Groser ‘will not seek extension’ in Washington

Ex National MP and Foreign Minister Tim Groser was appointed as New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington in 2016, but he will be replaced next year.

Stuff:  NZ Ambassador to Trump’s Washington recalled

NZ’s ambassador to Washington DC is being pulled from the post, as the government begins a clean-out of less favoured diplomats.

Tim Groser will stay in the US until the end of the year, long enough to welcome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and baby Neve to the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Groser, a former trade minister criticised for his enjoyment of the good life at public expense, took up the Washington posting in 2016. Now, one source describes the Embassy, under his administration, as a “party palace”.

That is quite a diss of Groser. I wonder who the “one source” is. It could be fair criticism, but it sounds a bit like they are dumping on Groser to justify dumping him.

Sources indicated a new ambassador had already been selected from within the ranks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was merely awaiting official sign-off.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has made clear his disdain for political appointments to key foreign postings, calling out a “mainly white brorocracy.”

“Winston Peters is not enamoured with political appointments and has singled out Groser’s appointment as the reason why,” said one source. “His performance has been underwhelming. Winston has been sensitive about lopping people’s heads off, but Groser had a target on his back.”

‘One source’ again.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Groser’s term was up. “New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Hon Tim Groser will be leaving his position at the conclusion of his three-year appointment,” he said.

“The process to appoint a successor is underway and an announcement will be made in due course, as with all New Zealand Heads of Mission appointments.”

Now it’s a ‘spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ – career public servants tend to not like having ex politicians appointed to plum positions they may see as part of career paths they feel they have earned.

Peters didn’t like Groser being appointed to Washington, and the implication from this report is that he has significant say on “a clean-out of less favoured diplomats”.

Stuff (May 2016): Has Winston Peters scuppered David Carter’s chances of London High Commissioner post?

Behind-the-scenes jostling between National and NZ First may have dashed Speaker David Carter’s chances of a plum diplomatic post to London.

But it is understood NZ First is demanding that if in a position to get National across the line for a fourth term, then it would want Carter hauled back from the London posting should he have already gained it.

Carter didn’t get the job,. Jerry Mateparae was appointed New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

ODT (August 2016): Diplomatic posting for Williamson

Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced Williamson will be the Consul General in Los Angeles after Williamson announced in July he was not standing again in 2017.

Williamson, who has been an MP since 1987, follows in a long line of politicians appointed to diplomatic postings.

In recent years that has included former Speaker Sir Lockwood Smith to London, former Trade Minister Tim Groser to Washington and former Labour MP Shane Jones as a newly created Pacific Economic Ambassador.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has criticised the suitability of some appointments as a “broracracy” saying he would demand some were recalled if he was part of the Government after 2017.

Peters in April 2017: National looking after their mates – Winston Peters

Jobs for mates is a hallmark of the National government.

The latest to parachute into a sweet public position is former National MP Simon Upton.

But the person appointed to this role should be politically independent. Disappointingly neither the Labour Party nor the Greens adhered to this in backing the appointment of Mr Upton.

So it isn’t surprising that Groser is being recalled as Peters cleans out political appointments.

Except, here’s quite a different take on it:

New Zealand’s Ambassador to the United States Tim Groser himself asked to leave the position at the end of his three-year term, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has confirmed.

“Any suggestion he has been recalled by the minister or ministry is baseless,” Peters said in a statement.

“The New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, Hon Tim Groser, is leaving his position later this year at the expiry of his three-year term.

“He was appointed by the previous government and his contract was only ever for three years.

“Mr Groser himself asked to finish at the conclusion of his three-year term and did not seek any extension.”

Trade Minister David Parker also rubbished suggestions the failure to gain an exemption from tariffs was behind the end of Groser’s term.

“It’s not because of under-performance on trade. I can confirm that’s not the case because I’d know about that because I’m Trade Minister.

So the Stuff story was stuffed up.

Interesting then that Peters seems not to be on a mission to cancel all political appointments given past opposition to them.

Q & A: US election

Q & A is looking at the US election this morning.

