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

Loose cannon Shane Jones fires more shots, Ardern missing in action

I’m not sure if Shane Jones is deliberately trying to make things difficult for Jacinda Ardern, or is trying to establish himself as New Zealand’s version of Donald Trump (an arsehole popular enough to get elected), or is just getting out of control.

On Tuesday Jones made threats against a journalist who had criticised his conflict of interest as minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund – Hamish Rutherford “Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones delights in announcing funding cash from the Provincial Growth Fund, but when he or his office face questions about the probity or merits of the fund, the response has bordered on hostile.” Shane Jones makes ‘chilling’ threats against journalist.

Yesterday in General Debate in Parliament he fired another shot at the journalist, threatened that the Government would ensure the SFO investigation of the National party over a donation was thorough, and also blasted the Spark CEO who made a disclosure as required by NZX rules.

This is a message to corporate New Zealand: do not arrogantly take upon yourselves the ability to influence foreign policy and make these unwise statements as Mr Simon Moutter did to the sharemarket, thus providing an opportunity for anxiety and stress for all of our exporters. Show judiciousness; do not go beyond your corporate writ. Wanderlust, you may be.

Jones has attacked CEOs and companies in the past, notably Air New Zealand.

How the bar has been set for the provincial champion to declare a conflict of interest. Has the Leader of the Opposition yet been interviewed by the Serious Fraud Office? Was the Leader of the Opposition interviewed by the police; more to the point, will he declare to the New Zealand public that he has been; and if that is the case, will he stand down? No. Where is this self-styled crusader of civic responsibility from Fairfax pummelling and pounding the other side of the House? Conspicuous silence from the media.

Another swipe at Rutherford. The media has not been silent on the announcement that the Police handed over the donation case to the Serious Fraud Office – but the SFO has not even said they will investigate yet, so obviously they won’t have interviewed Simon Bridges.

This is a very dangerous development in the integrity of our electoral system.

Ministers attacking journalists doing their job is not new, but Jones is threatening the integrity of the media, which is an essential component of our electoral system.

But, if he could actually do what he next threatens, that would be a particularly dangerous development on the integrity of both our democratic system and our judicial system.

Now, we’ve watched a pattern of this. We’ve watched a proud police officer be lampooned and suffer scurrilous allegations; he had done nothing wrong, yet he was pilloried, tainted, and stigmatised.

That’s talking about Wally Haumaha, who has been linked with NZ First. The State Services Commission found that Justice and Corrections had failed two complainants, and “A report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found two instances where the high-ranking cop aggressively asserted authority and belittled staff from Ministry of Justice and Corrections…The report said Haumaha’s behaviour met the common understanding of bullying…The IPCA received a third complaint in August, and found Haumaha pressured officers to provide information that would help him defend allegations after taking advice from lawyers.” – High-ranking cop Wally Haumaha belittled and humiliated staff, police watchdog says

May all of that wrongdoing rest upon the head of the Leader of the Opposition, because he says he’s the Leader of the National Party but it’s just not his responsibility in terms of what the Serious Fraud Office is looking at.

I make a prediction: the Serious Fraud Office, once unwisely sicked by that side of the House on to our Leader, knows we will study every single step that they take, to ensure—to ensure, because it’s the National Party—it’s not whitewashed. We will ensure that happens, this incredibly serious and people may very well go to jail, because they won’t have offended the Cabinet Manual; they will have broken the law.

Paul Goldsmith (National) followed Jones in the General Debate:

Well, here I am, coming after Shane Jones, and I’m not quite sure what he actually said, but he seemed to say that they will ensure—presumably, “they” being the Government of the day—that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) does a thorough job on our leader. That would be an extraordinary statement to make. Is he now saying that he is going to guide the SFO, which is an independent statutory body on the police doing their work? He’s going to stand and guide the SFO as they do their work? What an extraordinary thing for a Cabinet Minister to say. I can’t believe he said they will ensure that the SFO does it well.

Newshub: Shane Jones makes outrageous claims about National Party donations probe in Parliament

New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones has outrageously weighed in on the investigation into National Party donations.

The extraordinary scenes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon added to a string of New Zealand First ministerial mishaps in recent times.

Jones’ incredible comment about the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probe into the Simon Bridges-led party was made under parliamentary privilege and therefore protected from threats of prosecution.

But the SFO is protected by a fundamental of New Zealand’s democracy known as ‘constabulary independence’, meaning politicians can’t get involved in how it chooses to uphold the law – it’s sacred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already mildly rebuked Jones after his attack on Rutherford. Will she do anything about this latest outburst from Jones? Probably not much – she seems largely impotent when it comes to NZ First loose cannon MPs bringing the Government into disrepute.

