Finlayson tribute to Groser

February 11, 2016

Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson is one of parliament’s best debaters.

In the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement he pays tribute to Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser who left without delivering a valedictory statement.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): It is great to be back after a glorious summer in this magnificent capital city. I had a great summer. There is nothing more enjoyable than charging up Mount Kawakawa to look out on this city—the best views in Wellington .

Unlike the previous speaker, Jacinda Ardern , I thought that the Prime Minister gave an outstanding address to inaugurate the political year. I was particularly interested when the Prime Minister outlined a number of significant New Zealand sporting achievements. He mentioned the Sevens , our great cricket team, and Lydia Ko’s brilliance. I was just a little disappointed that he did not mention another great New Zealand sporting achievement, namely, my hole in one on the 11th at the Royal Wellington Golf Club at 1.30 p.m. on 29 December 2015. Mr Faafoi would be interested in this, because I know he plays at Heretaunga . It was a 7 wood, brilliantly teed-off, went slightly to the left in—well, it was about 160 metres in a northerly. It jumped the bunker and slid into the hole. I was very proud of that.

I want to begin by paying tribute to my colleague Tim Groser , who is about to leave for the United States . He and I came into Parliament together in 2005, and I was his associate arts, culture and heritage spokesperson until Tim was reshuffled out of that role and I took it for myself. In 2014 Tim and I won the party vote in New Lynn and Rongotai , embarrassing our high-profile opponents. In fact, Tim almost became the member of Parliament for New Lynn, which was slightly better than I have ever achieved against Mrs King , although Tim did have the benefit of being up against David Cunliffe . I am very interested to hear that Annette King may be standing down as the MP for Rongotai—a very important political development, because it will have the effect of turning Rongotai into a hair-trigger marginal. Whenever I am out campaigning with the people in Rongotai, the voters always say they will switch to me once Mrs King retires. So I used to say I would win the seat in 2038, but I have been doing some very hasty recalculations and I think it could be as early as 2023.

Tim and I were bench mates for our first term. We used to sit in the second row, where David Shearer sits now, and we often used to come down to question time reading our Spectators until Marian Hobbs , the then-MP for Wellington Central , told us that, no, that was not very wise. We should try to look riveted when the speaker is asking questions—very sound advice that I have always remembered. I am very sorry that Tim has left our presence without giving a valedictory speech, so I thought I would give one for him. I would like to outline what I think are his top five contributions in office, even if Tim would have done a far better job telling us about his achievements than I will be able to do. Over the course of my speech, I will avoid quotes from Napoleon, Juvenal , and Thucydides .

Tim’s achievements were momentous. The first one, of course, was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. It is the obvious one. He achieved what many people thought was unachievable. Secondly, there was the Taiwan economic agreement and the Hong Kong free-trade agreement, which made New Zealand the first country to have trade deals with all of China. He concluded a free-trade agreement with the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand arrangement. He positioned New Zealand’s trade relationship with Asia in a very effective manner. He also concluded a free-trade agreement with Korea. These all prove the value of free-trade agreements, as traditional Labour leaders have always said. The rise in the volume of New Zealand’s exports has been huge, and the same will happen with the TPP agreement, which makes Labour’s approach both so bizarre and so disappointing given its very positive contribution to trade over the years.

Tim was a very respected voice overseas for New Zealand business, and I am sure he is going to continue to be so in his new role. He spearheaded overseas business trade missions to introduce New Zealand companies to new markets. Whether at the World Trade Organization , whether at Washington or Beijing, people listened to him—they had no choice—and New Zealand businesses all benefited from it. Finally, he was a very effective Minister for climate change issues. The work he did behind the scenes on international agreements earned him significant respect. The recent Paris agreement was based on the New Zealand proposal. I know the Greens are looking disconsolate because they think they have a monopoly of virtue on these matters, but Tim was a very effective Minister in that area. I should not finish without mentioning his glorious reign as the Minister of Conservation between 2008 and 2010—as Tim himself calls it, “the golden age of conservation in New Zealand”—until he was fired by the Prime Minister. I am sure all of us wish him all the very best for the future, and I know that he will be a very effective ambassador to the United States. . . 


366 days of gratitude

February 11, 2016

Is it what I’m used to or is New Zealand ice cream the best in the world?