President Elect Donald Trump – what next?

  • NZ businessman Chris Liddell has been working with the Trump campaign team on their transition to the White House – he tells Corin Dann what kind of presidency we should expect.

Liddell things President Trump will be much more moderate than Candidate Trump, but will want to get things done quite quickly.

Temperament to be a good president? To be determined.

Will the Republican Party be a check on Trump? Also to be determined.

“Being anti-trade is not exactly a Republican thing”.

“This is one of the most significant events in my lifetime. It’s monumental”.

A warning for New Zealand? “A warning for any government if you ignore emotional issues like inequality and immigration.”

Impact on New Zealand

  • NZ’s Ambassador to the US, Tim Groser, gives his take on the President-elect and how his policies will impact New Zealand.

Groser also expects to be a moderation – how far it goes and for how long wil be seen in the future.

US Election – where did Clinton go wrong?

  • Basil Smikle is the executive director of the New York State Democratic Party and a close friend of Hillary Clinton’s – his view on where the Democrats went wrong and why Clinton lost.

Collins back in Cabinet

As expected Tim Groser is going to Washington as ambassador, leaving space in National’s Cabinet for a minor reshuffle.

Apart from a few swaps in portfolios the big talking point is the return of Judith Collins to ministerial responsibilities.

National’s reshuffle: Judith Collins returns, Tim Groser to leave before Christmas

• Trade Minister Tim Groser will leave Parliament before Christmas to become New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington.
• Paula Bennett picks up the Climate Change Issues portfolio from Mr Groser.
• Todd McClay becomes Minister of Trade. He retains his responsibilities for State Owned Enterprises, while handing over the Revenue portfolio to Michael Woodhouse.
• Having picked up the Revenue portfolio, Michael Woodhouse hands Police to Judith Collins. 
• Sam Lotu-Iiga picks up the Local Government portfolio from Paula Bennett, while handing Corrections to Ms Collins.

So Collins becomes Minister of Police and Minister of Corrections.

Corrections in particular was a real problem for National, and John Key obviously thinks Collins is up to sorting it out.

There were problems surrounding Collins last year that were a distraction leading into the election, but she was not found to have done any significant wrong.

So it’s reasonable to see her as the most capable and qualified next cab off the rank for a Cabinet position.

Grant Robertson has already brought uop some of last year’s distractions but if Labour go back to that it will look very petty.

Colins now has a chance to redeem herself. And deserves to be given a fair go to do that.

One thing she will no doubt be wary of is anything that could be seen to be any semblance of a leak from her ministries that gets published on Whale Oil. She can keep things to herself but she can’t stop what Cameron Slater says.

Her political future is largely in her hands, as long as she isn’t compromised by Slater. So if he wants Collins to succeed he will need to play his part by not being seen to compromise her position.

Key reshuffle

NZ herald reports Key plans surprise reshuffle. It doesn’t surprise me much.

Prime Minister John Key will spring a surprise reshuffle today rather than waiting until after the summer holidays, the Herald understands.

The departure of Trade Minister Tim Groser to become Ambassador to the United States will be announced today, although his actual resignation may be delayed until February, giving him the chance to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement he has spent the past seven years overseeing.

Mr Groser’s Trade portfolio is expected to go to Todd McClay, leaving Inland Revenue vacant.

It has been predicted that Groser woukld be leaving for months, and if that is announced then a reshuffle is neccesary rather than surprising.

All eyes will be on whether Judith Collins is returned to a ministerial post. The good money is on her getting back Corrections to sort out an accumulating mess with Serco.

I don’t know what Collins’ chances are of being reinstated as a minister or of being given Corrections, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sam Lotu-liga relieved of his Corrections portfolio, this has caused the Government major problems this year especially in relation to Serco.

Mr Key will face some serious questions about natural justice if she is not reinstated, even though Ms Collins is a divisive figure within the caucus and National Party.

She resigned from the Justice portfolio during the election when emails stolen from blogger Cameron Slater implicated her in a campaign to undermine the position of former Serious Fraud Office head Adam Feeley.