Jones seems to be able to get away with whatever he likes, and he seems to be getting out of control – but Winston Peters is also not doing anything about Jones, publicly at least at by the way Jones continues to spray dirty bullets around it appears that Peters approves of this.

And Ron Mark is also joining the attacks, so it appears that it may be a deliberate NZ First strategy to improve their flagging support.

They may manage to get another percent or two, but at risk of dragging Labour down, especially if Ardern continues to appear to have no control over them.

Ardern has successfully become a champion of progressive celebrity style politics, but if she can’t manage the tough stuff and show some leadership over her much smaller coalition partner party she may find some of her support is not sustainable.

Annette King on Ardern, Peters and the coalition negotiations

It’s not surprising to hear Annette King full of praise for how Jacinda Ardern conducted the coalition negotiations in 2017, but she provides some good insights into how it played out.

NZ Herald – Inside the Coalition talks: How that deal between Jacinda and Winston came about

On election night Annette, despite Labour’s come-back-from-the-dead result, was disappointed. It wasn’t as good as she expected.

On the night Labour won 45 seats, New Zealand First 9 and the Green Party 7, while National had 58 and ACT 1 seat. On those numbers a Labour-New Zealand First-Green government had 61 seats, just enough to govern. But it would have been hard for New Zealand First to opt for that governing arrangement given National was just three seats away from a majority in its own right.

Once the special votes were counted, though, Labour and the Greens picked up a seat each and National dropped two.

So the final numbers read Labour 46, New Zealand First 9 and the Green Party 8. National dropped to 56 and ACT 1, well short of a majority. Between them Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens had 63 seats, increasing the prospects New Zealand First might opt to support a Labour-led Government.

Annette was confident New Zealand First leader Winston Peters would go with Labour.

“I just felt it. The way he was treated [by National]. The way [Parliament’s Speaker David] Carter treated him in Parliament. If I was the Nats I would have spoken to the Speaker and said, ‘Hang on, he’s the leader of a party. You can’t keep on chucking him out and speaking to him in that manner.’

The big unknown, the potential spanner in the works, was the Green Party and its relationship with New Zealand First.

But Annette says [Jacinda] Ardern handled the negotiations with aplomb.

“Watching those negotiations and being in both, the way Jacinda handled the Green negotiations, which were held in the Leader’s lounge in the Opposition wing, and the formal ones [with New Zealand First] on the second floor, and the way she was balancing those and being true to herself and to her values was remarkable. She would not have sold out on the Greens. If Winston had said I’m not having a bar of the Greens or they’re going to have to have nothing, she would not have sold out on them. But she managed to negotiate with the Greens so they got a win without being in the Cabinet but having major Cabinet portfolios outside.”

Annette says what interested her was that the negotiations were all about policy. Contrary to popular opinion, Winston Peters wasn’t that interested in the baubles of power. “He didn’t come in and say I want to be Deputy Prime Minister and want economic development and I want that. He did not. He came in and went through their manifesto portfolio by portfolio.

So was he just offered Deputy and Minister of Foreign Affairs out of the blue?Those baubles must have been negotiated.

“Jacinda pushed back where she didn’t agree and agreed where we did and took copious minutes and then they were shared at the end of the day so we both had the same thing and knew what we were saying. And I just thought we were spending a lot of time on policy, and it seemed to me that the Nats’ time with them was diminishing rather than growing, especially on the last day.”

“He didn’t tell her he was going with her. I think he asked some questions and then a few minutes later, maybe it was minutes, sometime later he came through Bowen [House]. Cameras were following him walking through up to the Beehive theatrette and we’re sitting in Jacinda’s office, some on the couch, some standing up, all watching the television.”

It was theatre a la Winston. It was all about him and his decision – and Ardern and Labour allowed it to happen that way.

 

Clinton rules out 2020 run for presidency a win for Putin?

Hillary Clinton has ruled out another run for the US presidency in 2020. This may be seen as a win for Vladimir Putin, with it being pointed out “how much Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton” – the misogynist versus the sort of feminist.

Could Russia target Ardern and New Zealand democracy? Have they already done this?

CNN:  Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 run, but says ‘I’m not going anywhere’

Hillary Clinton said Monday that she is not running for president in 2020 but will continue to speak out about politics, saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m not running, but I’m going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe,” the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee told CNN affiliate News 12 Westchester.