I’ve undertaken entirely unscientific research taste-testing it in most countries I’ve visited and found some very good ice cream, gelato and sorbets but nothing beats that first taste of hokey pokey or gum drops when I get back home.

Whether or not it’s  just familiarity rather than being the world’s best, New Zealand ice cream is delicious and it’s almost medicinal in its ability to cool on a hot day like this one.

Today I’m grateful for ice cream.


Word of the day

February 11, 2016

Bilharzia – a human parasitic flat worm in the fluke or Trematode order; a chronic disease, endemic in parts of Africa and South America, caused by infestation with blood flukes (schistosomes); a blood fluke.

Hat tip: Andrei


Rural round-up

February 11, 2016

Mixed outlook for New Zealand agriculture in 2016 – industry report:

New Zealand’s agricultural sector is looking at mixed prospects in 2016, with dairy facing another difficult year but most other sectors expected to perform well, according to a new industry report.

In its Agribusiness Outlook 2016, global agricultural specialist Rabobank says dairy prices continue to be weighed down by strong supply growth, particularly out of Europe after the recent removal of quotas.

Releasing the report, Rabobank general manager Country Banking New Zealand Hayley Moynihan said the recovery in dairy prices now risks arriving too late to enable a confident start to the 2016/17 season. . .

Marlborough farmers battle two-year drought

Farmers in Marlborough are making the best of some of the toughest climatic conditions in a long time, Beef and Lamb New Zealand says.

The industry body’s northern South Island extension manager, Sarah O’Connell, said recent rain had lifted spirits in the region but had not broken the two-year drought.

The past two seasons were some of the hardest farmers have had, Ms O’Connell said. . .

Alliance plans to start docking farmer payments for shares to bolster balance sheet – By Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Alliance Group, New Zealand’s second-largest meat cooperative, plans to start withholding some stock payments to its farmers from next week to bolster its balance sheet and force suppliers to meet their share requirements.

From Feb. 15, Alliance will withhold 50 cents per head for lamb, sheep and calves; $2 per head for deer; and $6 per head for cattle, it said in a letter to shareholders. The payments will go towards additional shares in the cooperative and will only apply to farmers who have fewer shares than required, it said.

Alliance is moving to entrench its cooperative status as its larger rival Silver Fern Farms waters down its cooperative by tapping Chinese investor Shanghai Maling Aquarius for capital to repay debt, upgrade plants and invest for growth. . . 

New PGP programme to boost wool industry:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed a new Primary Growth Partnership programme aimed at lifting the profitability and sustainability of New Zealand strong wool.

‘Wool Unleashed’, or W3, is a new seven-year $22.1 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and The New Zealand Merino Company.

The programme is expected to contribute an estimated $335 million towards New Zealand’s economy by 2025. . . 

New Primary Growth Partnership programme sets sights on strong wool:

A new collaboration between The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), announced today, aims to deliver premiums for New Zealand’s strong wool sector—a partnership that could see an additional $335 million contribution towards New Zealand’s economy by 2025.

“‘Wool Unleashed’, or W3, is a new 7-year, $22.1 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme led by NZM that will derive greater value from New Zealand’s strong wool,” says Justine Gilliland, Director Investment Programmes at the Ministry for Primary Industries. . . 

World’s best Pinot Noir winner found passion by chance – Jendy Harper:

Imagine arriving in a foreign country at the age of 13, unaccompanied, knowing no one and not being able to speak the language.

This was Jing Song’s experience when she came from China to Christchurch 16 years ago.

At her family’s advice and expectation, she became an accountant but no one guessed she would find her true passion in a Central Otago paddock.

Fast forward 16 years and Ms Song collected the trophy for the best Pinot Noir in the world at the IWSC competition in London last year. . .

NZ beef exports to Taiwan rise to a record, propelling it to 3rd largest market – Tina Morrison:

(BusinessDesk) – New Zealand beef exports to Taiwan rose to a record in 2015, propelling it to the country’s third-largest beef market behind the US and China.

In 2015, New Zealand’s beef exports to Taiwan jumped 36 percent to $188.6 million, while the volume increased 20 percent to 23,442 tonnes, according to Statistics New Zealand data compiled by the Meat Industry Association. That pushed it above Japan in value and ahead of Japan and Korea in volume to become the country’s third-largest beef market.

Taiwan also takes higher-value meat, with an average value last year of US$5.68 per kilogram, compared with US$5.08/kg for the US, and US$4.94/kg for China, according to AgriHQ data. . . 

