Is Winston Peters playing the PM on foreign policy?

Guest post from Gezza


Interesting Opinion Piece by Patrick Smellie:

US and Chinese officials met in Beijing this week for the first talks since both countries’ presidents agreed a trade war ceasefire at last month’s G-20 summit in Argentina.

By early March, they need a plan that simultaneously softens the impact on China of the US’s new embrace of protectionism while starting to deal with China’s rampant intellectual property theft and subsidies that make its state-backed corporations unfair global competitors.

In doing so, both leaders will be seeking a win for their respective domestic audiences.

Getting there will be no mean feat. The Chinese ‘long view’ of history is a powerful organising principle for the Middle Kingdom’s global ambitions. Unlike Trump, its leadership is capable of thinking long-term.

I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment. Trump is capable of thinking long-term. He just isn’t capable of seeing other viewpoints and considering them, or of understanding what motivates others, or of adapting his negotiation strategies when it’s evident he could approach things differently. Or of concentrating enuf on details to foresee adverse consequences or opposition that could work against him.

He’s a rich kid who’s always done whatever it takes to get what he wants. And that includes lying, going bankrupt, and paying people to arrange for him to then profit from the misery & poverty that’s sometimes caused others. His narcissism works well for him when he’s in total control & surrounded by sycophants who will do his bidding. Or when he can cheat and lie & get away with it because he can bankrupt less wealthy opponents or victims, and for him the ends (getting what he wants) has always justified any means.

But now he’s not in total control. So he’s often chaotically flailing around in pursuit of long-term plans that he might deliver, but might screw up because he’s so flawed he makes people want to get rid of him to stop the chaos and division and wrecking of America’s standing in the world.

The talks also occur against a backdrop of heightened competition for defence and security influence around the world.

There has been questionable co-ordination between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Foreign Minister and deputy Winston Peters over our relationships with China and the US.
The US-led initiative to keep Chinese-built Huawei and ZTE componentry out of Western 5G mobile networks represents the sharp point of intersection in trade and security tensions.

Nations try to pursue security and trade agendas on separate tracks, but one inevitably bleeds into the other in ways. At best, at a global level, these current tensions may be bad for global economic growth. At worst, they could become the catalyst for conflict, which an American president desperately seeking to project strength might embrace.

For New Zealand, this simultaneous escalation of trade and security tensions between our traditional western ally and our largest trading partner is fraught with the risk of becoming collateral damage in the ensuing contest of empires. As a member of the Five Eyes cyber-spying network, New Zealand sits on the US side of the anti-Huawei fence. But it also seeks an upgraded free trade agreement and legitimately worries that Beijing could turn off the tap on agricultural exports, international students, Chinese tourists – or all three.

Australia has already suffered for its more emphatically pro-US stance.

We should never put all our eggs in one basket. Both the US and the Chinese can punish us economically for simply pursuing our own issues-based foreign policy when they want to bully us into siding with them or opting out in disputes between their economic and foreign policy initiatives and engagements.

Wider free trade with as many other nations as possible is clearly desirable, but trade in what? As other countries are forced by Trade Agreements to become more productive and competitive with our major food exports, what else do we have?

Clearly, the New Zealand government needs to pursue any rebalancing in the relationships to the two biggest protagonists in our region with great care.

Just before Christmas, there were worrying signs to suggest such care is, if not absent, then lacking, with questionable co-ordination between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Foreign Minister and deputy Winston Peters.

The Ardern approach embraces multi-lateralism, ‘progressive’ free trade agreements that do more to protect national sovereignty than in the past, and a new demonstration of leadership on climate change. On the world stage, Ardern has shone as a beacon of optimism and inter-generational leadership change.

That may be how she is portrayed here but apart from US female talk show hosts, who else in the world cares? So she’s a minor celebrity abroad with people who don’t count. What impact will she have on other world leaders? How many other young intergenerational leaders are there who will hearken to her siren song and make the world a kinder place? Isn’t her government rather chaotic and it’s benefits and drawbacks & objectives all rather fuzzy? Could it all just crash and burn? Hope not, but I just don’t know until we know what the werkinggruppes produce for them to make (or justify) policies from – and what they ignore.

Meanwhile, Peters and NZ First Defence Minister Ron Mark have made the running on defence and security policy in ways that are pulling New Zealand much closer to the US.