Ms Collins was cleared in an inquiry by a retired High Court judge more than a year ago – after Mr Key had picked his third-term Cabinet.

It may depend how much Collins has distanced herself from the now politically toxic Slater.

After Labour’s reshuffle last week this keeps some interest in end of year politics.

TPPA deal done, details to come

An agreement has been reached by the twelve countries that have been negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership. Details will be advised later today but bits are already known.

NZ Herald: Trans Pacific Partnership a done deal

The 12 countries negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership initiated by New Zealand have struck a deal after five years of intense negotiation.

The deal was announced just after 2 am this morning NZ time after a marathon session in Atlanta where talks on dairy continued right up to the wire, Trade Minister Tim Groser told the Herald from Atlanta this morning.

Mr Groser is very upbeat about the overall result, which will be published later today, but less so on dairy.

“You’d have to day from a New Zealand point of view, it just reflects the view that finally, against the combined might of Canada, Japan and the United States they just couldn’t bring themselves to more fully liberalise their dairy sectors.”

Dairy was always going to be difficult but presumably things won’t be worse, just not a lot better than they are now. That’s a shame but it won’t be for lack of trying by the New Zealand negotiators.

But one surprising element that should please critics is that tobacco companies will be specifically banned from taking cases under the Investor State Disputes Procedures.

And the ISDS clauses apply only to investments in New Zealand.

Investor State Disputes Procedures were a major criticism of TPP opponents.

There will be no change on the current patents for biologic medicines, although an extension on copyright by 20 years will be phased in.

Mr Groser says Pharmac’s decision-making will become more transparent and the measures will cost $4.5 million in the first year then an added $2.2 million annually.

That seems a minor cost so a fairly significant achievement, as increasing medicine costs was a major concern.

While the dairy deal was less than hoped for, he believed that within a few years, once the deal had settled in, there might be a political climate to accelerate some tariff elimination.

But there were some gains. In the United States, for example, tariffs on infant formula tariff elimination within 10 years on infant formula and on some cheese.

Where New Zealand couldn’t get elimination of tariffs, it had got quota expansion deals, although some were very modest.

On beef exports, Japan agreed to a reduction from a 38 per cent tariff to 9 per cent. That applied to all countries although Australian beef farmer, through its own FTA with Japan, had a head start.

“Outside dairy, there is only one exception and only for one market and one tariff line where we cannot say that in the long run, no matter how long it takes, we have complete free trade for everything New Zealand exports, which is quite a big statement to be able to make.”

The PR campaign by the Government is apparently ready to go. And the criticisms that have been going on for years will certainly continue.

From the Office of the US Trade Representative:  Summary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

Japan, Canada and US pressuring NZ on TPP

There are various reports that Japan, Canada and the USA are pressring Tim Groser (New Zealand) to ditch demands for better dairy access to enable a Trans Pacific Partnership agreement to be reached.

Fran O’Sullivan in the Herald: Groser under pressure to cave on TPP:

Japan, Canada and US are united in pushing NZ to ditch its demands for better dairy export access to their protected markets.

Groser is coming under what he labels “intense pressure” to cave in on New Zealand’s demands for better access for dairy exports to three heavily protected markets – Japan, Canada – and to a lesser extent the United States – so negotiators from all 12 TPP nations can quickly nail a deal.

Right now it looks as if Japan, Canada and the US have ganged up on New Zealand with some advance blame-storming singling out Groser in particular as the potential fall guy if agreement is not reached within the separate conversations that have been taking place on the remaining sticking points: cars and dairy.

Another sticking point – biologics – has now been solved, according to informed sources.

The big country gang-up – which is implied through news reports out of Japan and Canada and (more obliquely) through trade journals with strong access to the US Trade Representative’s officials and major business and agricultural lobbies – must be strongly contested.

New Zealand shoukld walk away from the TP rather than cave in to dairy trade protection. If we don’t make significant gains in agricultural trade it’s not worth us reaching an agreement, andf certaily not conceding ground on other issues like intellectual rights and medicines.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

It looks like the Trans-Pacific Partnership has got some legs in the US and according to New Zealand Minister of Trade Tim Groser it’s action time.

