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?

Tax reform and capital gains tax still unresolved

According to media claims the Cabinet has received copies of the Tax Working Group recommendations, but it could take some time to find out what they are going to decide to run with. – or what the are allowed to run with by Winston Peters.

Group chairman Michael Cullen has suggested that tax changes could be decided in Parliament this term ready to come into effect in April 2021 providing Labour gets a mandate in next year’s election. But Grant Robertson has warned that it could take some time to work through the recommendations with Labour’s partner parties in Government.

Audrey Young (in Major challenges for ‘exasperated’ Ardern):

Robertson played Robin to her Batman at the post-Cabinet presser, initially fronting on the Government response to the insurance industry inquiry.

The subject quickly changed to the final report of the Tax Working Group and its promised capital gains tax which is due to be handed to the Government this week.

Robertson patiently continued his mission to change the language over the tax by calling it a “capital income tax” rather than a “capital gains tax” — an attempt to equate it to all other income.

Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax — the Greens have been unequivocal supporters and NZ First longstanding opponents.

Apparently a capital gains tax is just like every other issue the Government debates, and requires the agreement of all three parties.

Not just apparently. Tax reform is far from a done deal. It is a Labour only promise, but with no public agreement with either NZ First or the Greens.

Stuff:  Decision on capital gains tax will take a wee while, Grant Robertson warns

There will be no quick decision from the Government on whether to implement a capital gains tax, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has signalled – noting Labour would have to work that through with its coalition partners.

The Tax Working Group (TWG) chaired by Sir Michael Cullen is understood to have completed its report for the Government, with a “clear majority” favouring subjecting capital gains from the sale of property, shares and businesses to income tax.

But Robertson told RNZ the Government would need to take its time to read the TWG’s report “work through the details of it and work out what package we can agree to as a coalition government”.

Remarkably the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement did not mention the Tax Working Group, nor CGT, and neither did Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement, so the recommendations of the TWG and what Labour would like to do will all need to be negotiated with Winston Peters and NZ First, as well as with the Greens. This alone is likely to take time.

Inland Revenue said on Tuesday morning that the report had not yet been delivered to the Government, and no date has been set for it to be made public, but sources said the report was being read in the Beehive.

Robertson said he expected to get the report by the end of the week but he and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not rule out a coalition partner vetoing any legislation.

“There is a wee ways to go before the final decisions about this report will be made,” Robertson said.

“As we do with all these reports, we will take a look at it and put it out with a few interim comments from us,” he said.

So it could be some time even before the report is made public. Labour want to work out how to try to sell it before they advertise it.

Cullen said in December that he believed Parliament would have time to pass legislation paving the way for any proposed tax changes before the election, so those changes could take effect from April 2021.

Theoretically Parliament may have time, but Labour won’t want to take any tax changes to Parliament without agreement from NZ First, and the Greens.

Politik: And now the hard part; getting Winston to agree to a capital gains tax

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday that iot was still the government’s intention to bring forward legislation for any tax changes before the end of its current twerm though those changes would not come into effect until after the enxt election.

But whether it will propose a capital gains tax will now depend on whether it can persuade NZ First to agree.

Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson were coy yesterday on whether they thought they could win that derbate.

Meanwhile NZ First Leader, Winston Peters, is not saying much beyond repeating his 2017 assertion that we already had a capital gains tax.

“What i tried to point out then was that we had a cpaital ghaimn tax and that we had had one for a long time,” he told POLITIK last night.

“Now the question is are you talking about broadening it.

“The position of New Zealand First is that we will wait for the report, we will evaluate it and then we will give our view.”

Tax reform has already limited by Labour in their terms of reference for the TWG. They will presumably also want any changes to fit within their wellbeing agenda.

It will only happen if it also fits with the electoral wellbeing of Winston Peters and NZ First

Peters at Ratana: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”

In Jacinda Ardern’s absence (she is in Europe at Davos) Winston Peters deputised for her at Ratana this year. It waas a lot more low key than last year, Ardern’s first time there as Prime Minister and a 100 year anniversary of the Ratana moovement.

Peters’  Ratana Speech 2019


Kia ora tatou.

Thank you for the invitation to be here. It is a great privilege to be welcomed to Ratana again.

Let me acknowledge the leadership of Tumuaki Harerangi Meihana, those of you who have already addressed the Government from the Taumata, and the presence of all of the members of the Ratana Church.

Also let us acknowledge the attendance of Government parties, the Green Party, Labour, and New Zealand First all here today on a united front.

On behalf of the Government, let me extend the apologies of the Prime Minister who could not attend today because of her work commitments which means she is currently travelling overseas.

This year we mark one hundred and one years since Wiremu Ratana started his spiritual journey which has become the Ratana movement as we know it today.

This time last year was Ratana’s centenary. Your church was 100 years old and the new Labour-New Zealand First coalition government, supported by the Green Party, was less than 100 days old.

When the government stood before you all last year we promised a Government with a difference.

A government which looked after people.  A government which addressed neglect and social inequality. A government which grows the economy and is getting people back into work.

But as the old saying goes – words are not deeds. One year on, this government has put deeds to its words.

The Families package that we brought in last year is lifting the income of 384,000 families by $75 a week when fully rolled out.  Doctors’ visits are now free for all children under 14. Doctors’ visits also became cheaper for those with Community Services Cards, and more money has been invested into hospitals. We are opening more housing opportunities through Kiwibuild homes.  And we are heavily investing in the economic development of our regions through the provincial growth fund and the billion dollar tree plantings programme. Unemployment is at 3.9 per cent – the lowest it’s been in decades. And the number of jobs available is increasing.

In December the Child Poverty Reduction Law was passed to dramatically change the circumstances experienced in this country. The government has spent its first year in office setting directions and laying foundations for long term solutions to problems this country should never have tolerated.

The Budget that is coming is focused on “wellbeing”. The Labour-New Zealand First coalition government does not seek to overpromise and under deliver for short term venal self-interest. We have a purpose in this government which unites three different parties.

We are a government which seeks to correct the fundamental infrastructure and social deficits we have ignored for far too long.

As we consistently said there are no overnight solutions, but there is progress to be made from long term investments.

We are setting out to create jobs in the regions and provinces to ensure that no part of the country is forgotten. To create opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy.

In many respects there is no real separation between what this Government wants to achieve for its people, and the work that T W Ratana committed his life to achieving.  He housed the people – here on his own land. He gave people jobs inside the Ratana community.  He looked after families – gave them a place to live and put food on their table.  He gave people hope for a better future.

As a government, we put actions to our promises, as we continue to deliver for New Zealand with many of the same objectives.   And in another 12 months when we return to your marae you will see more progress.

For there is an old saying: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”


That saying is apt for Peters, but he may not be saying it to highlight his own walk versus talk.

It is also something that Ardern should be aware of: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”

She (and her Government) has a lot of doing to do, to deliver on all the saying.

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