Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Forty years since “not a monotonous garden” Winston Peters’ maiden speech

I think it’s fair to ask whether Winston Peters is past his ‘best before’ date, but it would be an interesting to consider when he has been at his best in Parliament.

This week marked forty years since his maiden speech in Parliament.

He has become a bit monotonous over the years, but has had a varied and at times successful political career.

Peters was born on 11 April 1945, just before World War 2 ended, 19 days before Hitler died.

He stood for National in the Northern Maori seat but was never going to come close to winning that. It was effectively a practice run.

He stood in Hunua in the 1978 election and lost on the initial result, but this was overturned after an electoral petition. He entered parliament 6 months after the election, on 24 May 1979.

Hitting out against critics and opponents has been a frequent occurrence.

His  first stint in Parliament was short, losing the seat in the 1981 election. He stood in Tauranga and won in 1984, holding that until 2005, when he became a list MP, He and NZ First dropped out of Parliament altogether in 2008, but both Peters and his party got back in in 2011.

So while it is forty years since Peters first entered Parliament he has been an MP for 34 years.

 

Mallard sparks chaos and consternation, alleged Parliament predator stood down

Yesterday morning the Speaker Trevor Mallard sparked consternation when he said that the Francis report suggested there was a sexual predator in Parliament. There was widespread reaction in media, and behind the scenes party leaders Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges met with each other and with the Speaker. By the end of the day a staffer was stood down.

Stuff: Speaker Trevor Mallard believes bullying report alleges rapes in Parliament

Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard says some allegations made to a review into bullying and harassment at Parliament amounted to rape.

Debbie Francis’ review included interviews with employees, past and present. Five reported sexual assault to her and all the allegations involved male on female violence. “Three of the alleged incidents disclosed to me in interviews were in my view extremely serious and some appeared to be part of a multi-year pattern of predatory behaviour,” she said.

Speaking to Radio NZ on Wednesday, Mallard said his impression from the report was that one person was involved in the three extremely serious incidents.

“I don’t know that this is an MP, and if it’s not an MP then it will be the Parliamentary Service, of Office of the Clerk, or Ministerial Services chief executives who will be the individuals who will take leadership.” Mallard said he hoped any one involved in such an incident would go to the police or Rape Crisis, or other support agencies.

“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mallard said.

Asked if people had been raped in Parliament, he said: “that is the impression I get from the report, yes.” The impression he had was that It happened within the past 4½ years.

“Clearly it’s an intolerable situation.”

A number of people spoke up about how intolerable they thought the situation was.

One pointed claim on social media was that if there was a suspected murder or drug pusher loose in Parliament the police would be called in immediately.

1 News: Paula Bennett calls for police to be involved ‘immediately’ over alleged rapist at Parliament

Speaking to media later this morning after the Mallard interview on Breakfast Ms Bennett said there was a “duty of care to people working in this place that police are involved immediately”.

“There are people here feeling unsafe, uncomfortable and nervous at the moment, particularly after the Speaker’s comments this morning.”

“In light of the Speaker’s comments this morning about there being alleged sexual assault and rape happening for staff members and others on premises here in Parliament…. I think there is a duty of care for Debbie Francis and the Speaker to have police involved immediately so those allegations can be followed up and the safety of people working here be put first.”

“They have a responsibility to make sure if there is someone here that has alleged criminal activity, this is not just a bit of inappropriate behaviour, the Speaker is alleging a very serious criminal act, I’m not convinced that everything is being done that should be.”

RNZ: Politicians respond to Parliament rape claims

Political party leaders held a meeting with Speaker Trevor Mallard this afternoon, following his comments to RNZ this morning that he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

After the meeting, Jacinda Ardern said she was very concerned when she heard Mr Mallard’s comments on Wednesday morning.

“We have to ensure that the people who work with us are working in a safe place,” Ms Ardern said.

“Ultimately that’s the job of the Speaker.

Labour MP and party whip Kiri Allan had said after the meeting if there were allegations of rape then police should be involved.

She said discussions were held between Labour female MPs and “there will be further action taken by our leadership”.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said if the allegations of rape were true then it was very serious.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said if the allegation of rape was substantiated then “it’s right for the appropriate action to be taken”.

The Green Party co-leader James Shaw said he couldn’t talk about the meeting with the Speaker and other party leaders but said Mr Mallard had assured them that he’d taken “immediate steps to secure the campus”.

