Draft Foreign Fighters Bill

November 24, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has released the final draft of legislation which addresses the rising threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.



. . .“Following a narrow and tightly focused review of our settings in relation to foreign terrorist fighters, Cabinet has signed off on proposals that will strengthen our ability to deal with the evolving threat we are seeing,” Mr Key says.



“As I said earlier this month, New Zealand’s risk and threat profile is changing and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been successful in recruiting New Zealanders to its cause.


“I have been as open as I can be with New Zealanders about that threat, without overstating it.



“This draft legislation contains measures that can add to the safety and security of New Zealand in the short-term.



“A more comprehensive review of legislative settings will occur in a broader intelligence review that is required under law to begin by the middle of next year.



“I am working to seek broad political support for this legislation and my office is conducting those talks in good faith with a number of parties.



“We have also shared the draft legislation with a number of interested parties outside Parliament in order to give them additional time to consider it.



“It is my intention that the legislation will be introduced on Tuesday and be passed before the House rises for Christmas, so that we are in a stronger position to deal with the threats our agencies are seeing.



“There are safeguards built into the legislation and it will go before a select committee for a short period of consideration.



“The legislation is also subject to a sunset clause which reflects how long the full process of the more comprehensive review is expected to take,” Mr Key says.



The main proposals contained in the legislation and which have been previously flagged by the Prime Minister are:

  • Extending the period the Minister of Internal Affairs can cancel a passport to up to three years from the existing law’s 12 months
  • Giving the Minister of Internal Affairs the power to temporarily suspend passports for up to 10 working days in urgent cases
  • Allowing the NZ Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) to carry out video surveillance on private properties for the purpose of observing activities of security concern, modelled on the Police’s powers in the Search and Surveillance Act
  • Allowing the NZSIS to conduct emergency surveillance for up to 48 hours prior to the issue of a warrant, with the approval of its Director and subject to the oversight of the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

This sort of legislation needs scrutiny but it should be beyond party politics.

The world is too small a place to think that small and far away as we are, New Zealand need not worry about the growing threat from terrorism.


Rural round-up

November 17, 2014

Primary exports tipped to rise:

The Ministry for Primary Industries is forecasting an eight percent lift in primary export earnings in the next four years.

In its briefing for incoming ministers, MPI is projecting export values from agriculture and horticulture, fisheries and forestry to grow to $40.7 billion by 2018.

However, export earnings will have to grow at an average rate of more than five percent a year if they are to reach the government target of doubling the value of primary exports by 2025.

Despite China putting the brakes on milk powder imports, which has contributed to the current slide in dairy prices, the ministry is predicting dairy export revenue to lift from just over $18 billion to $18.4 in 2018, on the back of higher production. . .

More to farming than gumboots - Sally Rae:

A Teacher’s Day Out was held in Otago last week, organised by New Zealand Young Farmers’ Get Ahead programme.

It highlighted to secondary school teachers the vast range of opportunities the primary sector affords school-leavers. Agribusiness reporter Sally Rae went along on the bus trip.

Party lines and horses.

That’s what East Otago farmer Jim Lawson recalls during his early years on the sheep and beef farm, as he holds his smartphone in the sheep yards of the family property, Moana, while son Rob demonstrates weighing hoggets through an auto-drafter.

The 2336ha property, running 10,000 stock units, has been owned and operated by the Lawson family since 1950. . .

‘Appaws’ for animal welfare research contribution:

A Massey University scientist has been honoured for his work in refining the ways animals are used in scientific research, testing and teaching.

Professor David Mellor was presented with this year’s National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) Three Rs Award.

NAEAC deputy chair Dr Peter Larsen said the award covered all areas of animal welfare research.

“The concept of the Three Rs, from which the award takes its name, is to replace and reduce the number of animals used in research, testing and teaching, and refine experimental techniques to minimise pain or distress.  . .

Farm sector singled out by WorkSafe:

The agricultural sector is being targeted by WorkSafe New Zealand over its high accident rates.

In its briefing to its new Minister Michael Woodhouse, WorkSafe said agriculture was one of the worst industries in terms of health and safety.

The report said in 2013, there were 20 deaths from workplace accidents in agriculture – more than the forestry, construction, and manufacturing sectors combined.

Half of those deaths were from quad-bike or tractor accidents.

WorkSafe said there was a poor understanding of risk in the industry and it will be launching a targeted initiative next year to address the issues. . .