Mark’s defence strategy paper saw New Zealand explicitly criticise China’s expansionism in the South China Sea for the first time and his announcement of a multi-billion dollar upgrade of air force surveillance capability to include potential for anti-submarine weaponry were highly significant nods to Washington DC.

Peters took that a step further last month. In a speech to an elite US audience on the Pacific region shortly before meetings with deputy vice-president Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Peters said: “We unashamedly ask the United States to engage more and we think it is in your vital interests to do so.”

Time was “of the essence” as “larger players are renewing their interest in the Pacific with an attendant level of strategic competition”. These and other parts of the speech represented serious new lines in the sand for New Zealand foreign policy.

We probably should want the US to engage more in the South Pacific. China’s interest is self-interest. And the degrading of American influence & power is vital to that. But do we want to engage more with the US under Trump? Really? Trump’s interest is American self-interest. Hopefully when Trump is gone – which may be by 2020 – sanity and a more careful, thoughtful President will make them take more of an interest in promoting & protecting the interests of free speech democracies in the South Pacific on both moral & shared interests grounds.

But when asked whether she had read the speech prior to delivery, let alone whether the Cabinet had discussed it, Ardern gave an almost breezy dismissal.

That is deeply worrying.

Regardless of whether Peters is articulating a revised foreign policy stance that the whole coalition government agrees with, such revisions require the active engagement of both the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Failing to insist on that fuels the narrative that Peters is successfully playing Ardern not only on domestic policy issues, but on foreign policy as well, leveraging his party’s impacts far beyond the mandate implied by its 5 per cent support at the 2017 election.

Ok. Maybe. So what? Is National likely to have any more of a coherent foreign policy or to do anything different?

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/109828977/is-winston-peters-playing-the-pm-on-foreign-policy

Winston Peters’ claims of migration compact misinformation misinformation

Winston Peters has been accusing others of spreading misinformation about the UN Migration Compact that New Zealand voted in favour of this week, but he has been misinforming a bit himself, by implication at least.

Newstalk ZB (Wednesday) – Winston Peters: Misinformation around the UN migration compact is wrong

Peters says that they sought legal advice as there had been a lot of misinformation spread about the compact.

He says that Crown Law found that the seven major criticisms of the agreement were fundamentally wrong.

Peters says that in their statement to the United Nations tomorrow morning our time, they will be making it clear how New Zealand is interpreting the compact.

National Party Simon Bridges has vowed to pull out of the deal if his party gets into Government.

However, Peters says they initially signed up to the deal back in 2016.

“They won’t [pull out], because they were the ones that started this.”

National didn’t ‘start this’ – they just signed up to an agreement to develop an agreement.

On Friday, Gerry Brownlee said signing up the agreement wasn’t a good move.

He said to “hand over your immigration policy to scrutiny to other UN countries if you don’t do what is required – which is pretty much open borders – I think’s the wrong thing to do.”

The decision to develop a compact was first made by UN Member States, including New Zealand, in September 2016. The process towards it began in April 2017, stewarded by representatives from Mexico and Switzerland.

After months of negotiations, the final draft of the agreement was decided upon in July.

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the Compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

This is misinformation by Peters. The National led Government was a part of the process, but they didn’t decide on the finaal details of the compact.

Newshub on Friday:  New Zealand First slams ’emotional debate’ over UN Migration Compact

In an email on Friday, NZ First responded saying its “political adversaries” will be “telling everybody that they’re going to ‘overturn’ the UN Migration Compact and make various inflammatory claims that the ‘Compact’ is going to permit mass migration into New Zealand”.

The NZ First email, with the subject line “they are not telling the truth”.

But Peters is being somewhat flexible with ‘the truth’.

Committing to develop a Compact is a long way from voting for the final form.

Peters is reported as saying (about national) ‘they initially signed up to the deal back in 2016’. That’s clearly misinformation. It is nonsense to claim New Zealand signed up to a Compact before negotiations had begun.

NZ First email to members on UN migration compact

The NZ First Party is trying to address what looks like widespread criticism of Winston Peters for his support as Foreign Minister of the UN compact on migration.

See:

NZ First has focussed on a response to criticism in their Christmas message to members.

The press release:

Government legal advice says UN Migration Compact doesn’t compromise sovereignty

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand will support the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document are unfounded.

“The Government would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could in any way take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. But the compact does not do that,” said Mr Peters.

“The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have provided legal advice which confirms this UN cooperation framework is neither legally binding nor constraining on this country setting its own migration policies.”