A bizarre report: Winston Peters says alleged Parliamentary rapist is not MP, staffer

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the alleged serial sexual offender at Parliament is not an MP or Parliamentary staffer.

“It is not a parliamentarian and it is not a parliamentary staffer – that’s number one – all the parties are clear on this matter,” Peters said on Wednesday.

“You just can’t go out and have an allegation where everybody’s now under scrutiny when none of them should have been.”

When asked what that’s based on, Peters said: “It’s based on going and finding out, because I wasn’t prepared to hear what I heard this morning.”

Peters appears to have been wrong.

By late afternoon (RNZ): Parliamentary service staffer stood down after sexual assault allegation

Speaker Trevor Mallard said a female staff member came forward following his interview with RNZ where he said he believed there was a rapist on the premises.

The woman made a complaint to the Parliamentary Service general manager and the matter is now an employment investigation.

“I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex.

“Because the matter is now under investigation as opposed to being part of a review, it’s not appropriate into further detail,” Mr Mallard said.

Parliamentary Services said the alleged incident had been previously investigated but, after a direct approach from the complainant to the newly appointed GM of the Service, Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, he reopened the investigation today.

It said the original investigation was not into allegations of rape.

RNZ:  Speaker accepts some responsibility for chaotic way rape allegations emerged

Mr Mallard said he accepted it would have been better had the day not played out as it did.

“I have some responsibility for that, and I accept it. The main thing now is to minimise the further trauma that was caused.”

He has urged anyone who has been assaulted to go to the police or Parliamentary Service.

So a clumsy start to the day by Mallard, followed by chaos, but sort of sorted out in the end.

There was probably no tidy or easy way of dealing with this. At least what Mallard started precipitated fairly rapid action.

 

 

Cabinet considering extending employer Kiwisaver beyond the age of 65

NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says that Cabinet is considering extending the age when employers have to contribute to employees’ Kiwisaver. The age employers are required by law to contribute is currently 65.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that no decisions have been made.

And Seniors Minister Tracey Martin says “we need older people to stay in paid work”.

RNZ: Peters and Ardern send mixed messages over KiwiSaver changes

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin, were at a Grey Power conference yesterday to announce an injection of more than $8 million to revamp the SuperGold card website, a new app and in funding digital literacy training for seniors.

During the announcement Ms Martin stressed the importance of maintaining a workforce over the age of 65.

“We are going to increasingly need older people to stay in paid work if they want to. We can not have 1.2 million seniors dropping out of the workforce,” she said.

At the conference, Horowhenua Grey Power president Terry Hemmingsen, who was called in to work after he had retired, asked why his employer – the government – had scrapped its contributions to his fund.

“The day you turn 65, that 2 percent employer contribution stops. With government agencies, so being in education, I could keep paying in myself, and did. But I lost the 2 percent. Now that’s discriminatory on the basis of age, wouldn’t you think?”

On that basis you could also say that paying people National Superannuation from age 65 is discriminatory on the basis of age.

But Hemmingsen has a point. People employed with negotiable wage rates can factor in things like the the employer contribution. The KiwiSaver contribution is part of an overall remuneration package, and once that ceases at 65 theoretically at least pay rates can be renegotiated.

But people employed by the Government with industry wide rates of pay, like teachers, may not be able to do that.

Perhaps a solution is for public servant pay rates to be adjusted once someone turns 65.

NZ Herald: Deputy PM Winston Peters says Cabinet is looking into changes to NZ Super eligibility

He said that Cabinet is considering changing the KiwiSaver rules so people over 65 were able to have their contributions matched by their employer.

speaking at the Grey Power annual meeting today, Peters hinted that changes were on the way in this area.

“Something like 70,000–80,000 people have come into our country … and whether they pay tax or not, have acquired full superannuation just like some of you who have worked 45 years,” he told those gathered.

“The issue of being able to arrive in our country and get full super after just 10 years is being addressed as I speak.”

Speaking to media after the speech, he said the Government was looking into increasing the amount of time someone has to live in New Zealand before being eligible for the scheme.

Asked if the Government’s position on the issue would be unveiled before the 2020 election, he said: “Very much so, yes”.

At the moment, if someone over 65 is still working their employer is not obligated to match their contribution.

Peters said this was “not right”.

“And the Government and Cabinet are looking at that matter as we speak – trying to see why that would be fair and, more broadly, why would we not keep on encouraging older people to keep on saving?