Red meat sector welcomes conclusion of Korea FTA

The recently-concluded free trade agreement (FTA) with Korea will provide a major boost for New Zealand’s red meat exports there, according to the chairmen of Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Earlier today, Prime Minister John Key and Korean President Park Geun-hye announced that the FTA negotiation had been concluded.

“This deal is great news for sheep and beef farmers and meat exporters,” said Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chairman James Parsons. . .

Business Forum welcomes NZ Korea FTA:

The New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF) welcomes the much anticipated conclusion of the New Zealand Korea Free Trade Agreement.

“This negotiation has been a marathon and we are delighted Trade Minister Groser and his officials have got it over the line” said NZIBF Chairman Sir Graeme Harrison.

Korea is a significant trading partner for New Zealand and a number of key export sectors including dairy, meat and kiwifruit stood to be severely disadvantaged if New Zealand could not achieve a more level playing field with its key competitors in the Korean market notably Australia, Canada, the European Union and the United States all of whom have already concluded FTAs. . .

Zespri welcomes Free Trade Agreement with South Korea:

Zespri welcomes the announcement of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) deal with South Korea and the significant outcome that has been achieved for the kiwifruit industry.

Over the past year, Zespri growers have paid approximately $20 million in tariffs into this important market.

“It is hugely satisfying that the industry can focus on building sales in the South Korean market, which will benefit both New Zealand and South Korean growers, as well as South Korean consumers,” says Zespri Chief Executive, Lain Jager. . .

Wine Industry Welcomes South Korea Trade Deal:

New Zealand Winegrowers has warmly welcomed the announcement of the conclusion of the free trade agreement between New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

Commenting on the news, NZ Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said ‘The negotiators have achieved a great outcome for the wine industry. Tariff free access into South Korea at the time the agreement comes into force represents a significant boost to our export ambitions in one of the key Asian markets.’ . .

 

 

Yealands named World Champion at the International Green Apple Environment Awards:

Yealands Family Wines has claimed the overall World Champion title at the International Green Apple Environment Awards held in London last night. The prestigious ceremony was held at the House of Commons, in the Palace of Westminster and celebrates environmental best practice.

Yealands Family Wines competed against more than 500 global nominations from a range of industries, taking home the Australasia Gold Award, as well as the supreme “World Champion 2014” title.

Now in their 20th year, the Green Apple Awards have become established as the UK’s major recognition for environmental endeavour among companies, councils, communities and countries. The awards are organised by The Green Organisation, an independent, non-political, non-activist, non-profit environment group dedicated to recognising, rewarding and promoting environmental best practice around the world. . . .


Common sense on emissions?

November 17, 2014

Dare we hope for some common sense on emission targets?

Prime Minister John Key says New Zealand may get a dispensation on climate change targets because we produce dairy.

“I think everyone pretty much universally accepts we need to deal with the issue of climate change. On the other hand, globally 14% of the emissions come from agriculture, and no one wants to see a reduction in the volume of food. In fact they want to see an increase. And I think what leaders are practically saying is let’s be a bit pragmatic about this. Let’s find a technological solution for agriculture, absolutely let’s try and find what emissions are about,” the PM says.

New Zealand can’t “force the pace” on reducing emissions, Mr Key says.

“When India and or say America and China sit down and genuinely say we are going to reduce our emissions as they did the other day off the 2005 target by 26 to 28%, that matters because they’re massive emitters, and they also force everybody else along. I don’t think New Zealand can force the pace. I agree with the view that says we have to do our share. We have to be seen as responsible in this area, and I genuinely believe we are.” . . . 

 Rabobank’s F20, an international agribusiness forum held in Sydney last week, focussed on food security and the need to double food supply by 2050 if we’re to feed the world.

That won’t be achieved by handicapping efficient producers. It would result in a huge economic loss with no global environmental gain as production loss from New Zealand would be replaced by less efficient production in other countries.

New Zealand’s carbon emissions are tiny on a global scale but the country is playing its part.

The Greenhouse Gas coalition, which was instigated by New Zealand is getting international collaboration on research which will reduce emissions without threatening food security or damaging our economy.

 

 


On the cusp

November 14, 2014

Transfer Tasman asks is economic transformation finally being delivered?