There’s been some determined campaigning against it here, with complaints ranging to the secrecy and lack of details to claimed specific impacts.

Stuff reports: TPP will add two per cent to NZ economy – US economist

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should add about 2 per cent a year to the New Zealand economy, according to a United States economist.

Services, tourism and IT would make up about 40 per cent of the increase, agriculture would make up 25 per cent, and the remainder would come from investment.

For New Zealand one of the biggest sticking points is access for its dairy products. The US, Canada and Japan have highly protected dairy industries.

Petri said the US was “for the most part” working with New Zealand on dairy issues.

There have also been frequent warnings about possible impacts on Pharmac and drug prices here too. Groser assured recently that prescription charges would not go up.

Petri and his colleagues have modelled the outcomes of a successful TPP agreement, which appears to be likely now that the US has agreed to fast track negotiations.

He said the drama over the agreement in the US was mostly over and that the terms would surprise people “in a positive way, they are much less extreme than they have been represented”.

That probably applies here too, with some claiming that the TPP will be the end of new Zealand as we know it.

Regarding the controversy surrounding the TPP, Petri said the issue had not been handled well politically.

“They should have kept negotiations within the room but at least described the broad lines of negotiations more publicly,” he said.

It could have been handled better here by National on the PR level.

If the TPP goes ahead will the benefits outweigh the downsides? We won’t know for some time after it happens, if it happens, and even then there’s certain to be claims and counter claims.

GCSB watchdog working – inquiry into foreign intelligence activities

Cheryl Gwyn, the GCSB watchdog (Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security) has initiated and announced an inquiry into the way the GCSB undertakes foreign intelligence activities.

It’s good to see Gwyn proactively doing her job. She won’t be able to report publicly on specific details but should assure us in general that her watchdog role is working as it should be.


Inquiry into the Government Communications Security Bureau’s process for determining its foreign intelligence activity – 14  May 2015, 3.00pm

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn has commenced an inquiry into the way the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) considers undertaking foreign intelligence activities.

The inquiry is in response to issues recently raised around a Minister of the Crown’s bid to become Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

“I consider the issues raised about the process followed when the GCSB considers undertaking particular intelligence activity are of sufficient public importance to warrant an own motion inquiry,” Ms Gwyn said.

“While it is unlikely that I will be able to publicly confirm or deny the specific allegations relating to this process, I can inquire more generally into how the GCSB determines, within its statutory constraints, what intelligence activity to undertake and what policies and procedures are in place to regulate its activities.”

The Inspector-General has initiated the inquiry under her own motion powers pursuant to sections 11(1)(a) and (ca) of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996 rather than in response to a specific complaint.

The following questions frame the inquiry. They relate to the amended Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003 which was not in force at the time of the specific alleged events. In contrast to its predecessor, the amended Act provides explicitly for the safeguards of political neutrality and the involvement of the Commissioner of Security Warrants.

The Inspector-General will approach the inquiry in terms of the following questions:

  • how the GCSB determines whether proposed foreign intelligence activity falls within its statutory functions and within New Zealand’s particular intelligence requirements;

  • whether and how the GCSB assesses the benefits and risks of the proposed activity;

  • where there may be any issue of potential or perceived political advantage, how the GCSB identifies and manages any issue that may arise from its duty of political neutrality; and

  • how the GCSB keeps the responsible Minister(s) and the Commissioner of Security Warrants informed, and ensures effective ministerial oversight, particularly where the proposed activity involves a potentially contested assessment of the international relations and well-being and/or the economic well-being of New Zealand.

“I have notified the Acting Director of the GCSB of my inquiry and she has assured me of the Bureau’s full co-operation,” Ms Gwyn said.

The Inspector-General will provide a report of her broad findings to the public at the conclusion of her inquiry.

Notes:  The Inspector-General’s office will advise of the likely timing of release of the inquiry report once that is known, but the Inspector-General does not expect to make any other public statements on this inquiry until the inquiry is concluded.