“It’s a serious question, we’re looking at that right now.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was less enthusiastic, but also non-committal:

“New Zealand First has long held a policy in this area and it’s absolutely within any party leader’s rights to reiterate that,” she said at a post-Cabinet press conference today.

“But I note that the Deputy Prime Minister also acknowledged that no decisions have been made.”

“When we make any decision related to retirement or savings, they will be announced – I’m not going to speculate on any other policy work that is being done, or has been done”.

I am concerned that Cabinet could be discussing this possibility and could make a decision according to Peters without proper public discussion and debate.

There is no reference to KiwiSaver in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement.

Little ‘transformational’ about Government so far

Jacinda Ardern promoted her Government as being transformational, but apart from transforming Winston Peters and Shane Jones into well funded promoters of their own interests these is not much transforming going on.

Ardern opened her year claiming that this would be her Government’s year of delivery, but what they have delivered so far has been underwhelming.

The just announced welfare ‘reforms’ have been paltry – see Welfare advisory group – 42 recommendations, 3 to be implemented.

Tim Watkin: Government is running out of chances to be ‘transformational’

Strike one: Capital Gains Tax. Strike two: Welfare reform. The Labour-led government is running out of chances to be the “transformational” administration Jacinda Ardern promised in the 2017 election campaign.

Today the Welfare Expert Advisory Group handed the government a radical blueprint to not just tinker with welfare, but – in their words – to make “urgent and fundamental change”.

It was scathing about sanctions against beneficiaries, saying evidence shows they do little but create more harm to those already at the bottom of society. And it recommended a massive 47 percent increase in current benefit levels.

Those would be hugely controversial reforms… or, you could say, transformational. And they are not of the cuff ideas.

The current and previous Children’s Commissioners have urged such substantial benefit increases as the most effective way to tackle child poverty.

What people seldom consider though is that since then wages and salaries have continued to grow. Super, linked to wages, has grown to. But other benefits – with any increases linked to inflation, not wage growth – have not been increased nearly as much. Until, that is, Sir John Key and Bill English famously raised them in 2015. So the gap between work and welfare has grown since the 1990s.

That’s why the report today says, “The level of financial support is now so low that too many New Zealanders are living in desperate situations”.

In sum, the argument in support of this radical prescription is that you can raise abatements here and offer support there, but the best and least bureaucratic way to tackle poverty is to – wait for it – give the poor more money.

So as part of their coalition deal, Labour and the Greens commission this report. They get the transformational advice most of them would have wanted. How do they respond?

Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni agrees the welfare system is not working.

Marama Davidson agrees the welfare system is not working.

And then they commit to ignore the report’s big recommendations.

They say no to up to 47 percent benefit increases, preferring “a staged implementation”. The call for “urgent change” is rejected. Remarkably, Ms Davidson has put her quotes into the same press release, tying the Greens to this approach, when they could have been dissenting from the rafters.

The political and institutional reality is that no government can make these changes overnight. But the cold water thrown on this report underlines what we’ve learnt about this government in its handling of tax, its debt level, labour reform and more.

It is not just incremental, it looks timid.

If the Ardern administration wants to be the transformational government she and her allies think they are in their hearts, they are running out of issues.

A lot of transformation has been limited by NZ First, who seem to have got most of what they want while limiting Labour initiatives (like the CGT) and hobbling the Greens.

Much may depend on what the Government come sup with on climate change, the issue Ardern describe as the nuclear free issue of the present time. Announcements on climate change have been delayed months already. There have been further delays, but promises for next week.

RNZ: NZ First voters will be happy with Zero Carbon Bill deal – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his party’s voters will be happy with the deal he’s struck with the Green Party over the Zero Carbon Bill.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw this week delayed the release of two reports from the Interim Climate Change Committee until the government makes a decision on how to respond, which will contribute to the final climate change legislation.

Mr Peters wouldn’t be drawn on what the specifics of the bill are but did give an inch when RNZ asked whether his voters would be happy with the legislation, replying, “yes”.

That won’t be encouraging for those wanting transformative action on climate change.

Mr Peters said he couldn’t comment on when the bill would go to Cabinet because that was a matter for the Prime Minister but he understood it would be “sooner rather than later”.

Asked if it would be on the agenda at Cabinet on Monday, Mr Peters said he couldn’t answer that question.