“I want to be sure that people understand I’m going to keep speaking out. I’m not going anywhere,” Clinton said.

When asked if she would consider running for governor, mayor or any elected office again, Clinton told News 12, “I don’t think so,” adding that she loves living in New York and is grateful for the time she spent as senator of the state.

“What’s at stake in our country, the kinds of things that are happening right now are deeply troubling to me.” She said the country has become “not just polarized, we’ve gotten into really opposing camps unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my adult life.”

Clinton said that “we’ve made a lot of progress” but “we still have a long way to go on women’s rights, on gay rights, on making sure that every person has the same chance to have their dignity and their identity respected.”

This may be why Russia got so involved in the 2016 US election. Whether Trump’s campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia, or whether Russia used Trump to dump on Clinton, are still unanswered questions. The Robert Mueller report may or may not provide answers.

More from Erynn Brook:

It’s basically impossible to say HRC’s name without being bombarded with memes and trolls and propaganda. And that’s all intentional. I’m not talking about her policies. I’m talking about the interpersonal dynamic between Putin and HRC playing out on a world stage.

Oh the dog incident with Merkel isn’t just “related”, it’s more evidence. It’s in the intelligence briefings that’s she’s afraid of dogs. He gave Merkel a stuffed dog the year before. It’s straight up psychological warfare.

Foreign Policy: Putin uses dog to intimidate Merkel

Remember that Hillary Clinton was First Lady when Putin became Prime Minister and then President. Remember that Hillary is widely cited as being the driving force behind her husband’s political career.

Remember that she had an objectively successful political career, AFTER her husband’s impeachment. I don’t mean a while after, I mean like while it’s happening she’s running for state senator in NY. Which she won. That should have been impossible.

Love her or hate her, that’s not what I’m talking about.

Hillary Clinton is demonstrably, a very, very good politician. It’s likely she decided she wanted to be president when she was a kid and that influenced a large majority of her life choices.

So Clinton becomes Secretary of State when Putin is Prime Minister for the second time, and she is a force to be reckoned with. AND she’s the wife of his former American counterpart. She’s the woman he used to tell his wife to entertain. She’s fucking decor to him.

I am begging you to get this: refusal to see the role misogyny played in all of this, in the state of our world right now, is making things worse.

Don’t take my word for it, do your own research. Do some real, substantial research.

And ask yourself: if the richest, most powerful, most dangerous misogynist in the world, thought that the woman who had been coming for him for decades, who saw through all his shit and wasn’t afraid of him, if she was about to get the one job she could get to take him down.

If he saw that coming towards him, if this dangerous man who built a career on crushing political dissidents iduring Cold War, if this “world class misogynist” felt threatened by a WOMAN…

What would he do? What could he do?

Here, I’ll even give you a few places to get started. By all means, if you can show me I’m wrong while still addressing all the Russia crap, without resorting to more misogyny, and with actual, demonstrable, critical analysis, I’d love to hear it.

Brook links to another thread:

And it’s a wider problem.

What are the implications for New Zealand? Jacinda Ardern has positioned herself in stark contrast to both Trump and Putin. New Zealand may not matter much to Russia, but it’s possible Putin could start taking potshots at Ardern. And at our democracy.

Has it already happened? Why did Cameron Slater and Whale Oil actively promote Winston Peters in our 2017 election?

A year ago Peters was in the news here for promoting a trade deal with Russia, and for fudging around while other Western countries condemned Russia for their involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attacks.

Noted noted: What’s with Winston’s crush on Russia?

With Winston Peters, it’s the Secret Samovar. He has this thing about Russia, and no one can explain why. There was the suggestion, when he began harping on about restoring full trade relations with Russia some years ago, that his close ties with the fishing industry had made him hyper-sensitive to lost trade opportunities in seafood.

This week, Peters has repeated his scepticism that Russia shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine in 2014 and expanded that refusenik-ism to cover the growing suspicion that Russia just poisoned a spy and his daughter in Britain.

He also averred that our getting a free-trade deal with Russia would be just as good, and should be just as big a priority, as scoring one with the European Union.

It may be that Peters admires Putin’s strongman approach in the way he shares some heartland electoral territory with Trump over immigration and protectionism. Among his startling comments as Foreign Minister this week was one expressing sympathy with the US’s proposed new tariffs on aluminium and steel – which had immediately to be contradicted by Trade Minister David Parker.

Anyway, Peters’ preoccupation with Putin’s Russia goes back years; it’s not something he’s just manufactured as a handy coalition prying bar. And dying in a ditch over Russia is hardly the gesture lost NZ First voters – or any other voters, for that matter – would rally around.