NZ small dairy farmers content with their lot:

New Lincoln University research has found many small dairy farmers are content with the size of their operation, despite the constant calls for economic growth.

Dr Victoria Westbrooke and Dr Peter Nuthall, from the Faculty of Agribusiness and Commerce, surveyed 330 randomly selected farmers running small dairy farms for the small farmers’ organisation (SMASH). The project was funded by  via OneFarm.

“It was clear from this research, and similar previous work, that the farmers were content to simply carry on working their current farm,” Dr Westbrooke says. . . 

LIC posts half year result:

Livestock Improvement Corporation (NZX: LIC) has announced its half-year result for the six months ended 30 November 2015.

LIC total revenue for the six month period was $145 million, 9 per cent down on the same period last year. Net profit after tax (NPAT) was $15.9 million, down 46 per cent from the previous year.

LIC signalled reduced earnings in October (NZX, 20 October 2015), as a result of the lower forecast milk payout and reduced spending on-farm.

It is now expected that the year-end result will be closer to a break-even position, chairman Murray King said. . .

Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards 2015 winners announced:

Auckland’s Botswana Butchery has taken out the title of Premier Master of Fine Cuisine at the Silver Fern Farms Premier Selection Awards, held in Auckland last night.

The popular restaurant also won awards for Best Beef Dish and Best Metropolitan Restaurant.

Executive Chef Stuart Rogan, who manages Botswana Butchery in Auckland and Queenstown as well as Auckland’s Harbourside Ocean Bar and Grill, impressed judges with his dish: Silver Fern Farms Reserve beef eye fillet, braised short rib with parsley, mustard and horseradish crust, carrot puree, asparagus, whipped garlic and cep jus. Head judge Kerry Tyack described Rogan’s dish as ‘consistent and faultless’. . . 


Thursday’s quiz

February 11, 2016

The questions are up to you while I’m blogging lighter.

There’s no need to follow the five-question formula I used.

Anyone who stumps us all will win a bunch of precious platinum roses.


Environmental politics responsible for Zika?

February 11, 2016

The World Health Organisation has declared the Zika virus is a public health emergency.

It is carried by mosquitoes and Dr Jacqueline Rowarth lays the blame for them on the DDT ban:

Emotion transcends evidence; fears transcend facts; anti-science is on the rise. . . 

In 1962 Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring hit the shelves.

The American Council on Science and Health describes the book as “lyrical but scientifically flawed – arguing eloquently but erroneously that pesticides, and especially DDT, were poisoning the environment and also endangering human health.” . . .

But emotion and politics trumped the science.

Banning DDT was a political move. It has been claimed as the first major victory for the environmentalist movement in the US.

During its use between 1940 (when its insecticidal properties were discovered) and 1972, DDT was estimated to have saved more lives than any other man-made chemical.

Particular efficacy in the malaria battle has been recorded. In tropical regions the prevalence of malaria-infected people decreased from approximately 70% in the late 1950s, to 5% in the mid 60s. But by the mid 1980s cases infection was over 50% again.

The US Agency for International Development has stated that malaria would have been 98% eradicated had DDT continued to be used. . . 

Forty-four years from the banning of DDT, the lines of sad women in hospitals in Brazil, with their microcephalic babies in their arms or still in utero, have etched themselves into memory.

People are wondering whether the scientifically-proven use of DDT could have prevented this tragedy. Both the emotion and the evidence have been presented globally on screen; fears and facts are inter-linked.

A positive future depends on correct interpretation of scientific research, and good communication of the research implications. Real victories require an apolitical approach, whatever the topic.

This isn’t the first time that environmental politics and emotion have trumped science but it could be one of the costliest in human terms because of the severity of the birth defects Zika virus causes and the number of people affected by them.


Joyce writes to TPP protesters

February 11, 2016

Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce has penned an open letter to TPP protesters:

An open letter to all TPP protesters, 

Dear protesters,

I’ve been listening to you over the past few years, months and weeks. Last week I literally took it on the chin in defence of the TPP.

You have been accusing the Government of not opening up and giving information. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to set the record straight on a few matters. 

I would like to make the point that trade access is hugely important for a small country like New Zealand. Without fair and equal trade access we can’t sell as many of our goods and we get less for them. And that means fewer jobs.