Ardern and Shaw will have a lot of questions to answer if they fail to measure up on climate change. Their reputations are depending on actual transformation.

The future of the Greens in parliament may well depend on this one.

 

Labour Maori versus Paula Bennett continues

Yesterday I posted about Labour list MP Willie Jackson’s slagging off of the Māoriness of Paula Bennett and other National MPs in Parliament on Wednesday – “You have useless Māoris”.

Bennett followed up in Question Time in Parliament yesterday:

8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by his approach to Mana in Mahi, and how many Māori participants are involved in the Mana in Mahi programme?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): To answer the first part of the question, yes, I stand by the approach that this Government has taken, which is to deliver Mana in Mahi in a phased approach. To answer the second part of the question, a total of 143 clients have been placed in Mana in Mahi so far. Of these participants, 75 have identified as Māori—52 percent.

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, how does he determine whether the Māori in the Mana in Mahi programme are Māori enough to be counted?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Well, that’s easy—that’s easy. It’s a well-known fact in this country that if you acknowledge your whakapapa Māori, you can be part of the setup. It’s a little bit unlike when the National Party used to measure Māori by half-castes and by how much of a percentage you had. We brought in this rule that if you whakapapa to Māori, like the good member does over there, then you’re Māori.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he respect Māori participating in Mana in Mahi regardless of their background or skin colour, or, as he ascertained yesterday in this House, whether or not he thinks they’re Māori on that day or not?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I think the member might be talking about herself. The reality is that I have total respect for Māori, whether they speak the language, whether they were brought up in a Pākehā environment, Asian environment. If they choose to whakapapa to Māori, like the good member, I respect her and any other Māori.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister what happens when your discovery of whakapapa Māori is rather like Columbus’ discovery of America—purely by accident?

So Winston Peters has joined in the attack.

Hon Paula Bennett: Do the Māori in the Mana in Mahi programme need a Māori-sounding surname to participate, or will he be telling people with names like the name Bidois that they should go back to Italy?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I mean, these types of silly questions are not necessary. The reality is, and the member should know, that a general debate is a general debate, so get over it.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does he expect, then, men in the Mana in Mahi programme to tell women, like he did yesterday, that they are useless while they’re working?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I take offence at that. I just said that some of the Māori MPs in National were useless, like that member.

 

Later yesterday NZ Herald:  National’s Paula Bennett says comments calling into question her Māori heritage were ‘racist’

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says she found comments made by a minister in the House yesterday, questioning her Māori heritage, racist.

Yesterday, in a speech during Parliament’s general debate, Minister of Employment and Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson took aim at the Māori members of the National Party.

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says she found comments made by a minister in the House yesterday, questioning her Māori heritage, racist.

Yesterday, in a speech during Parliament’s general debate, Minister of Employment and Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson took aim at the Māori members of the National Party.

“The reality is that I have total respect for Māori, whether they speak the language, whether they were brought up in a Pākehā environment, Asian environment. If they choose to whakapapa to Māori, like the good member, I respect her and any other Māori,” he told the House.

Speaking to media on his way out of Question Time, NZ First Leader – and Deputy Prime Minister – Winston Peters said Bennett’s claim that Jackson was being racist was “ridiculous”.

He also said the press gallery should “get a sense of humour” when pressed on the issue.

So attacks by Jackson and Peters are ‘humour’? That’s an old (and badly flawed) excuse.

MP for Tāmaki Makaurau and Whānau Ora and Youth Minister Peeni Henare backed Jackson this afternoon.

In his view “blood quantum simply isn’t enough” when it comes to being Māori.

“I’ve always felt that you have to reach a threshold of need, participation and contribution in Māori Kaupapa. If you don’t, of course, questions are going to be raised.”

He said he was “more than happy” for those questions to be raised of anybody who claims to be Māori who does not meet that threshold.

https://twitter.com/PeeniHenare/status/1123853652890935297

Jackson has long been provocative, but it’s different (and disappointing) seeing an MP like Henare joining him in this slanging match.

It is sad to see the Labour MPs using Māoriness as a political weapon.

Tova O’Brien:  Willie Jackson, Paula Bennett locked in fierce racism row

And no matter which side you’re on, it’s an ugly row. Racism, whether it’s actual or perceived, has no place in Parliament – or New Zealand.

I wonder where Jacinda Ardern stands on this? Or is she as powerless and impotent with the Labour Māori caucus as she is with Winston Peters and Shane Jones?