It may be a stretch to suggest a Russian-Peters-Slater conspiracy.

It could simply be that to different degrees Peters shares a similar misogynist view with Putin and Trump, seeing themselves as superior to female leaders, and attracted to each other in a ‘strongmen unite’ sort of empathy.

 

Peters the elephant in Labour’s CGT room

Labour told the Tax Working Group what they couldn’t do, and the Tax Working Group final report seems to be largely a Labour prescription. It even uses Labour-like terms such as Future of Work as well as Future of Tax. This isn’t all that surprising given the involvement of Michael Cullen.

But while the Group’s recommendations, especially on Capital Gains Tax, may look like a Labour wish list, the elephant in their room is Winston Peters and NZ First. With National saying they are against the CGT Labour will need NZ First support to get anything done.

Greens have already said that the Government won’t deserve to be re-elected unless they introduce a CGT – see James Shaw slams tax timidity, calls on Labour, NZ First to be bold with CGT.

An exchange in Parliament yesterday after the release of the report gives a good indication of where Peters is at on the CGT.

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with comments by the Rt Hon Winston Peters in regards to capital gains tax that, “They won’t work in this country. They won’t work in any other country. They never have worked.”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the responsibility of the Prime Minister is for comments made by Ministers when they were Ministers, not beforehand. And, on behalf of the Prime Minister, I should not have to tell that member that.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with comments by the Rt Hon Winston Peters that, “You can’t possibly go into an election saying, ‘My tax policy will decided by a committee.’ “?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, for the second time now, I am not responsible for comments made by members of Parliament before they held a ministerial warrant under my premiership. That’s the substance of the matter and whether she agrees or not here’s the fine point about a democratic constitutional Government: that is, we’re going to consult with the people of this country in the next two weeks. [Interruption] I tell you what we can trust: somebody that hasn’t got a massive vested interest in this case, somebody that hasn’t got a massive vested interest in property, and is not now thinking about the country but just her narrow, selfish, egotistical self.

SPEAKER: I am going to remind the Deputy Prime Minister that he is speaking as the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: No, no, let him go. Does she agree with the comments by the Deputy Prime Minister just yesterday who said, “The farming community, they are in for the long haul and there is no way a capital gains tax would have any effect on them at all.”, when today’s report says it will cost farmers $700 million a year?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I have read the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments on the farming show. I know that he comes from a seriously agrarian background and understands the long-term ownership aspirations and intergenerational aspirations of farming families around this country, and not one of them who aspires to that will be affected by any capital gains tax.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: That’s not right. That’s not right. Read it.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I’ve done some work in my time, son, not like you.

SPEAKER: Order! The pair of you.

Hon Paula Bennett: If the Prime Minister is correct in her comments, then why on earth would they be saying that it would cost $700 million a year if a capital gains tax is applied to farms?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there is the rub. Who is saying that and what do they mean by “if”? I mean, the criteria would be whether or not this is an expanded tax, and at this point in time it is not. It’s merely a report with a number of options—all 99—and what I’d like to know on behalf of the Prime Minister is: how come they had only four hours to study this and yet had already put out their views before the report came over their desks?

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the comments by the Hon James Shaw recently who said, “The only question we should be asking ourselves is: do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t.” with regards to implementing a capital gains tax?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that is a fact, and I’m glad about that. This is the first fact I’ve heard thus far in question time—that Mr Shaw said that. Mr Shaw’s a visionary Minister and is looking to the full debate and discussion that’s going to take place over the next eight weeks. Why don’t we all show some patience and be prepared to consult with the public of this country, the businesses of the country, rather than give your own narrow venal views.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can she confirm that any changes as a result of the recommendations in the Tax Working Group’s report will be revenue-neutral?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it’s very difficult to come to a report—

Hon Paula Bennett: Grant just told you to say that you haven’t made any decisions.

SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Unlike that member, doesn’t need instructions, able to think for himself, doesn’t need a speech writer, not embarrassed by being shown up every day—no. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and her colleagues are not going to come to a decision until they have had the full consultation. And I must say, the most interested person in this is the Minister of Finance—the consultation process—and when that consultation is finished, we will share with the public our findings.

Hon Paula Bennett: You got that right.

 

China relationship a sensitive issue for Ardern

New Zealand’s relationship with China appears to be a sensitive issue, with Jacinda Ardern sounding quite defensive when questioned about it in Parliament yesterday by Simon Bridges. Ardern was supported by both Winston Peters and David Parker asking friendly questions.