Specifically the legal advice has stated that:

  • The compact is non-legally binding and does not create legal obligations;
  • It does not establish customary international law;
  • The compact should not be taken to give the legal instruments referred to in the text as having any binding effect that those instruments do not already have in international law;
  • It reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national immigration policy and laws and that States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migratory status;
  • The compact does not establish any new human rights law, nor create any new categories of migrants, nor establish a right to migrate.
  • The compact in no way restricts or curtails established human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

“The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework,” said Mr Peters.

“We are aware that the statements of other countries voting in support of the compact, such as the United Kingdom, are underpinned by legal advice supporting their positions.”

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

“New Zealand is voting for the Compact because we support greater efforts in controlling migration issues while also being confident our own sovereign decision making isn’t compromised,” he said.

Note – legal advice is attached

There is no link to the legal advice, but it can be found here.

Comments on this at Reddit: Email from NZ first on UN compact

Peters blames ‘alt-right’ and NZ First member bewilderment for criticism of UN compact on migration

Winston Peters goes into irony overdrive in a grumpy interview blaming others of dog whistle politics over the UN migration accord.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister has blamed “a campaign strategy by the alt-right” to discredit his and the Government’s support of the accord – see Government to sign controversial UN Migration Compact – and agrees (or doesn’t disagree) that NZ First party members are bewildered.

And he criticises anyone who doesn’t align with his views on the accord – including taking swipes at interviewer Mike Yardley and Australia.

Newstalk ZB: Peters blames ‘alt-right’ for UN migration pact criticism

Winston Peters says the UN Migration Compact has been misrepresented by people spouting nonsense who want to lie to the public.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister says uninformed people and the “alt-right” are intentionally misleading about the true nature of the agreement.

He says the legal advice is very clear that it’s not legally binding, and won’t override our immigration laws and he is entirely comfortable with adopting it.

Peters told Mike Yardley it’s an agreement in principle about how we reduce harmful, illegal migration and how to stop trafficking.

“We have decided as a matter of principal it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sign up to the agreement. Just because there have been people dog whistling false information on this, that doesn’t mean we will sway.”

Winston Peters says he is comfortable with the compact, despite the outcry from many people, especially NZ First members, who believe the agreement will sign away the country’s sovereignty.

He says the compact doesn’t blur the lines between legal and illegal migration, and they are not legally bound to the document.

“We are trying to stop the awful human trafficking of people, and the corruption of people. These are dreadful things which are happening around the world.

You have a campaign strategy by the alt-right to try and spread misinformation on this, it is just not true.”

There is audio of the interview at the Newstalk ZB link. It concludes:

Mike Yardley: Are you receiving lot’s of congratulatory messages from your party faithful?

Winston Peters: No.

Mike Yardley: Are you surprised?

Winston Peters: No.

Mike Yardley: Are they bewildered?

Winston Peters: (I think he says or meant to say) Well guess why? Because you’ve had a group of, a campaign strategy by the alt-right in particular, and it is the alt-right in this case…

Mike Yardley: Is Paul Spoonley alt-right Winston?

Winston Peters: Oh well actually Mr Spoonley is a sociologist from Massey University, and doesn’t understand the law, so he can opine all he likes…

Mike Yardley: Is Chris Trotter alt-right?

Winston Peters: No he’s not alt-right, and if Chris Trotter is talking about the political consequences of sometimes having to do something called principle.

There is a lot of criticism of Winston’s support of the accord on the NZ First Facebook page: Response to Winston Peters support of UN Migration Compact

He is also being slammed at Kiwiblog (in General Debate comments), and Whale Oil, in the absence of pro Winston activist Cameron Slater, has gone into anti-Winston overdrive:

That may be the closest thing to the alt-right in New Zealand.

Peters really doesn’t sound comfortable being on the receiving end of criticism from the demographic that in the past he has often appealed to for support.

Response to Winston Peters support of UN Migration Compact

NZ First got voter support due to their hard line stance on immigration. After he announced Government approval of a UN Migration Compact Winston Peters is taking a hammering on the NZ First Facebook page:

Peter Evans:

NZ FIRST FINISHED. Winston Peters and the greatest act of political TREACHERY in our history.
Peters is a liar a fraud and a self serving conman. NZFIRST is finished.

