tax might work…

Audrey Young: Simon Bridges gets the better of Jacinda Ardern over small business experience

Ardern’s loss of form was Bridges’ capital gain as the National leader and the Prime Minister went head to head over a comprehensive capital gains tax (CGT) proposal.

It was a variation on fish and chip shop theme, from the previous day in which slaving over a fat vat in an after- school job gave her insights into how small business owners would be feeling about having to pay 33 per cent tax when they sold up their business for retirement.

Ardern had disputed the NewstalkZB host’s claim that none of the cabinet had experience running a small business.

It was Bridges’ moment but Mallard was having none of it. There are no rules for when applause is tolerated and when it is not. That is decided by the mood of the Speaker who clearly did not like National ganging up on her.

Mallard: “We’re not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House.”

Ardern looks under pressure over the Capital Gains Tax. She and her Government seemed badly prepared for dealing the widely expected recommendations of the Tax Working Group. With a decision still a month or two away, expect National to keep hammering Ardern on this.

Both Mallard and Winston Peters appear to be trying to protect Ardern in Parliament. Grant Robertson also stepped in to help. This looks paternalistic, and doesn’t help Ardern’s case.

Ardern won’t be able to come up with answers on CGT for a while yet, but she at least needs to find a way of handling the questions better – on her own.

 

More feel good, but still waiting for actual good

Voter sentiment is changing from not wanting much change to wanting significant change. Some want revolution.

Perceived personality of politician has become more important than policies and actions – to an increasing number of voters and also to journalists who are increasingly involved in make the narrative rather than reporting.

But the hope of compassionate revolution is not (yet) being realised.

“We have moved into a political era where talk of empathy and compassion rates more highly than taking action, and the extent to which Jacinda Ardern can continue to rewrite the narrative this way will determine the outcome of the next election”

“The Prime Minister’s challenge is to entrench empathy and compassion as the basis of contemporary government, before evidence and achievement reassert themselves.”

Peter Dunne (Newsroom):  Government by worthy sentiment

For the older voters, the broad consensus from 1999 to 2017 was a welcome relief to the upheavals of the 1980s and early 1990s that had led them to opt for MMP in 1993, to place a greater restraint on governments. But for 1999 first time voters, most of whom would have been too young to recall directly the experiences and hardships of the restructurings of the 1980s and early 1990s, the same broad consensus was actually a straightjacket.

No matter the complexion of the government, the policy outcomes had still been broadly the same. While the country was being transformed, quietly and significantly, in those years, to those voters nothing much was actually seeming to change.

So it really did not matter to them which of the major parties was in power – they were all broadly the same anyway, and the succession of leaders each major party put up while in Opposition tended to confirm that.

If anything National under Simon Bridges’ leadership is becoming more old school conservative. His recent “What the Kiwi way of life means to me’ hints more than a little of ‘the good old days’ that we have evolved significantly away from.  There are ,more Kiwi ways of life than there ever was.

What these voters were yearning for, and did not see in contemporary political leaders, were “people like them” becoming more prominent in politics. People who would speak their language, and share their concerns and frustrations.

Bridges is failing at speaking anyone’s language well if at all.

The fortuitous arrival of Jacinda Ardern as leader of the Labour Party in quite dramatic circumstances weeks before the 2017 election was the tonic many of them were seeking to vote for, in the expectation of a real break from the status quo they had known all their voting lives. She was, after all, one of them, fitting their demographic near perfectly, and completely untainted by ever having held any previous significant or substantial political office. So, for her, no problem was insoluble, no challenge insurmountable, and no existing solution sufficient.

Her appeal was (and remains) that she is a break from the past in so many ways.

The contrast between Ardern and the four Labour leaders who preceded her was huge. She made an immediate impact when she stepped up. The media become unusually excited and gave her an enormous amount of favourable coverage, but people, voters, could see for themselves that she was different, she spoke a different language that resonated.

That of itself provides those voters with a confidence that she understands their plight, because she is living it too. Forget the fact that she has changed very few of the policies that Labour took to the 2011 and 2014 elections where they were trashed; or that those they have tried to implement now (like Kiwibuild) are becoming embarrassing failures.

Forget too that her Government now admits that it does not even know how to measure whether or not its policies are working, and the deteriorating relationship with our major trading partner.

It just seems not to matter because the sustaining feature of this Government is not anything it has done or stands for, but rather the effervescent personality of the Prime Minister, that fits the current mood of the group of voters around the median population age.

Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether many of them could articulate beyond the vaguest of platitudes what she actually stands for.

Your NZ commenters probably don’t represent average voters, but as an exercise I asked What does Jacinda Ardern stand for?

We are now in an almost post ‘politics as usual’ phase, where the previous emphasis on policy and delivery has given way to feeling and identifying with the issues of the day, although it is far from clear to where that is leading, or what the new norms will be.