Has New Zealand’s relationship with China deteriorated under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): No. There is no question that an economic and people-to-people relationship with China is incredibly important to New Zealand. Visitor numbers in the last year are up 8.4 percent. There’s also been an increase in goods exports by 20 percent in the year to September. That demonstrates the strength of our economic engagement and, I would also say, demonstrates the importance of a bipartisan approach to our relationship.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister elaborate on her comments yesterday about the collapse of New Zealand’s hitherto foreign policy consensus?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely happy to, because I do think this is an important point. New Zealand, for a number of years, has rightly had an independent foreign policy line that is in the best interests of New Zealand economically, in terms of national security, and in terms of its values. That has generally been followed by both the Government of the day and the Opposition. It’s disappointing that in recent times, we have seen the politicisation of our relationship, which sits directly in contradiction to our economic interests and our national security interests.

Hon Simon Bridges: When the last Government Minister to go to China, David Parker, visited last year, did he secure a meeting with his equivalent ministerial counterpart?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not have in front of me the individual bilateral engagements of every Minister who has visited in recent times. But let us speak frankly in this House: there are challenges in our relationship. There are challenges in our relationships with a number of countries at any given time when you run an independent foreign policy.

Hon David Parker: Can the Prime Minister confirm that when I visited China as Minister of Trade and Export Growth in November last year, I met with Vice Minister Chang from the Chinese administration, who is responsible for both the World Trade Organization negotiations on the part of China and for the bilateral trade relationship with New Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I can.

Hon Simon Bridges: When will her foreign Minister, Rt Hon Winston Peters, next visit China?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, I’ve already referenced the fact that he visited in May 2018. I haven’t asked him about his forward intentions for visits there, or in fact about any other of our engagements. But let us in this House speak frankly. I do not resile from the position that this Government has taken in support of our independent foreign policy, our economic interests, and our national security interests.

She has no idea when her Foreign Affairs Minister will be visiting China next?

Hon Simon Bridges: Is any progress being made on her visit to China as Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve already pointed out, I have already had high-level engagement at the highest level, where, in fact, the Premier, the last time we met, talked about his invitation to me to visit. But, again, I do not measure the strength of our relationship in such binary terms. We have—[Interruption] Our people-to-people exchanges have increased—[Interruption]

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of the fact that she hadn’t read that Georgetown speech before it was delivered, does she confirm that she agrees with all of its contents today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister’s address acknowledged that the United States had taken a different foreign policy line in recent times and that it is in all of our interests if the United States continues to engage both at a regional level and with multilateral institutions. If the Opposition doesn’t agree with that, then that’s a matter for them.

Hon Simon Bridges: Just who is ultimately responsible for New Zealand’s foreign affairs: the foreign Minister or Jacinda Ardern?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As is, of course, convention the Prime Minister and not the Leader of the Opposition.

Hon Simon Bridges: Then why didn’t she read the foreign Minister’s incredibly significant speech to Georgetown University before he gave it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We absolutely have agreeance on the principles of our position and our engagement both with the United States and with China, and in past Governments, there’s equally been general agreeance around New Zealand’s foreign policy interests between Government and Opposition as well. I was already aware of the principles contained in that speech.

So two sensitive issues – the relationship with China, and Ardern’s relationship with Peters.

Of note also was James Shaw’s contribution:

Hon James Shaw: Does the Prime Minister think that the relationship with China might be improved by, say, gifting a sheep farm to a wealthy businessman from that country?

I didn’t think it was Green practice to play those sort of diversionary games in Parliament.

NZ Herald addresses this in their editorial:  Has our govt antagonised China?

When friends fall out it can be very hard not to take sides. When the “friends” are superpowers and you are tiny by comparison, it becomes doubly hard. That is the position our Government is in. Its avowed foreign policy is to remain strictly neutral in the trade war and other tensions between the United States and China. Yet China appears to believe New Zealand is siding against it.

It is hard to draw any other message from the suspension of the invitation to the Prime Minister to visit the People’s Republic this year and the postponement of a joint tourist promotion that was to be launched in Wellington next week. And it is not hard to see why China would have the impression this country is not the friend it used to be.

The new Government’s “reset” of policy towards the Pacific Islands is strongly tinged with support for the US and suspicion of China’s interests in the region. At a speech in Washington in December, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the Southwest Pacific was “becoming more contested and its security is every more fragile”. A purpose of his visit, he said, was to “enlist greater US support in the region closest to New Zealand”.

“We unashamedly ask for the United States to engage more and we think it is in your vital interests to do so. And time is of the essence,” he added.