Jenny Cunningham:

Lower immigration and putting NZers first was what he campaigned on. He’s a total turncoat. I feel a bit sick actually

Raewyn Fisher:

The government are traitors to the NZ people

Tommy Way:

I voted for NZ first for there hard line on this topic.
But looks like Winston has sold his soul for power.
You lose my vote next election

William Coakley:

Lost my vote then. We need to start a petition about this. Otherwise NZ will turn into a dump like all those cities in europe.

Allan Farr:

 Belgian PM resigns after UN migrant pact row results in no confidence motion https://www.facebook.com/209101162445115/posts/2143409999014212/

Jefffery Bredenbeck:

No way should this government have signed this pact. When were us the people asked ?. This document limits the media or anyone from disagreeing with uncontrolled immigration, and thats ok ?

Greg Warden:

I have nothing but contempt for Winston Peters now. Signing that UN migration pact is signing away our sovereignty and taking away the right of this country to make it’s own decisions. We need a Donald Trump as our leader !!

Stephenie van Dusschoten

SAD!!! Anything to do with the UN is MASS MIGRATION…goodbye New Zealand….

Kelly Carmont

why sign it if it means nothing, hidden agenda maybe?

Sheree Rihari

Lost my vote Mr Peters. I think you have miscalculated very badly any support you think you may have had around this issue. Pity. I have voted NZ First for the last 4 elections and Im not in your target demographic, but never again.

Michael Wilson

You have really let down the NZ public on this one.. Such an important issue should have had a lot more consultation with the people of NZ… We didn’t vote you in to look after the UN’s plans and ambitions, We voted you in to act in the best interests of NEW ZEALANDERS!!

Barry Trimboli

Winston. You’ve just screwed us mate.
I did not vote for you so you could bend over to the UN. What you’ve done here goes against everything you campaigned on. You’ve looked us in the eyes and lied.
With one signature, you’ve just lost half your supporters. Good luck trying to get us back on board for 2020. I’ll remember this, my two ticks will be going elsewhere next time.

And it goes on.

It is surprising to see people surprised by Peters in Government acting quite different to how he speaks in Opposition, but this is not a happy bunch of (claimed) NZ First voters.

This could be a good illustration of why small parties supporting a Government struggle to maintain voter support. Being a part of Government inevitably involves making compromises. It’s just that in Opposition Peters had an uncompromising stance in his tough talk on immigration.

Peters claims “immigration has fallen quite dramatically under this Government”

Immigration numbers were a big discussion point in last year’s election campaign. Labour campaigned last on reducing the number of immigrants coming to New Zealand – (April 2017): Andrew Little’s big call to cut 50,000 immigrants

“We have typically had inward migration, net migration of 20 to 25,000 – you want to target that sort of level,” Little says.

They revised that:

  • Cut number of immigrants by 20,000-30,000 from last year’s 74,200

That would have taken immigration numbers down to 44,000-54,000.

Winston Peters campaigned on a more drastic cut. From where do the parties stand on immigration?

NZ First leader Winston Peters has vowed to drastically reduce net immigration well below what Labour wants, to a net migration level of around 10,000 a year.

His message to voters who want a big drop in immigration levels is that Labour can’t be trusted, given they had only recently called for sizeable cuts, and National will continue the “economic treason” of “mass immigration”.

RNZ (October 2017): NZ First loses battle on migrant numbers

…the party was less successful in its push to cut net immigration to just 10,000 a year.

Instead, the agreement sticks to Labour’s plan to reduce net migration by 20,000 to 30,000.

In a Q+A interview 31 July 2018:

Corrin Dann: How is it fair, for those struggling to get into houses in Auckland,  that you are continuing, your Government, to run a policy of record migration levels, a boom that is continuing?

Winston Peters: You can’t get away with that. The record was seventy two thousand eight hundred.

Corrin Dann: And now it’s sixty five.

Winston Peters: Sixty five and falling, yes, And it’ll be far more focussed now, and it will possibly focus come all the way down another thirty, in all about between twenty five and thirty thousand, somewhere in that region. But we’ve also got to watch the employment market to ensure that none of our export product is being hindered by a lack of staff.

That’s likely to be acknowledging the need for dairy farm workers, vineyard workers, fruit pickers.

Corrin Dann: You told your supporters you wanted it at ten thousand.

Winston Peters: Yeah well I lost the argument because I didn’t get enough votes because people like you said it wouldn’t work. Now you say it will.