During the election campaign John Key said he believes “NZ is on the cusp of something special” (as Trans-Tasman reported September 18). He was ridiculed by Labour (look what happened to them), by NZ First leader Winston Peters (who was predicting to his suck-it-up audiences the economy would crash in November) and by various “woe-is-me” pundits like Rod Oram. But now some hard data is emerging to suggest Key has a better sense of the way the economy is moving than his critics. Job statistics last week showed NZ’s unemployment rate is now lower than Aust’s, despite inwards migration reaching new highs. Canterbury is driving jobs growth, up 11% over the past year, and reporting the lowest unemployment across the regions at 3.2%.

This week the share market NZX top 50 index punched up to the 5500-mark, a new record high. Investors are chasing high dividend yields, and some of the big companies sitting on cash mountains are obliging them: witness Wellington-based Infratil this week paying a special dividend of 15c a share worth $84m on top of its interim dividend of 4.5c. Other evidence came from the ANZ Bank which headed up its latest Truckometer readings “High speed zone.” The two traffic indices, one concurrent with GDP, and the other providing a 6-month lead on GDP growth, both rose strongly in October, suggesting solid momentum over the second half of the year and into next.

ANZ economist Sharon Zollner in her commentary says “it is going to take more than a halving in global dairy prices to stop this juggernaut.” She sees the NZ economy continuing to vie for the lead in the OECD growth race. But the real kicker in all this is with annual CPI inflation running at just 1%, there is no sign of the engine overheating. This is why NZ might be on the cusp of something special – sustainable growth over the cycle above the long-term trend, without the Governor of the Reserve Bank having to slam on the brakes, and bring the economy to a shuddering halt. So this may be the economic transformation, long heralded, but at last being delivered.

The cycle of boom and bust is all too familiar in New Zealand.

The challenge of sustainable growth without inflation has proved too difficult in the past.

This time there are encouraging signs it could be achieved.

 


A time to oppose and a time to not

November 10, 2014

Last week wasn’t a good one for the Green party.

First they stripped Steffan Browning of his natural health spokesman role after his ill-advised signing of a petition calling for homeopathy to be used against Ebola.

Then they showed why they are a long way from reaching their ambition to be the major party of opposition by totally opposing the government’s plans to offer support in the fight against the Islamic State.

John Armstrong points out that sometimes in opposition parties are better to not oppose:

The next time the Prime Minister delivers a speech on something as fundamental as national security and the potential for Islamic State-inspired terrorism in New Zealand, the Greens should read it carefully, rather than making assumptions about its content and consequently missing or dismissing what he is really saying.

Had they done so, they might have realised the new (and temporary) law to be pushed through Parliament to block New Zealanders going to Syria to sign up with Islamic State (Isis) looks like being far less an infringement of personal freedom than its far lengthier and more prescriptive Australian counterpart.

The Greens might have also realised that contributing to military training in Iraq was about the minimum John Key could get away with without traditional allies such as Australia looking askance.

Labour Party polling is understood to have shown no public appetite for sending combat troops. Even National voters did not like the idea – less than a third were comfortable with that option.

National’s private polling would have produced similar results, and Key is nothing if not poll-driven, so his Government’s contribution to the battle against Isis is very much on the moderate end of things.

But the Greens would prefer to continue to demonise National as persecutors of the poor, environmental dinosaurs and in this week’s case, unfailingly loyal lap-dogs itching for an invitation to sign up to Uncle Sam’s latest military adventure.

It was hardly a surprise that the Greens rejected every initiative in Key’s Wednesday address that was targeted at Isis.

In doing so they have displayed not so much a reluctance to shift on principle as a downright refusal to entertain even the thought of doing so. That is their right.

But it means two things. First, there can be no getting the Greens out of the shadow cast by Labour without compromise or dropping whole swathes of policy as a prerequisite for any move more to the centre of the political spectrum, which would enable the Greens to no longer be hostage to Labour.

It also makes it harder for them to supplant Labour as the dominant party on the centre-left. That is because the politics of Opposition stretch much further than just opposition to policies or ideas.

On occasion – and Wednesday’s speech was such an occasion – the public expects political parties to show some degree of flexibility so they might reach some consensus in the national interest.

This is especially so on foreign policy, defence and intelligence matters.

Labour understands this. The Greens pretend not to understand. . .

No doubt Turei’s rejection of everything in Key’s speech made her and her colleagues feel good about themselves. All they succeeded in doing was to isolate themselves from the mainstream. It was left to Labour to exercise real opposition.