He talked of “asymmetries at play in the region when larger players are renewing their interest in the Pacific” and said, “the speed and intensity of those interests at play are of great concern to us.” He went on to acknowledge China and said New Zealand “welcomes all partners in the Pacific on terms that take account of the Pacific’s needs, where quality projects are sustainable and delivered transparently”.

Point taken in Beijing no doubt.

Two key points from all of this is how Peters is managing the sometimes relationships between both the USA and China, and how much influence (and knowledge) Ardern has with Peters and his Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Peters has a history of being not very complimentary about China, even making Chines ‘jokes’. He also seems to see himself as the experienced statesman compared to the inexperienced Ardern.

It was always going to be a challenge having the crucial Foreign Affairs role taken by someone in a different party to the Prime Minister. And when that role is being carried out by Peters I think Ardern may continue to have problems with dealing with China.

It will be a real test of Ardern’s mettle as prime Minister that won’t be helped by feel good PR.

Pressure on Ardern and Government over relationship with China

Jacinda Ardern’s first day in Parliament for the year was difficult, with questions being asked about New Zealand’s apparently deteriorating relationship with China.

Juggling different international interests is one of the biggest challenges for a Government. This cannot be done via PR and friendly media.

While Ardern has had positive coverage at the United Nations (last year) and Davos (last month), she doesn’t seem to have established good working relationships with two of the biggest economic powers, USA and China.

She has played a sort of anti-Trump card to the applause of some (but not Trump), and Foreign Minister Winston peters has been campaigning around the Pacific against Chinese influence.

Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): NZ-China ‘scheduling issues’ cause for concern

The tourism relationship between New Zealand and China is a “special and enduring one”, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said last October.

That was why the official 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism would be marked with a special event at Te Papa on February 20.

Just one problem: the event was quietly postponed – to an as yet unknown date – due to what Davis described as a “scheduling issue” on the Chinese side.

Coming on the heels of similarly nebulous scheduling issues which put paid to Jacinda Ardern’s plans to visit China before the end of 2018, it is difficult to shake the feeling that a point, however subtle, is being made.

Last year was particularly difficult for Ardern’s Government when it came to China.

He details well covered issues, then concludes:

Where things go from here is unclear: while Ardern says officials are still working on dates for a Beijing visit, there is a sense from some foreign affairs watchers that the delay at China’s end is directly related to other strains on the relationship.

The nature of China’s interventions means people will be on edge for any perceived slight, real or otherwise: some have questioned the fate of a trip to Beijing by Davis and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta which had supposedly been pencilled in for early March (both ministers’ offices say a firm date has never been set down, with discussions still underway).

The relationship may not be as dire as National is claiming – but there are certainly some issues which need to be resolved.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there are challenges in NZ’s relationship with China

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is playing down any suggestions New Zealand’s diplomatic relationship with China is on the rocks but admits the two nations were facing some “challenges”.

Ardern was this morning grilled on a number of issues relating to New Zealand’s relationship with China.

She said New Zealand still puts a lot of effort into its relationship with China, but is “at the same time facing some challenges”.

Ardern added: “But in a way I think that preserves New Zealand’s independent foreign policy.”

Having an independent foreign policy is fine, but when it has an affect on relationships with important trade countries it can get quite tricky, as Ardern appears to acknowledge (the ‘challenges’).

Ardern’s predecessor John Key used to go to China every year during his time as Prime Minister.

But Ardern said she did not want to set that expectation.

She said the Government sent a number of ministers to China last year – Foreign Minister Winston Peters visited China midway through the year.

“Those exchanges are happening with our Government, it’s just that I don’t want to set an expectation that I go somewhere every single year.”

She stressed that the diplomatic relationship with China was important, but acknowledged there were some challenges.

When asked what those challenges are, Ardern said there were some questions over the Huawei decision.

Stuff:  Until Jacinda Ardern visits China, questions about the relationship will only deepen

There is no doubt that the relationship is in a difficult state, and many in media and foreign affairs circles are on the lookout for any sign that China is punishing New Zealand.

News that the Government’s security bureau may block Chinese giant Huawei from participating in the next generation 5G telecommunications network, seemingly under pressure from our Five Eyes partners, has left the political class on edge.

Everyone expects some form of punishment from the world’s largest command economy, creating a high risk of confirmation bias, where we interpret facts based on what we believe is coming.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was questioned repeatedly, forced to defend the state of relations with New Zealand’s largest trading partner.