In an interview on Newstalk XB perhaps ironically headlined Misinformation around the UN migration compact is wrong Larry Williams (on National Party reaction to the UN Compact on Immigration being agreed to by the Government, “Well they’ve stated today, simon bridges told me they’ll scrap they, they will rescind it if the become the Government. What do you say about that?”

Winston Peters:

“Well they won’t, they were the ones that started this.

“And I might add, immigration has fallen quite dramatically under this Government. It was rising under the last Government. That’s what I say about that sort of dog whistle statement”

Net migration has fallen in the last year, but I wouldn’t call it a drastic fall. Stats NZ: Net migration is lowest since 2015

Annual net migration has eased to its lowest level in three years, Stats NZ said today. For the year ended October 2018, it fell to 61,800.

Overall, net migration was down 8,900 from the October 2017 year, reflecting both fewer migrants arriving in New Zealand and more leaving the country.

For the October 2018 year compared with the October 2017 year:

  • migrant arrivals were 128,100, down 3,500
  • migrant departures were 66,400, up 5,400.

And this monthly net migration chart shows a slight trend downwards.

That doesn’t look like “immigration has fallen quite dramatically under this Government”.

 

Government to sign controversial UN Migration Compact

This looks a bit like a decision dumped at the end of the parliamentary year knowing that it could be controversial – Winston Peters has announced that the Government will support a UN Migration Compact after getting advice it won’t compromise New Zealand’s sovereignty.

If there is no problem why make the announcement now? Perhaps Peters thought it might compromise his and NZ First’s strong anti-immigration stance prior to them getting into power. That had already fizzled somewhat.

NZ First immigration policy (prior to last year’s election) included:

  • Stop the knee jerk annual immigration planning and start working on ten year and 25 year plans.
  • Create a new organisation to protect the integrity of New Zealand citizenship known as the Immigration Inspectorate.
  • Create an “undesirables” category, to ensure those from dangerous and unethical regimes are red-flagged before they get here.
  • Remove the capacity for New Zealand to even consider for refugee status, those with terrorism related convictions in other jurisdictions.
  • Make the Refugee Status Appeals Authority more directly responsible to Parliament.
  • Make DNA testing compulsory when any doubt exists over immigrant/refugee family relationships.
  • Refugee family reunification will be limited to spouses and immediate dependent siblings.
  • Consult New Zealanders about the make up of those coming here.

Peters has avoided talking about this UN Migration Compact until making this announcement, let alone consult with New Zealanders about it.

In particular:

  • New Zealand First will meet UN refugee obligation but believes humanitarian benevolence has been abused by family reunification policy.

NZ First’s tough stance on immigration seemed to be the attraction to voters, but things was whittled down to this in immigration in the Labour-NZ First Coalition agreement: As per Labour’s policy, pursue Labour and New Zealand First’s shared priorities to:

  • Ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skills shortages and cut down on low quality international education courses.
  • Take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students

The NZ First Party itself still wanted more vetting of potential immigrants. From their conference in September: NZ First members want migrants and refugees to sign to core values:

A remit to introduce a Respecting New Zealand Values Bill for migrants and refugees was passed by party members despite some opposition, and will now go to the caucus for policy consideration.

These values would include respect for gender equality, legal sexual preferences, freedom of religion and a commitment not to campaign against alcohol consumption.

New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell helped draft the bill and read out its intentions.

“New Zealand is a tolerant society. Our tolerance means that if an individual wants to immigrate to New Zealand, they must accept, respect and adhere to the tolerance our society expects,” it said.

“Immigrants must agree to respect New Zealand’s values and to live a life that demonstrates that they respect New Zealand values.”

From a NZ First announcement two days ago: Common sense approach to immigration welcomed

The Government is taking serious action on the immigration system to make it work better for New Zealand businesses and the regions.

Today’s announcement proposes introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas and replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists.

“New Zealand First celebrates the end to the previous Government’s open borders approach which did not adequately address our skills shortages and put significant strain on our infrastructure,” says Mr Mitchell.

Also two days ago from Todd McClay, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Peters’ still hiding stance on Global Compact:

Winston Peters’ continued refusal to make a decision and tell the public what New Zealand’s position on the United Nations Global Compact on Migration is shameful, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“This morning the Prime Minister confirmed that a final decision is yet to be made on whether New Zealand is signing up to the Global Compact on Migration or not and we are all waiting on the Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, to make up his mind.

“It beggars belief that the Foreign Minister is still considering what New Zealand’s decision will be.