The emerging reality is that, despite some of the rhetoric, we are moving into an era where commitment to aspiration (prioritising empathy and compassion) rates more highly than action (prioritising evidence and achievement).

The Prime Minister’s challenge is to entrench empathy and compassion as the basis of contemporary government, before evidence and achievement reassert themselves.

The extent to which she can rewrite the political narrative this way, and paint National as cold and heartless in the process, and therefore part of the past, rather than anything her Government manages to do, let alone what the opinion polls may say, will determine the outcome of the 2020 election.

I think many on the left would love for Judith Collins to take over the National leadership so they could build on the “cold and heartless” contrast with Ardern. As things stand Bridges playing into National’s opponents hands with his opposition to a compassionate approach to drug law, his opposition a compassionate legalising of euthanasia.

Ardern’s compassion and empathy and wellbeing and fairness – at a superficial level at least – is going to be hard to beat, unless Government failures to match rhetoric with action become too apparent (they are really struggling with housing and health in particular, with poorly performing Ministers Phil Twyford and David Clark).

National have indicated they plan to roll out policies this year, trying to offer substance over nice but empty words. But will voters listen, whether bridges or Collins are leading?

Labour are helped in the compassionate politics stakes by the Greens, but Winston Peters and NZ First are a sharply contrasting blast from the past. This may not matter if NZ First fail to make the threshold next election.

It may be that Ardern successfully manages to fool the masses with more feel good than actual good.

“What the Kiwi way of life means to me’ – Simon Bridges

Posted without comment for discussion:

National response to Tax Working group final report

Simon Bridges set the National tone to the Tax Working Group final report prior to it’s release.

NZ Herald:  National Leader Simon Bridges says a capital gains tax would lead to Kiwis leaving NZ for Australia

Speaking to media this morning, Bridges came out swinging and said such a tax would come at the detriment to middle New Zealand.

“[It would be] a recipe for more people buggering off to Australia.”

Interest.co.nz:  Bridges says a capital gains tax would cause people to leave for Australia (where there is a capital gains tax)

That point was hammered on Twitter as well.

Bridges’ initial response to the release of the report yesterday:

That has also been widely ridiculed.

A Labour friendly report that is likely to be watered down substantially by Winston Peters is not exactly an all out assault.

A prior tweet is closer to the mark:

One distinct possibility is Peters demanding a farm exemption. And possibly a small business exemption. And a hobbled CGT quickly becomes a crippled CGT, if it gets NZ First approval at all.

Regardless of this, National have been hammering the report.

Simon Bridges: More costs as tax monster unleashed

The Tax Working Group has gone much further than a Capital Gains Tax with a raft of new taxes targeting hard-working New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

There are eight new taxes including; an agriculture tax, a tax on empty residential land, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, a waste levy and a Capital Gains Tax.

“This is an attack on the Kiwi way of life. This would hit every New Zealander with a Kiwi Saver, shares, investment property, a small business, a lifestyle block, a bach or even an empty section,” Mr Bridges says.

“For farmers, who are the backbone of our economy, this is a declaration of war on their businesses and way of life. They would pay to water their stock, feed their crops and even when they sell up for retirement.

“Labour claims this is about fairness, but that’s rubbish. The CGT would apply to small business owners like the local plumber, but not to investors with a multi-million dollar art collection or a super yacht who won’t pay a cent more.

“The TWG has recommended one of the highest rates of Capital Gains Tax in the world. The Government would reap $8.3 billion extra in its first five years from ordinary Kiwis – small business owners, farmers, investors, bach and lifestyle block owners. After 10 years it would be taking $6 billion a year from Kiwis.

“It will lead to boom times for tax lawyers and accountants and even Iwi advisers, given recommendations for exclusions that include Māori land in multiple ownership.

“We believe New Zealanders already pay enough tax and the Government should be looking at tax relief, not taking even more out of the pockets of New Zealand families.

“National says no to new taxes. We would repeal a Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to the cost of living and let Kiwis keep more of what they earn.”

Amy Adams: Massive tax grab will hammer NZ economy

New Zealand might have been expecting a capital gains tax to be announced today but the full suite of taxes proposed by the Tax Working Group would threaten the very viability of large swathes of the NZ economy, National’s Finance Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“The new taxes proposed today will create a compliance mine field, massive distortions in the market and weaken our international competiveness at the very time the Government acknowledges the international economic risks are growing,

The proposal from the Government’s handpicked Tax Working Group doesn’t line us up with other countries as has been claimed, instead it would impose one of the most onerous capital taxation regimes in the world with 100% of the gain taxed at full marginal rates, limited relief for capital losses, no inflation adjustment and limited rollover relief.