Winston Peters speech in Norway on international relations

New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs has just given a speech to the Norwegian Institute of International Relations:


Takk og Velkommen (Greetings)

For many of you living here in Norway it must seem New Zealand is a country at the very end of the earth.  Having made the flight here, we can confirm that you’re absolutely right!

While New Zealand is about as far from Norway as you can travel, this is just a geographic separation.  Despite distance we are close partners. We share a great number of similar values and experiences; but there is much potential for Norway and New Zealand to be closer partners still.

Sadly, the terrorist attack that took place in Christchurch recently means that we also share the experience of a horrific attack on our home soil.  It is no exaggeration to say that something of New Zealand’s innocence was lost that day.  We endured an utterly callous act of terrorism, perpetrated by a coward against people at prayer in their mosques.

We know that Norway has suffered a similar, brutal act of terrorism, with the 22 July 2011 attack.  We are deeply grateful for the messages of sympathy, support and solidarity we received from Norway, including from His Majesty King Harald V and Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Following the attack in Christchurch, we are grateful that Norway also offered its very practical support, and to share the lessons learned following your own experience eight years ago.  We will visit the memorial today in Oslo and lay a wreath in remembrance of those lives that were lost.

Friendships such as ours assume even greater significance in these difficult times.

Many have asked whether New Zealand’s foreign policy settings have shifted in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.  The answer is that while the act of terrorism disrupted our national life, for a time, New Zealand’s foreign policy continuity is not disturbed because its foundations are deeply rooted in our national values and experience.  The values that drive us remain strong:

  • Equality, tolerance and fairness;
  • Democracy – New Zealand is one of only nine countries with an uninterrupted sequence of democratic elections since 1854;
  • Freedom, from fear, and from want;
  • Human rights, as set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration;
  • Guardianship for our environment;

Our foreign policy has, and will always be driven by clear-eyed assessment of New Zealand interests and these bedrock New Zealand values.

But we recognise that achieving solutions that advance our interests and align with our values, depends on the ability to work with other countries.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said in her first major foreign policy speech: “we speak up for what we believe in, stand up when our values are challenged, and work tirelessly to draw in partners with shared views.”

There are few places in the world that are as close to us in terms of values and how they see the world as Norway and your Nordic neighbours.

Domestically, we both enjoy high standards of governance, consistently taking out the top spots in international surveys reflecting transparency and the absence of corruption.

Norway and New Zealand lead the world in most global measures of equality, peacefulness, personal freedom and respect for human rights.

We also share a record of being trailblazers in terms of social justice.

You may know that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women achieved the vote – in 1893.

Nordic countries have also been global leaders on gender empowerment.  Given the leadership Nordic nations have shown in providing for the poor and vulnerable in their societies, it may interest you to know that New Zealand created the first comprehensive welfare state in the 1930s.

Our countries have also applied this value-driven approach on the global stage, often in partnership with each other.

We share similar world views on global issues. These include trade, the environment, human rights, disarmament, peace and security – as evidenced by our close collaboration when New Zealand recently served on the UN Security Council – and adherence to the international rules based system.

We are instinctive and active multilateralists who are unafraid to stand up for what we believe in. Within the United Nations, Norway and New Zealand collaborate pragmatically and effectively within a small like-minded grouping of States, appropriately known as “the Mountains”.

New Zealand and Norway are both active contributors to international peace and security, including as mediators and regular contributors to peace operations.  We both have strong histories working as principled, independent and constructive partners in the Middle East.

In South Sudan, where Norway likewise has a deep and proud history of engagement in the pursuit of peace, New Zealand personnel for a number of years have also added real value to the UN peacekeeping mission. And a former Parliamentarian colleague, David Shearer, is doing a seriously important job as the head of that UN mission.

Given our close alignment of values and perspectives, it is only natural that we should do more together, both bilaterally and on the global stage.

To take this important work forward, New Zealand has strengthened our presence in the Nordic region. The re-opening of the New Zealand Embassy in Stockholm, with accreditations to Norway and our other Nordic friends, will allow us to engage more effectively and achieve more.

In times of global uncertainty New Zealand and Norway need to be working more closely together.

States like us have much to lose from global instability and the disregard of rules.

In times like these, when multilateralism is under threat, when our values of fairness, equality, and respect for human rights are being increasingly challenged, and when formerly open trading nations are increasingly turning to protectionism, we need to be prepared to fight for our values.