“The Government has been negotiating this agreement since February, and the Minister signed off on our negotiating position then. The Minister also received a final draft in July, and New Zealand attended the adoption meeting in Morocco last week and yet New Zealanders are still being kept in the dark.

“This is a serious matter. When New Zealand commits to frameworks such as these on the global stage, it is the public’s interests at stake.

“But even after weeks of questioning by National, the Government seems no closer to providing information on whether they will commit us to this United Nations framework

Also two days ago in Parliament’s question time  Labour’s David Parker spoke on behalf of Peters (Peters was in Washington):

10. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he made a decision whether New Zealand will sign up to the United Nations global compact for migration?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member continues to display a fundamental misunderstanding of the diplomatic processes that apply. There is no document to be signed; there is a vote.

Hon Todd McClay: Why has the Government not yet been able to make a decision, given he has had the draft text of the UN compact since July?

Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, because we are carefully checking all of the facts, including the irresponsible and incorrect assertions that this somehow curbs the sovereignty of countries that vote for the compact.

Hon Todd McClay: Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirm that the Government have been negotiating the compact since February, they’ve had the draft text since July, adopted it in Morocco last week, and are actually just keeping Kiwis in the dark until after Parliament has lifted for the summer recess?

Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, no. I can confirm that the gymnastics of the Opposition, who signed up to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop telling lies.

Hon Todd McClay: Was the Prime Minister correct on NewstalkZB this morning when she said that it’s Winston Peters who would be making the decision to sign the UN compact later this week and not Cabinet?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen the transcript of that interview, and that is an improper characterisation of it. [Interruption] It’s an incorrect characterisation of it.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he agree with the statement that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, made to media that the problem with these non-binding agreements is over time they become binding; and, if so, will he inform his Cabinet colleagues of his long-held position on UN agreements?

Hon DAVID PARKER: …The first point to make would be that I’m sure that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was speaking in respect of treaties. This is not a treaty. The second point I would make is that the reversal by the National Party on its earlier position is desperate, opportunist flip-flop, which appears to show that the National Party takeover by Judith Collins is just about complete.

This demonstrates the contentious nature of the UN Compact on Migration.

Yesterday’s announcement:

Government legal advice says UN Migration Compact doesn’t compromise sovereignty

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand will support the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document are unfounded.

“The Government would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could in any way take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. But the compact does not do that,” said Mr Peters.

“The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have provided legal advice which confirms this UN cooperation framework is neither legally binding nor constraining on this country setting its own migration policies.”

Specifically the legal advice has stated that:

  • The compact is non-legally binding and does not create legal obligations;
  • It does not establish customary international law;
  • The compact should not be taken to give the legal instruments referred to in the text as having any binding effect that those instruments do not already have in international law;
  • It reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national immigration policy and laws and that States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migratory status;
  • The compact does not establish any new human rights law, nor create any new categories of migrants, nor establish a right to migrate.
  • The compact in no way restricts or curtails established human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

“The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework,” said Mr Peters.

“We are aware that the statements of other countries voting in support of the compact, such as the United Kingdom, are underpinned by legal advice supporting their positions.”

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

“New Zealand is voting for the Compact because we support greater efforts in controlling migration issues while also being confident our own sovereign decision making isn’t compromised,” he said.

Reaction from Simon Bridges from NZ to vote in favour of UN Migration Compact (NZH):

National leader Simon Bridges has said the compact treats legal and illegal migration in the same way.

“There is no automatic right to migrate to another country without that country’s full agreement, a view which the UN’s Global Compact on Migration seeks to counter.

“While not binding, the compact could restrict the ability of future governments to set immigration and foreign policy, and to decide on which migrants are welcome and which aren’t.”

Newstalk ZB (audio): Misinformation around the UN migration compact is wrong

“It does not mean that you have a right to migrate, it does mean that your sovereignty is in any way compromised, and it does not mean that this overrides or prevails over the immigration law of any one country.”

The Free Speech Coalition says the UN Compact for Migration prohibits all critical speech of open-border migration, and encourages reporters to be educated on migration terminology. They say that’s unjustifiable in a free society.

But Peters says they haven’t read the whole thing.

“It begins by saying this, this and this, and it reaffirms that the media have the utmost right to practice their trade, free without fodder from politicians or governments.”

Peters says that in their statement to the United Nations tomorrow morning our time, they will be making it clear how New Zealand is interpreting the compact.