In particular it’s about jobs in regional New Zealand and in our small farming communities like those in the Far North who are hugely dependent on whether our farmers and exporters can sell their goods. And that it’s really hard selling meat into Japan with a 38.5% tariff on what the locals charge.

Investor state dispute resolution is hugely more likely to help New Zealand than hinder it. We already have an independent justice system that protects the legitimate activities of all sorts of companies including large multi-national ones so nothing much really changes for us unless we start doing something like nationalising companies at a fraction of their value. However having an independent process might be helpful for our companies in countries where the court system is perhaps not quite as independent.

Some people who have been really loud in this debate just reject the whole concept of trade. People like Jane Kelsey would roll back the China FTA, the Korean one, the South East Asia one, any one of them. Because they just really don’t like trade for ideological reasons. I would point out, that without the China FTA we would have been a very quiet country after the GFC. A country that would be able to afford far fewer of the medicines that some are rightly concerned about access to.

There are others who say that they support free trade, but not this deal. They try to say that this one is worse and yet can’t point to why. It was negotiated by the same fine officials that negotiated all the other deals, contains very similar clauses, and the same trade-offs. You can’t help feeling that for those people this is about politics, not trade. Perhaps they are grumpy that their lot is not signing the deal.

There are those who say it sacrifices our sovereignty. Well, how can that be so? We have the sovereign right to withdraw from any trade agreement at any time. There is no one holding us to any of them. However there is a reason that we tend not to leave. We’d have to give up the benefits as well as the costs and so far the benefits have obviously outweighed any costs every time.

There are even those who say it’s anti-democratic; even though the current government was elected more than once on supporting the TPP, and the elected parliament has to approve the legislation. The next logical democratic test would be for the loud fence-sitters of the Labour Party to go to the next election promising to scrap the TPP, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that one.

There are also those that are opposed to the TPP because people don’t know enough about it. What a pity then that those at Te Tii Marae didn’t take up the rare opportunity of hearing from and discussing the issue with the elected leader of our country.
I too would have been happy to have this discussion last week and indeed just had it at the Iwi Leaders meeting, before one person decided the answer was to throw her toy. 

The most important point I’d want to make is the reason behind why this government is doing signing this deal. Because every one of us cares about the future of this country. We want it to provide good jobs for our people, good security for our families, and a big enough national income that we can afford the best health care and the best education services. It is our sincere belief that this agreement will help us do that for New Zealanders.

I have been privileged to follow at close quarters the progress of this deal over many months. I think our negotiators have done a great job for New Zealand. We didn’t get everything we wanted, and nor do we ever. But the result of their work is that more Kiwis will have jobs and opportunities to bring up their families while living in this country. And that’s worth signing up for.

He also used the response to the Prime Ministers Statement to speak about the TPP:

The transcript is here:

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Mr Deputy Speaker, firstly, may I say that I hope you had a good summer break. I hope it was relaxing. Mine was, thank you. I rode a horse, grew my vegetables, went to the Wairarapa and to the Hawke’s Bay and Coromandel. I went up north last week—pretty relaxing up there. I had a launch of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan. We had a visit from the occasional visitor to Northland, the current MP Mr Peters. I also had, it is fair to say, a reasonably well-reported experience with an unmanned aerial vehicle.

It was an interesting day indeed at Waitangi. I have been thinking about that day on the odd occasion since, and I have been thinking about the protesters. I have been thinking about them because they have had, obviously, a lot to say—and fair enough, too; it is the nature of protest. But a lot of what they have had to say has been very interesting. Primarily, they have accused this Government of not opening up and giving information.

I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is very important. I think it is one of the political fault lines about whether we are going to be forward-looking as a country, embracing the opportunities that the world provides to us in an open, competitive environment that gives our exporters and farmers a chance to succeed; or take a backward-looking, defensive position, where the world is out to get us and we should just try to crouch down and hope the world goes away, which is what some of the other Opposition politicians promote.

So I would like to devote a small amount of time this afternoon to making a few points about trade and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I would like to make the point that trade access is hugely important for a small country like New Zealand. It is not just important; it is hugely important. Without fair and equal trade access, we cannot sell as much of our goods, we get less for them, and that means fewer jobs and lower incomes.

In particular, it is about jobs in regional New Zealand, in our small farming communities like those in the far north that I visited last week, who are rightly looking for opportunities for their young people to be employed. It is about the people who know it is really hard selling meat into Japan with a 38.5 percent tariff over what the locals are able to sell it for. It is about the people who are trying to sell kiwifruit , or ice cream , into Trans-Pacific Partnership countries.