And we need to deepen our cooperation with friends who share these values.

We would like to highlight a number of areas where we need to cooperate more closely in asserting our values and tackling key issues on the global stage.

Foremost amongst these is the critical issue of climate change and environmental sustainability.

Norway and New Zealand are countries whose histories and national identities are informed by our deep connection to the ocean and environment.  Climate change calls for global unified action and that’s why the New Zealand government has made climate change policy a priority.

Norway and New Zealand work closely together in climate change negotiations at the UN as well as through various coalitions, including the Carbon Neutrality Coalition and the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.

Both Norway and New Zealand have set ambitious targets in achieving carbon neutrality, and there is much to learn from each other as we work toward these, and encourage others to play their part.

We are also natural partners on polar issues.  As original signatories, we work together in the Antarctic Treaty System to protect Antarctica’s pristine environment and manage the pressures of tourism.

Norway made a significant contribution to the negotiations when a New Zealand and United States proposal to establish the world’s largest Marine Protected Area in the Ross Sea region in Antarctic got over the line in 2016.  It is critical that we continue to work together to see more of the proposed marine protected areas in Antarctica gain agreement.

New Zealand welcomes Norway’s focus on ocean issues, particularly as they relate to Pacific Small Island Developing States.  We share common interests in supporting these countries to realise the full potential of their blue economy in a sustainable way.

Our own region – the Pacific – matters deeply to New Zealand; our prosperity and security are intertwined.  We appreciate Norway’s interest in the Pacific, both in its role as a principled partner and as a potential champion for the Pacific, and other Small Island Developing States, within the multilateral system.

There is much we can do together in championing open, rules based trade, both in the WTO and bilaterally.  This is more important than ever, given the serious threat posed to the WTO.

At the same time, we want to promote trade policies which ensure trade benefits are shared among all members in our societies, and that support our broader social and environmental goals – for example, by imposing disciplines on harmful fossil fuel subsidies.

We are also reliable friends and partners to each other in our respective regions.

New Zealand values Norway’s knowledge of Europe, and the unique perspective it has as a European Union neighbour.

In turn New Zealand has much to share from its knowledge of East Asia and experience in the Pacific.

The Pacific may seem distant, but it is a strategically important and increasingly contested space. And it is a region that welcomes the positive and constructive contribution made by European partners.

But it is in our bilateral cooperation where the greatest potential lies.

Given our close alignment of values and perspectives, there is considerable scope for mutually beneficial cooperation and dialogue on domestic policy issues.

New Zealand believes there is much we can learn from each other in areas such as social policy, climate change, and innovation. That is why we are here, to learn from Norway’s success in marrying economic policy with environmental stewardship.

We especially admire your prudence in using your oil and gas wealth, with the ‘Government Pension Fund Global’ now valued at over $1 trillion, to shift from being a petro-state to an investor one.

We admire, too, Norway’s sustainable fisheries management regime.

New Zealand is therefore keen to learn from Norwegian successes as a way of furthering our national interests.

And we are barely scratching the surface of the potential in our trade and investment relationships.

Two-way trade in goods and services between New Zealand and the Nordic countries amounted to USD$848 million for the year ending June 2018.  Services trade was slightly more, at around USD$660 million.

New Zealand imported NZ$139 million in goods from Norway in the year ending June 2018, up 80% on the previous year due largely to the New Zealand Defence Force’s purchase of a second-hand Norwegian hydrographic vessel. New Zealand’s goods exports to Norway for the same period totalled NZ$46 million.

But this isn’t just about lifting trade volumes; it is about forging mutually beneficial partnerships, tapping into expertise, and drawing on our respective strengths.

Nordic countries are amongst the most innovative and technologically advanced countries in the world.  As a region, you represent one of the largest investors in industrial research and development.

We are enthusiastic partners with you in these endeavours.  Technology is New Zealand’s fastest-growing sector and our highest earning industry per capita.

New Zealand boasts one of the best business environments in the world, having been consistently ranked number one in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, as well as second in the annual prosperity index and third in the economic freedom index.

New Zealand is ranked second in the world for lack of public sector corruption by Transparency International.

New Zealand also offers opportunities in the fast-growing economies of the Asia-Pacific.