“The Capital Gains Tax proposed by Sir Michael Cullen and the Tax Working Group will hit every small business owner, KiwiSaver account, farm, family bach, lifestyle block and investment in New Zealand. It will act as a massive disincentive to save, invest or build a productive business.

“There is nothing fair about saying owners of baches and lifestyle blocks will face a tougher CGT than corporates.

“It would add significant complexity to our relatively simple tax system, likely exempt Iwi assets, require all eligible assets to be re-valued within five years and further drain New Zealand’s already shallow capital markets.

“New Zealand doesn’t need a Capital Gains Tax and the Government has to date failed to confirm this would be a revenue neutral package. The CGT alone would raise an additional $32 billion over ten years and there is no evidence any offset will be of the same magnitude.

“On top of the Capital Gains Tax, other new and increased taxes, include a vacant residential land tax, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, an environmental footprint tax, a natural capital enhancement tax, extending the waste tax.

“It is quite simple, a country can’t tax itself to prosperity.

“New Zealanders already pay enough tax and National believes if you want New Zealanders to succeed on the world stage the tax burden should be reduced, not increased.

“National has promised to repeal the Capital Gains Tax, index tax thresholds to inflation, repeal the Regional Fuel Tax and not introduce any new taxes in our first term. Our full tax package will be released closer to next year’s election.

“The longer the Government dithers over its response to this report, the more our economy will be hurt by the fear and uncertainty these recommendations will rightly cause.”

Labour will likely have predicted and prepared for this sort of over reaction.

And what Labour ends up getting NZ First to agree to is likely to take much of the sting out of these attacks.

National’s relationship with China also under fire

A lot has been said over the last week about apparent difficulties the Government is having in it’s relationship with China, in part because of the relationship between Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters. Ardern is the first Prime Minister for decades who hasn’t been on a visit to China in her first year, and that trip seems to be on indefinite hold.

But National’s relationship with China is also being criticised.

Michael Reddell (Newsroom): National’s craven deference to China?

But over the past couple of decades, New Zealand political figures, and the National Party ones in particular, seem to have binned any sense of decency, integrity, or values when it comes to Chinese Communist Party-ruled China. I don’t suppose individually most of them have much sympathy for PRC policies and practices, but they just show no sign of caring any longer. Deals, donations, and indifference seem to be the order of the day.

Over the past couple of years the depths the party, its leaders and MPs, have been plumbing have become more visible. In 2017, in government, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PRC on the Belt and Road Initiative. In that document they – Simon Bridges as signatory – committed to “promote” the “fusion of civilisations”.

Plenty of people will probably dismiss such statements as “meaningless”, the stuff of official communiques. But decent people – under no duress whatever – don’t sign up to things suggesting that today’s equivalent of Nazi-ruled Germany is a normal and decent regime. Of course, they would probably dispute the parallel, but that’s just willed deliberate blindness.

Later that same year we learned the National Party had had a former PLA intelligence officer, Communist Party member, sitting in its parliamentary caucus. It seems to be generally accepted that Jian Yang, of such a questionable background, is one of the party’s largest fundraisers. Presumably the leaders (John Key and Peter Goodfellow) were aware of his past, but let’s be generous and assume that most of the caucus was as unaware as the public. But for the past 18 months, everyone has known.

But what the National Party – leader, president, MPs, and all those holding office in the party – is responsible for is the fact that Jian Yang still sits in Parliament, still sits in the National caucus, is still National’s spokesman (on a couple of minor portfolios), with the express support of successive leaders, and (apparently) in ongoing business relationships with the party president (he who trots of to Beijing to praise the regime and its leader).

A few months ago we had the egregious former Minister of Trade, and foreign affairs spokesperson, Todd McClay plumbing new depths. In an interview with Stuff, he championed the PRC regime interpretation of the mass internment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, noting that “the existence and purpose of vocational training centres is a domestic matter for the Chinese government.”

He was spinning for the CCP regime in Beijing.

No sense at all in anything Bridges – or any other National Party figure – says that the PRC itself has changed: bad as the regime always was, it has now become worse.

In his Beijing-deferential interview on the Herald website the other day, David Mahon tried to frame the current PRC upset with New Zealand as “the Chinese see it as akin to infidelity”.

New Zealand “leaders ” have been the most sycophantic and compliant, perhaps there is a sense that China can’t afford to let us get away with some renewed self-respect. That, after all, might encourage others to think and act for themselves, for the values of their peoples. Better to foster the illusion – assisted by local politicians and academics – that the PRC hold our prosperity in its hand.

It simply doesn’t. It never did.

But that’s New Zealand politics, that seems to be today’s National Party. It is sickening.

Strong words – and I have effectively toned it down with editing.

It is difficult when a major trading partner is a dictatorship with a poor human rights record.

It could be alarming if Reddell is anywhere near right about the degree of financial subservience of National to China.

And of course article this won’t help with the New Zealand-China relationship.