Countries can interpret the compact however they like? That seems odd.

And does it leave it open to future New Zealand governments to re-interpret it?

Signing the UN Compact is probably not an achievement that Peters will be campaigning on next election.

Bridges continues inquisition of Government over Sroubek

Simon Bridges and National have continued to niggle away at the Government, in particular Jacinda Ardern, trying to uncover a connection between the Prime Minister and the decision to not deport Karel Sroubek (now reversed).

Bridges wasn’t in Parliament yesterday (as is the custom on Thursdays for National and Labour leaders), but tweaked by tweet:

This followed Question Time (transcript edited)

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her answers to oral questions in the last two weeks in relation to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still say, “There’s no way that I can answer that question.” regarding who made representations on Karel Sroubek’s behalf; and, if so, has she asked who made those representations?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the answer is we don’t know, other than of the ones that did go public, such as Mr Sweeney—and there may be others, but we’re not aware of them.

Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned that there might be Cabinet Ministers who have links to people who have made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We’re not in the business of engaging in the permission of this House to allow someone to enter a fishing competition in the hope that somehow they might catch something. Here is the reality: I made a very clear statement, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that there are hundreds of people who would have been associated for a number of reasons with Mr Sroubek. To incriminate them all on the basis of their innocent association is just so wrong.

Hon Paula Bennett: Has she asked whether her Ministers have links to any of the people who made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that question is, on behalf of the Prime Minister, there will be a number of members of Parliament, who, if they go through their recent decade-old associations, would quite possibility, because of their sporting engagement and interest, have been associated. But that in no way means that they are responsible for the criminality for which Mr Sroubek’s in prison at the moment.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still believe the Deputy Prime Minister and Iain Lees-Galloway are the victims in all of this, as she said last week?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when one is seeking to arbitrate or decide on a process and critical information is denied to that referee, arbitrator, or in this case judge, or in this case Minister, then, yes, they do become a victim, because the system that we would have expected and had a right to expect was in place when we became the Government was a system that would work, not one that was shot full of holes and inadequacy.

The key quote from that is “The answer to that question is, on behalf of the Prime Minister, there will be a number of members of Parliament, who, if they go through their recent decade-old associations, would quite possibility (sic), because of their sporting engagement and interest, have been associated.”

That’s a fairly vague ‘confirmation’, as Bridges put it:

Winston Peters just confirmed in Parliament that Govt members “quite possibly” will know Sroubek. More to come I would say.

But this suggests that this inquisition is not over yet. This continues to have legs because of the evasiveness of Ardern in response to questions aiming at an admission she may have been more closely associated to the deportation decision (made by Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway) than she has been willing to admit so far.

The media seem to be largely leaving the inquisition to Bridges and his National colleagues.

Rankin, Ardern, Peters respond to Parliament’s bullying and harassment review

The behaviour of MP versus MP is not included in the Review into bullying and harassment at Parliament, it is dealing with staff only, but it has raised the issue of poor behaviour from MPs.

The Speaker Trevor Mallard’s past behaviour in Parliament has been pointed out, including a conviction for fighting with another MP and attacks on a consultant. In 2007 Mallard pleads guilty to fighting, says sorry to consultant

Mallard pleaded not guilty to an assault charge, but today pleaded guilty to the lesser fighting charge and agreed to pay $500 to the Salvation Army’s Bridge drug and alcohol programme.

Shortly after the conclusion of the hearing, Mallard apologised in Parliament to Ms Leigh, who he had been accused of unfairly attacking under parliamentary privilege.

And yesterday, in response to Mallard launching the review – ‘He was a bully’: Christine Rankin accuses ‘crude’ Trevor Mallard of bullying

Former Work and Income NZ chief executive Christine Rankin says she was subjected to a campaign of bullying from senior ministers who wanted her out – and that Speaker Trevor Mallard was among them.

“I think anyone can look back on my situation 18 years ago and accept that it was the biggest bullying situation that has ever happened in this country that we know of,” she told Newshub.

She says she was taunted and comments were made about the way she looked. She claims she was even told that her earrings were a “sexual come-on”.

“Incidents have occurred over many years in these buildings which are unacceptable,” said Mr Mallard when announcing the inquiry earlier this week.

Ms Rankin says she was relentlessly bullied by senior Labour Party ministers after they took power in 1999, and that group included now-Speaker Mr Mallard.