We were the first developed country in the world to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008 and the only country with trade agreements with China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The recently adopted Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement also provides access to eleven of the region’s most dynamic and prosperous economies.

It is of course the links between people that lie at the heart of any strong relationship. Despite our geographic distance, New Zealand and the Nordic countries are not strangers. Indeed travellers from the Nordic region were amongst the first Europeans to reach our shores.

Nordic whalers graced our shores in the early nineteenth century. Later that century, in the 1870s, a large cohort of Scandinavians immigrated to New Zealand, including 365 Norwegians, alongside Danes and Swedes. They established communities called Norsewood and Dannevirke that still thrive today.

The Premier of New Zealand at the time, Julius Vogel, ordered a study into how well the Scandinavians migrants had settled in New Zealand. Norwegians were rated the most successful of the Scandinavian migrant groups, which will come as no surprise to today’s audience.

There was another wave of Nordic migration after World War II, so while relatively small, our historic people to people links remain strong. Today, for instance, I have with me Jon Johansson, my Chief of Staff, whose father was one of those Danes who immigrated with his family as part of the post-War Scandinavian diaspora.

My Senior Private Secretary, Helen Lahtinen, is also here this afternoon. Helen is Swedish born of Finnish parents. My Chief Press Secretary’s family are of Norwegian origin. My office, therefore, embodies New-Zealand-Nordic relations about as well as is possible.

Today, New Zealand continues to be a popular destination for Norwegians.  Nearly 5,000 Norwegians visited New Zealand in 2017.

An uncapped working holiday scheme has also been in place since July 2005, enabling young Norwegian and New Zealand nationals to work for up to a year in our respective countries.

In conclusion, we have a solid and warm foundation for our bi-lateral relations. We are here to build upon that foundation because as small democracies with so many shared values we can learn much from each other to the benefit of both Norwegian and New Zealand interests.

Robertson ‘surprised’ by reaction to CGT capitulation – yeah, right

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has belatedly tried to defend the decision of Cabinet to drop any plans for a Capital Gains Tax, and the decision of Jacinda Ardern to rule out trying to bring in a CGT at any time under her leadership.

A CGT had been a prominent Labour Party policy, and was the main focus of the Tax Working Group led by ex-Labour Finance Minister, Michael Cullen.

It has been justifiably been noted that Ardern and Robertson did little to promote or sell the CGT after the release of the Working Group recommendations.

NZ Herald: Finance Minister Grant Robertson leaps to defence of PM Jacinda Ardern over Capital Gains Tax ‘leadership’ claims

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he was surprised that the capital gains tax decision was getting such a strong reaction and he said claims that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had shown a lack of leadership over it was “ridiculous.”

“I’m not surprised that there are people who feel strongly about the importance of getting better balance back into the tax system.”

He understood they were disappointed, as he was.

“What I am a bit surprised about the extent to which people are defining the Government by this decision when I believe we have done a lot to be proud of in terms of making New Zealand a fairer and better place, including within the tax system by closing GST loopholes, extending the brightline test and ring-fencing of rental income losses.

Ardern and Labour have been blasted by people on the left who had been sold the idea that a CGT was a significant policy that would help create ‘a fairer and better place’.

“I feel that we have done a lot that is progressive and important, so I am a little bit surprised by that reaction,” Robertson told the Herald.

Robertson shouldn’t be surprised (and I doubt that he is surprised much if at all).

“It would have represented a shift at the core of our tax system so I understand why people see it as significant but there are other ways of achieving fairness and that is what we are focused on.”

Are they focussed on standing up to or sidelining Winston Peters?  If they want to deliver the sort of ‘fairness’ and transformation that Ardern has sold the political left then they should be dealing with their biggest problem.

“In the end, we cannot beat the maths of the Government and that’s the reality of where we are.

Robertson and Ardern and Labour were there as soon as they formed a coalition government with NZ First in 2017. But they have strung everyone along with their Tax Working Group for fifteen months. They can’t have only just worked out the maths of their Government.

“The Prime Minister has shown immense leadership over recent months on a number of topics. It’s just on this particular issue, the Coalition couldn’t find consensus.”

It’s not just on this particular issue, but it is a significant failure for Labour.

Robertson said the Labour Party’s New Zealand Council were consulted about taking the policy off the table.

“I’m sure many of the New Zealand Council were disappointed in the same way I was that we couldn’t get it over the line this time,” said Robertson. “But they were certainly consulted and were part of this decision.”