Back in October, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis was so excited by the coming China-New Zealand year of tourism that he posted an official statement on the Beehive website.

An opening ceremony event was to be held at Te Papa on February 20, coinciding with the hosting of 2300-year-old Chinese artefacts, the Terracotta Warriors: Guardians of Immortality exhibition.

However, a fortnight ago, the Chinese (who were the hosts of the event) unexpectedly cancelled.

“Officials are working with the Chinese Embassy to get a new date confirmed for this event,” a spokesman for Davis said.

These things will take more than a feature in the Womens’ Weekly or a friendly article in the Guardian to resolve.

Whether the current low level tension escalates is impossible to know.

On the one hand, China faces bigger problems, in its ongoing trade war with the United States, meaning it cannot afford to get into unnecessary fights elsewhere.

On the other, if China wanted to demonstrate its power to cause considerable pain to a country resisting its expansion, while causing relatively little pain to its own economy, New Zealand could be an attractive target.

There are certainly challenges for Ardern here, especially with Winston Peters in charge of Foreign Affairs.

Contrasting takes on Bridges: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement

Following an embarrassing poll result Simon Bridges came out firing in his first speech of the year in Parliament yesterday, in response to the Prime Minister’s statement.

It was the best of speeches, it was the worst of speeches, depending who is describing it.

Predictably Winston Peters, who spoke immediately afterwards, slammed and ridiculed the speech and Bridges.

Nice wasn’t on Winston’s agenda, and Jacinda Ardern laughed alongside him.

And the opposite was also claimed.

Here is Bridges’ speech:

Did it do enough to lift his leadership? One speech does not make a leader.

All the speeches can be seen online here: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20190212_20190212_20/tab/video?page=5

And Hansard transcripts: DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

 

China puts Ardern visit on hold, postpones tourism launch

China appears to be putting a squeeze on Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand, with a visit to China by Ardern being postponed, and a joint ‘Year of Tourism’ launch being scuppered.

In part this appears to be in response to block Huawei from supplying equipment for a major 5G broadband installation.

Barry Soper (NZ Herald):  China, New Zealand links sink to new low: PM Jacinda Ardern’s visit on hold, tourism project postponed

Diplomatic links with China appear to have plummeted to a new low as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is given the cold shoulder by Beijing and a major tourism promotion is postponed by the superpower.

Ardern was scheduled to visit China early this year but the invitation has been put on hold.

The 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism was meant to be launched with great fanfare at Wellington’s Te Papa museum next week, but that has been postponed by China.

The initiative was announced by the Key Government almost two years ago when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was in Wellington.

Richard Davies, manager of tourism policy at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, said: “China has advised that this event has had to be postponed due to changes of schedule on the Chinese side.”

It looks like a deliberate distancing and point making by China. This has significant implications for trade and tourism.

Ardern said after the Cabinet meeting yesterday that the official visit to Beijing is being worked on. Late last year she was on standby to visit but said they could not co-ordinate their diaries. New Zealand sources in Beijing say her first visit to China is not expected any time soon.

The decision by the Government’s chief spy agency, the GCSB, to axe Chinese telco giant Huawei from the Spark 5G broadband rollout is seen by China as New Zealand taking sides with the United States. The Trump Administration publicly asked its Five Eyes partners not to do business with Huawei.

The GCSB’s version that Huawei posed a risk to national security isn’t enough for Beijing. It wants a better explanation before opening the door to Ardern.

This could take a lot more than a bit of PR poncing to resolve. The real world of international trade and diplomacy involves more than photo ops and friendly articles.

Asset management and corporate adviser David Mahon, based in Beijing, said governments needed to get over thwarting Chinese economic aims in a way reminiscent of the Cold War struggle between capitalism and communism.

“It’s unhelpful for politicians and a few anti-Chinese professors to feed uncorroborated McCarthyite conspiracies about Chinese spy networks in their countries and targeting anyone who doesn’t share their view”.

Philip Burdon, a former National Government Trade Minister and recently chairman of the Asia New Zealand Foundation, said New Zealand couldn’t afford to take sides.

“We clearly need to commit ourselves to the cause of trade liberalisation and the integration of the global economy while respectfully and realistically acknowledging China’s entitlement to a comprehensive and responsible strategic and economic engagement in the region,” he said.

Sources in Beijing say China plans trade retaliation and the turning back of an Air New Zealand plane at the weekend may not have been a coincidence. Sources say the airline has been trying to secure extra landing slots in Shanghai without success.

NZ Herald: Air New Zealand takes blame for administrative blunder that meant Shanghai flight turned around

Air New Zealand has taken responsibility for a costly blunder that resulted in a flight from Auckland to Shanghai being turned around.