The party accepted the broad thrust of intended legislation to lock those intending to fight for Isis through cancelling passports. But Labour also made it clear that it would endeavour to use select committee scrutiny to iron out details it is not happy about. . .

Labour can thank three senior MPs for the party’s assured and no-fuss handling of the kind of issue where sticking to long-established principles, as the Greens have done, can be of no practical use to anyone. . . .

However, Armstrong’s praise of Labour might be premature because the party’s acceptance of the broad thrust of the government’s plan isn’t accepted by its four leadership contenders:

Prime Minister John Key’s plan to help fight Islamic State in Iraq by sending military trainers has been unanimously voted down by Labour’s leadership contenders. . .

Did they not listen to the three senior MPs who showed Labour taking the responsible path in parliament just a few days ago?

Or is this just another indication of how divided and dysfunctional the party is?

Almost all editorials and commentators have agreed that the government’s response was moderate and necessary.

Labour appeared to agree with that last week but yesterday none of the four would-be leaders were signing from the responsible. government-in-waiting song sheet.

 


Time to let Pike River victims rest

November 7, 2014

It’s been nearly four years since the Pike River mine disaster.

Solid Energy’s decision to not re-enter the mine will have disappointed some family members, but the company could not risk more lives.

The father of one of the Pike River Mine explosion victims says Solid Energy’s decision to stay out of the ruined mine will finally let his family move on.

Solid Energy board chairwoman Pip Dunphy said today “potentially fatal risk factors” made the mine too dangerous to re-enter.

Geraldine couple Rod and Christine Holling lost their 41-year-old son, Richard, as a result of an explosion at the West Coast mine on November 19, 2010. The Hollings have expressed their wish for Richard’s remains to be left untouched in the mine, saying that knowing where his remains were allowed them “closure”.

Other families of miners killed in the mine issued a joint statement today expressing disappointment with the state-owned mining company’s decision not to recover the miners’ remains, but Rod Holling said the announcement was “good news”.

“Our biggest fear is that someone else will get killed [re-entering the mine] and who will be responsible?” 

Holling was sceptical of former UK mining inspector Bob Stevenson’s claims the mine could be safely entered. He also believed mining companies would learn lessons about health, safety and mine construction from the disaster. . .

Learning and acting on the lessons could save other lives, and not just in mining. Rebecca Macfie’s book on the disaster has lessons for every business.

Families of the Pike River Mine victims met this morning with mine owner Solid Energy and Prime Minister John Key, only to be told the plan to re-enter the mine tunnel would not go ahead.

Their faces were strained and tears were visible after leaving the meeting, even though they had gone in almost certain the news would be bad.

Bernie Monk, whose son Michael died in the mine, said he would continue to investigate “to a certain degree” but acknowledged the fight might be over.

“I’ve got to start asking myself, do I want to go through another three or four years of agony.” . . .

I hope the answer to that question is no.

Prime Minister John Key has said the taxpayer would fund a civil case against parties involved in the disaster it Crown Law thinks it could succeed.

That would help the families and friends who are, justifiably, angry that no-one has been charged over the actions which led to the disaster.

Whether or not that happens, the decision not to re-enter the mine means it is time to let the 29 victims rest where they died, difficult as that might be for those who loved them.


Number matters not owner

November 3, 2014

The opposition and the other usual suspects are exercised by the government’s plan to sell some state houses and labelling it an asset sale. But Prime Minister John Key said:

“If at the end of the day, Housing NZ sells a few state houses, well, actually, that’s happened for a long period of time. We often trade our stock.

“So if we sell some individual state houses, it’s not an asset sale. If we sold Housing New Zealand or part of it, it would be, and we have absolutely no plans to sell.”

This is like Landcorp selling some of its farms.

I’d be happy if the SOE sold more, but selling farms isn’t the same as selling the company, just as selling some houses isn’t the same as selling the entity that owns them.

Mr Key said the Government was undertaking a massive redevelopment of state housing stock because many houses were in the wrong place or unsuitable for housing needs.

If the houses are in the wrong place, in poor condition, have too many or two few rooms or are otherwise not fit for purpose it is sensible to sell them.

The issue shouldn’t be who owns which houses but what’s the best way to ensure people who need a house can get it and the government is planning to increase the supply by building more state houses and also making it easier for other providers of social housing to build.

The number of houses available matters far more than who owns them.

 

 

 


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