A part of the decision? It’s hard to see this involving any more than being told that Winston said NO. Perhaps the Labour Council was a part of Ardern’s decision to rule out any CGT under her leadership in the future – but what about the Labour members who thought that CGT was a big thing?

“There will be plenty of ideas inside the party around how we can create the fairest possible tax system. It’s just it won’t include a capital gains tax.”

“The fairest possible tax system”, minus whatever NZ First don’t agree with. But more than that, minus any possible future CGT, with a good chance NZ First won’t be around to stop it.

“I know most members of the Labour Party understand the importance of being able to be in Government and make change and every now and then there will be something we don’t do that we would like to do but we are achieving a lot alongside that.”

What a lot of unconvincing waffle.

Robertson was largely silent when the CGT needed to be promoted. This is far too late and too unconvincing.  This just reinforces the suggestion that he and Ardern had given up on getting a CGT long ago, probably as soon as they signed the coalition agreement with NZ First.

I’ll ask again whether this was a done deal in the coalition document that Labour have refused to make public.

No sign of Zero Carbon Bill yet

A Zero Carbon act was supposed to be in force this month, but a draft bill hasn’t even been presented to Parliament yet.

This was the number one item in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

Sustainable Economy

  1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050,
    with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form,
    energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent
    Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions
    and industries.

a.   Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission
b.   All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.
c.   A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.
d.   A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

So an April introduction of the bill is now ‘mid-2019’.

There has been speculation that the Zero Carbon Bill may be progressed as a quid pro quo for NZ First stopping any CGT. James Shaw has denied this – see James Shaw on “do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?” – but as Shaw seems to have been shut out of discussions over the CGT he may not know what Ardern and Peters may have agreed on.

 

NZ First on the Capital Gains Tax capitulation

NZ First have prevented the Government from proceeding with any changes to capital gains taxes, despite a CGT being a core policy of Labour, backed by Jacinda Ardern, and despite it being something Greens have wanted for a long time (and James Shaw stated earlier this year that the Government didn’t deserve to be elected if they didn’t introduce a CGT).

New Zealand First Leader media release:

Tax Working Group Report

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has welcomed Cabinet’s decision not to implement an extension of capital gains taxation, following the Prime Minister’s statement in response to the Tax Working Group Report.

“This decision provides certainty to taxpayers and businesses. We in New Zealand First wanted first and foremost for New Zealanders to have time to discuss and debate the contents of the report,” stated Mr Peters.

“During that time we have listened very carefully to the public.

“There is already an effective capital gains tax through the Bright Line test brought in by the last National Government and New Zealand First’s view is that there is neither a compelling rationale nor mandate to institute a comprehensive capital gains tax regime,” said Mr Peters.

“We also welcome the announcement that the coalition government will be urgently exploring options with the Inland Revenue Commissioner, in concert with central and local government, for taxing vacant land held by land bankers and reviewing the current rules for taxing land speculators. Tightening these rules was a priority for New Zealand First.

“Current tax policy, rigorously enforced by an Inland Revenue Department properly resourced will by itself 1) improve the administration of existing tax policy, and 2) target those multi-nationals not paying their fair share of tax,” Mr Peters said.

There was nothing about a CGT in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. This was the only reference to tax:

  • Increase penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion.

Peters via Twitter yesterday:

Despite the claimed hearing and listening, Peters has done what he has said he would do for a long time.

During the 2017 election campaign (Politik): Peters ready to throw spanner in Labour’s capital gains tax plans

Peters says he is not ready to support any moves labour might want to make to extend capital gains taxes.

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson has arrived at a neat compromise. Labour would set up a Taxation review once it got into Government.

Phil Twyford (on The Nation): “In the first three years we’re going to do a taax working group that will redesign the entire tax system”.

Robertson (on NZ Q&A): “We will have a working group that will have a look at getting a better balance into our tax system between how we tax assets and how we tax income”.

Peters though is adamant.

“I am not for an extension of the capital gains tax” he told POLITIK.

Peters is critical of the review and Labour’s plan to provide details on it’s water levy policy after the election.

“How many times can you get away with this sort of nonsense” he said.

So why did Labour insist on going ahead with the Tax Working Group that had an aim of recommending a capital gains tax?

It seems to have been a wasted exercise, unless the intention was to provide Peters with an opportunity to say NO CAPITAL GAINS TAX.