About the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is an independent statutory officer, appointed under warrant by the Governor-General to provide oversight of the GCSB and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, to assist responsible Ministers in ensuring that those agencies act lawfully and with propriety, and to undertake independent investigation of complaints.

The powers and functions of the office were expanded by legislation in late 2013, and its resources significantly increased, with provision for the appointment of a Deputy Inspector and a standing investigative staff. The Inspector-General’s functions and powers include a requirement to conduct an ongoing programme of review of procedures and compliance systems of the intelligence and security agencies. That review work involves scrutiny of warrants and authorisations that have been granted to each agency by responsible Ministers and the Commissioner of Security Warrants and also more focussed review of particular operational activities and the agencies’ governing procedures and policies.

Garner: Jobs for the boys

Duncan Garner has tweeted () National’s jobs for the boys.

  1. Tim Groser to Washington shortly.
  2. David Carter to London (last time I asked him if he was set to be Speaker – he lied to my face)
  3. Gerry Brownlee to become Speaker. (Later knighted)

“I don’t guess in this game mate.”

For that it’s fair to give him a plug:

@RadioLIVENZ Drive from 3pm weekdays ‘where content is always king.’

National rejuvenation

National did a reasonable job of rejuvenation last term, with a number of MPs resigning, most of whom had minimal political futures. National have also turned over some ministers too, like Simon Power from the first term and Tony Ryal last year.

Andrea Vance has a look through the current ranks to see who might exit this term and who might be on the rise in Reshuffle likely as Nats rejuvenate.

Wellington’s worst-kept secret is that Trade Minister Tim Groser is shortly off to relieve Mike Moore as New Zealand’s ambassador in Washington.

Also likely to be waving goodbye to Parliament in 2017 is Assistant Speaker Lindsay Tisch, whether he likes it or not.

Murray McCully was talked about as a potential retiree before the last election and is a possible but it looks like he remains unwilling to indicate what his intentions are.

Bill English must also be considering his future. He gave up his Clutha-Southland electorate last year and is now a list MP, making it easy to retire without disruption this term.

And who will be looking to rise? As far as rising to the top goes this depends on how long John Key wants to stay, and there’s no sign yet that he wants to give up the top spot.

Amid the wreckage of the Northland by-election, there was conjecture about the damage it would do to the career prospects of Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett, who led the campaign.

After Judith Collins‘ sacking during the Dirty Politics saga, it became accepted Joyce and Bennett were front-runners to replace John Key as leader.

Bennett is probably fairly unscathed but Joyce was the face and the ‘mastermind’ of National’s Northland disaster and following his handling of the Sky City embarrassment he must have damaged his future chances.

Collins has been quietly rebuilding her career and is expected to be reinstated to Cabinet at the next reshuffle, presumably later this year (unless forced by an earlier resignation). She will have support but the Whale Oil taint might be hard to forget,

Vance also lists four up and comers, although three are rookies so may have to wait for promotion.

Alfred Ngaro, Parliament’s first Cook Islander and a thoughtful community worker, is almost certainly next cab off the rank into Cabinet. His campaign to win Te Atatu off Labour’s Phil Twyford has already begun.

I met him early in his first term at a National Party event. He seemed nice but was not very outgoing.

Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller (a former Zespri and Fonterra high-flier) is not new to politics: he was a staffer to Prime Minister Jim Bolger and has served on National’s list-ranking committee.

Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, like other female backbenchers, has kept a low profile.

Chris Bishop (list MP), a protege of Joyce and a former tobacco lobbyist, was tipped to rise through the ranks even before he entered Parliament.

So there looks to be scope for rejuvenation in National this term, but the latter three would have to leapfrog quite a few other longer serving MPs.

A big issue for an overall perception of rejuvenation could be whether Key can look revitalised or at least interested. Being Prime Minister is a hard grind. More and more often he looks frustrated or annoyed at what he has to deal with.

Especially if English retires I think it’s likely Key will try and stay on to try for a fourth term.