I heard the Leader of the Opposition pooh-poohing the dairy benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership today. Well, there is a small ice cream company on the Hauraki Plains , which has been started by international investors, that is providing jobs to those people who would appreciate the opportunity to sell ice cream into the US and Japan. I am told by the protesters about investor-State dispute resolutions. Well, that is hugely more likely to help New Zealand than hinder it. We already have an independent justice system that protects the legitimate activities of all sorts of companies, including large multinational ones, which, if they feel wronged, can go to court in this country.

Nothing will change for us, unless we start doing something like nationalising companies at, I do not know, 5 percent of their value—and then we would have other problems anyway. But the investor-State dispute settlement provides opportunities for New Zealand companies in countries where the court system is perhaps not quite as independent. Some people have been really loud in this debate, but reject the whole concept of trade. Why would you listen to Jane Kelsey if you are actually interested in trade? Give Jane her due: she hates trade agreements. She would roll back the China free-trade agreement, she would roll back the Korea free-trade agreement, she would roll back the South-east Asia free-trade agreement—any one of them—so why would you get advice from her? She is hardly likely to provide advice that is reasonable and balanced.

I would like to point out that without the China free-trade agreement we would have been a quiet country after the global financial crisis , a country that would be able to afford far fewer of the medicines that those protesters claim to be concerned about having access to. There are others who say that they support free trade, but not this deal. They try to say “This one is worse.”, but yet they cannot point to why it is worse. They keep talking about all sorts of things. It was negotiated by the same officials—including Tim Groser , who used to be an official—who negotiated all the other deals. It has similar trade-offs , similar clauses—and it is just not good enough, apparently. Perhaps they are grumpy that their lot did not sign the deal. I do not know. But that is a ridiculous way to approach the arrangement.

Then there are those who say it sacrifices our sovereignty. I had an experience, as we know, with somebody who said that—well, not quite in those words—last week. How can that be so? We have the sovereign right to withdraw from any trade deal at any time—any trade deal at any time. I understand that with the Trans-Pacific Partnership it is 6 months’ notice, then you are out. We never do withdraw, but why not? Because we would have to give up the benefits as well as the costs, and every single Government has said that the benefits are worth having, and they have not walked away.

Then there are those who even say it is anti-democratic, though the current Government has been elected—I do not know, once, twice, three times on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the elected Parliament has to approve the legislation. That is democracy. I have got an idea: if it is about democracy, why do the protesters not persuade the guy who is trying to sound like he agrees with them to actually go to the country in 2017 with a commitment to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a commitment to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership? He should stop waffling around, and wander out there and say: “I’m with you, protesters. I agree with you. I’ll pull New Zealand out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Then we can have a further democratic test about the future of this legislation.

The most important point I want to make today is the reason why this Government is doing this, because everyone on this side of the House cares about the future of this country. We wanted to provide good jobs for our people, security for our families, and a big enough national income so that we can afford the best health care , the best education services, and so on, that my friend the toy-thrower was worried about.

It is our sincere belief that this agreement will help do this for this country; otherwise, we would not be here. So I say to Andrew Little : at least the protesters have the excuse that they maybe do not know all there is to know about the agreement, but if you have been in this House, if you have been in the debate, you should be prepared to stand up for your country. He can stand up either way. He can stand up in favour, or stand up against, but enough of this mealy-mouthed going out—he spent half his speech, half his speech, nearly, saying how much he hated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but on the radio this morning he was saying that he would support it and would not withdraw from it.

Well, I say that if you really want to show any sort of leadership, then step up and say you will pull out, sunshine, because your rhetoric does not match what you are actually doing. You are playing politics with the future of New Zealanders. His colleagues know it, and it is not good enough.

This will be an important year for New Zealand. They all are, but this is an important one. In this year this Government, the John Key Government, will focus on building the opportunities for New Zealand, growing the skills, growing the innovation, building our infrastructure, improving our natural resources allocation, attracting investment in this country, and, most important , providing export access to our farmers and to our businesses to be able to sell overseas.

That is crucially important, so for any naysayer on the other side who has a speech-writer trying to write up stories about this Government having a vision, I say: look in the mirror, it is you who are playing politics and have no vision for this country. Thank you.


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