“He was a bully,” she told Newshub. “They were all bullies and they revelled in it.”

She says ministers would whisper and laugh about her during meetings – with Mr Mallard using language that still makes her too uncomfortable to repeat.

“He was crude and rude and it was directed at me.”

Mallard has probably changed a lot since then, especially since he took on the responsibility of Speaker. His past behaviour shouldn’t stop him from addressing that sort of behaviour now. Tolerance of harassment has significantly diminished.

Parliament should set an example (a good example) to the population, and the review is a good to do this.

Hopefully MPs will learn something from it. Robust debate is an essential part of a healthy democracy, but in the past MP behaviour has gone far further than that with attacks on opponents capable of being seen as bullying and harassment.

Quite contrasting reactions from Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters.

NZ Herald: Winston Peters has ‘no idea’ why bullying review into Parliament is taking place

Most MPs welcomed the review, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said Parliament was not immune to such issues.

“It is high pressure. There’s long hours. There’s no excuse, though, for that to result in poor behaviour, so it’s worthwhile to undertake this exercise,” Ardern said.

But someone’s nose seems to be out of joint – or perhaps there are feelings of guilt.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has poured cold water on Parliament’s review of workplace bullying and harassment, saying he has “no idea” why it is taking place.

Peters said he had not been consulted, adding that being told in advance did not amount to consultation.

“I’ve got no idea why this is being requested by the Speaker at all. I have not been consulted on that matter, so I’m not prepared to make any comment at all.”

Asked if he supported the review, Peters said: “We’ll find out when the review happens.”

He joked that the media had subjected him to bullying.

“I’m going to tell the interviewer that the only person being seriously bullied around this place for a long time is one Winston Peters – by people like you.”

Given Peters’ use of the media to attack people that’s ironic.

And given Peters’ manner towards journalists trying to interview him the question of bullying could easily be put to him – but Peters has long used attack as a form of defence.

At least Mallard has recognised moves to address and reduce poor MP behaviour, seemingly having learned from his own mistakes and unsatisfactory behaviour in the past.

If anything Peters is getting worse now he is in one of the most powerful positions he has attained in Parliament. A sense that his longevity in Parliament gives him some sort of right to act as he pleases highlights how out of step his combative and cantankerous approach is in the modern world of politics and in society in general).

Annette King appointed High Commissioner to Australia

This is a predicted and I think widely applauded diplomatic appointment.

Beehive: New High Commissioner to Australia announced

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced the appointment of Dame Annette King as High Commissioner to Australia.

“Dame Annette King needs no introduction given her long running career as a parliamentarian where she has previously held a number senior Cabinet portfolios, including Justice, Police and Health. She also was Parliament’s longest serving female MP with 30 years’ service,” said Mr Peters.

“As High Commissioner Dame Annette will be working on one of New Zealand’s most significant relationships. The Trans-Tasman bond is exceptionally strong however the relationship is not something we take for granted, and the new High Commissioner will be tasked with keeping the connections strong,” he said.

“The new appointment is notable because Dame Annette is a former MP on a diplomatic posting. In this sense she is an exception. Of the 25 Head of Mission appointments announced this year all have been career diplomats.”

Dame Annette is expected to start her High Commissioner duties at the end of the year.

She should do a good job diplomatically connecting New Zealand to Australia.

There is a funny side to this, as Peters has blasted the appointing of ex-politicians to diplomatic posts.

In 2016 (NZ Herald):  Winston Peters takes swipe at ‘brorocracy’ of diplomatic appointments

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has promised to order “unsuitable” political appointees to return home from diplomatic posts if the party holds the balance of power next year.

In a speech to students at Victoria University today, Mr Peters attacked the “brorocracy” of recent diplomatic appointments.

“As an example of how meritocracy has been abandoned in favour of a mainly white brorocracy look no further than how some of our high commissioners and ambassadors are being appointed.

“This is not to say that some of the people we have sent offshore haven’t been the best choice, or not done excellent service, but some have not been the wisest choice.

“Many have represented an insult to foreign affairs, leaving their posts with absolutely nothing to show, but deterioration in our international relationship with that country.”

Mr Peters went on to say that a political appointee should be “the absolute exception”, and if any future appointments were made that the party regards as unsuitable, it would order that appointee home should it hold the balance of power after next year’s election.

I guess he can say that Annette King is an absolute exception. And she is not a bro.

She may well be as New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Australia.