A spokeswoman said the aircraft at the centre of yesterday’s problem was new to the route and hadn’t gained the necessary approval.

Asked whether the Chinese stance had changed, she said: ”No, this was the result of an administrative issue on our end.”

An odd sort of ‘administrative issue’. getting approval for a route and landing is a fairly basic part of flight planning.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the mistake was Air New Zealand’s and was separate to China-New Zealand relations.

“It is important to be really clear and not confuse administrative and regulatory issues as issues to do with the relationship.”

Asked how she could be sure that this had nothing to do with any political reasons, she said: “Aircraft travelling into China are required to be registered. This one was not. That is the issue that has occurred here.”

Sounds like a sensitive issue.

Ardern can’t even get a plane off the ground for a visit to China. This isn’t a good sign in New Zealand-Chinese relations, and the late postponement of the launch of the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism should also raise some alarm bells. When is it going to be launched ? Later in the year?

This may not just be a problem for Ardern. Pror to getting into Government with coalition partner NZ First:

China may not be able to tell New Zealand what to do, but they seem quite capable of telling us what they won’t do with us.

This may not help either:

And from RNZ: Government has its ‘eyes wide open’ on China: Winston Peters

Mr Peters comments follow a report by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Chinese Influence and American Interests: Promoting Constructive Vigilance, which criticises New Zealand for not doing enough to counter Chinese influence.

“New Zealand’s government, unlike that of Australia, has taken few steps to counter foreign interference in its internal affairs,” the report said.

“Charity fund-raising, which has been used by Chinese United Front organisations to mask contributions, remains excluded from disclosure requirements.

Mr Peters said that he accepts the comments made in the report.

“When we came into government in 2017, on these issues we came in with our eyes wide open.”

He said that the government has already taken action by implementing its Pacific Reset policy.

“That’s why we’ve got the Pacific Reset, which is a huge turnaround in our approach to our neighbourhood and our engagement with it.”

“We all need to understand the changed environment and the Pacific Reset had a proper, serious evaluation of that and that’s why it’s a very, very critical part of our present foreign policy.”

However, he said the policy wasn’t designed to counter the influence of China specifically.

“No, it’s to ensure that the shape and character of our neighbourhood maintains the level of influence of countries who believe in democracy … who believe in sovereignty and countries who have got the best interest of the neighbourhood in mind, not some wider and larger purpose.”

Mr Peters wouldn’t say whether he thought China was becoming increasingly authoritarian.

“When the leader becomes what effectively looks to be the president for life, then that is a changed circumstance that would be naive not to understand.”

“China’s a one-party state – it’s not a democracy”.

These comments are likely to have been noticed in China.

Mr Peters said that he doesn’t believe there will be any reaction from China on the Huawei ban.

Maybe he will need to revise that belief.

Ardern may be caught between China versus US trade battles.

And also between Peters and China.

Where are all the young progressives?

Jacinda Ardern’s sudden rise to leadership of the country was lauded (in part by herself) as the start of new generation progressive change.

Jacinda Ardern, 2018.jpg

But where are all the young progressives?

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has a lot of influence in the government. He is nearly seventy four years old and first made it into Parliament in 1979, forty years ago and before the so-called neo-liberal changes in the 1980s.

Winston Peters, 2018.jpg

One of the first things the incoming did was do a u-turn to support and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. ‘Progressive ‘ was tacked onto the from of the name, but it is much the same as past trade agreements. Responsible for managing this was Labour’s most experienced minister, and one of their oldest – David Parker is nearing 60.

David Parker NZ.jpg

Tax reform has been a major policy of Labour’s. They appointed Michael Cullen to lead their Tax Working Group. He is the same age as Peters (he turns 74 in two days),  and entered Parliament two years after Peters, in 1981.

Image result for michael cullen

Labour has a close relationship with unions, and want to reform labour laws. The appointed ex Prime Minister Jim Bolger to lead that working group. He entered parliament in 1972, before most current ministers were born. He is ten years older than Peters and Cullen. And his group’s recommendations have been described as a return to old school industry wage agreements.

Jim Bolger 2018 (cropped).jpg

Experience is essential in government. So are new ideas, understanding changing times and youthful enthusiasm.

Ardern is fronting a new progressive way of doing politics, but where is the team and the drive behind this? There are no obvious new generation stars beyond Ardern’s accomplished grasp of PR.

Where are all the young progressives? And where is the female input beyond the figurehead of Ardern?