Security Council needs to do better

February 24, 2015

Foreign Minister Murray McCully delivered this speech in the UN Security Council Open Debate on the Maintenance of International Peace and Security:

Thank you Mr President.

New Zealand congratulates China for this initiative.

We agree that the 70th Anniversary is the right time for the Council to undertake a measure of serious self-examination, and to assess where we are performing well, and where we are not.

We agree that the Council needs to do much better.

That is clearly the view of UN Members.

With others around this table, New Zealand has just experienced the invigorating process of seeking support from Members to win election to the Council.

We have not been left in doubt as to the desire of member states to see the Council lift its game.

The Council is charged with responding to threats to international peace and security. 

Yet in relation to too many of those current threats, the Council has dealt itself out of its proper role.

Where it is involved, it has often been too late.

The Council has a completely inadequate focus on conflict prevention, and a huge focus on peacekeeping.  

Peacekeepers are hampered and sometimes endangered by poor mandates and inadequate resourcing.

Too many of the cases on the peacekeeping agenda have become part of a revolving list of routine items rather than serious problems that we really expect to solve.

These challenges to the Council’s ability to live up to its mandate in relation to international peace and security are longstanding and complex – some would say intractable.

But we believe it is within the Council’s reach to make real progress.

As we move towards the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the Council, we should listen to the UN membership, including the smaller members who are often not heard.

We should hear their disappointment and their frustration.

We should resolve to use this Anniversary Year of the Council to take action.

We believe there are three simple areas in which the Council could take action this year.

My first point is that the use of the veto or the threat of the veto is the single largest cause of the UN Security Council being rendered impotent in the face of too many serious international conflicts.

Whether we are talking about Syria or the Middle-East Peace Process, the veto’s impact today far exceeds what which was envisaged in the UN Charter – to the huge detriment of the Council‘s effectiveness and credibility.

We congratulate France on its initiative on the voluntary retirement of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.

We urge the Permanent Members to use this Anniversary Year to find a way to make progress.

While it is difficult, the future credibility of this organisation depends on it.

My second and related point: the Council’s lack of preventive action under Chapter 6, which is again partly the result of the pervasive impact of the veto.

Conflict is costly in human lives, in reconstruction costs, and in lost opportunities for development.

There is something wrong when we are spending over $8 billion per year on peacekeeping but virtually nothing on the responsibility to prevent situations escalating into intractable conflict.

My third point is that we must recognise and address a major weakness in respect of peacekeeping.

We cannot send peacekeepers into dangerous environments without adequate mandates and resources.

The review of peace operations being led by former President Ramos Horta will set scene for the Council to address that issue this year. 

Mr President, the 15 of us at this table can do more.

We can solve these issues.

We must solve them.

The perception of a “failure to act” impacts negatively on the reputations of both the Council and the UN itself.

It is time for us to confront the root causes that have seen this Council avoid the challenging task of conflict prevention simply because the politics and the diplomacy have been too difficult.

New Zealand is ready to work with fellow Council Members to make real progress in addressing these issues.

Only then will we the Council have earned the right to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of this body being conferred the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

This is a frank and reasoned assessment on the Security Council’s shortcomings and gives three very simple solutions: addressing the problem of the veto; much more preventative work and adequate mandate and resources for peacekeepers.


Rural round-up

January 14, 2015

Water at the forefront in 2015 and beyond – :

Water is the lifeblood of farming and intrinsic to every aspect of food production.

It’s also of considerable significance to other users- iwi, environmental organisations and recreational users.

This resource has been the big focus for Federated Farmers policy and advocacy during 2014.

It would be almost impossible to operate a farming system in New Zealand without being aware of key topics like collaboration, nutrient management, water quality, limit setting and the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.

These are words which are increasingly on everyone’s lips and they’re here to stay. . .

Trout rescued as Canterbury rivers dry up – Thomas Mead:

Thousands of fish are being relocated from dangerously low rivers in North Canterbury as the region goes through a sweltering hot patch.

Fish and Game have been running rescue operations out of the Ashley, Cust and Selwyn rivers, along with parts of Lake Ellesmere, for two months following a sudden drop in water levels.

North Canterbury officer Steve Terry says about 3000 brown trout and salmon have already been relocated by his small team of staff and volunteers and the job will get harder in the weeks ahead.
Canterbury’s rivers occasionally dry up during the summer, with conditions forcing fish to retreat to deeper pools along the bank. . .

Environment Canterbury approves environment plan template:

Environment Canterbury has approved another farm environment plan template under the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan.

The template was developed by environmental consultants Irricon Resource Solutions. 

Environment Canterbury chief executive Bill Bayfield said Irricon had met all the requirements of Schedule 7 of the proposed Land and Water Regional Plan.  . .

 Ag service recognised in New Year honours:

Seven people were recognized in the New Years Honours for services directly related to agriculture.

 Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit:

Richard Lucas

Lucas has contributed to agriculture for more than 40 years.

He was a senior lecturer in the Plant Science Department of Lincoln University from 1974 to 2004. He created courses in tropical agronomy and ethno-botany to meet the academic needs of overseas students. . .

 Further illegal fishing vessel discovered:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says a third illegal fishing vessel has been discovered operating in the Southern Ocean during a patrol by the HMNZS WELLINGTON.

“The HMNZS WELLINGTON has intercepted a vessel, calling itself  the Yongding, fishing illegally to the west of the Ross Sea,” Mr McCully says.

“This is the third vessel to be discovered fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean during this patrol.

“All three vessels claim to be flagged to Equatorial Guinea and we continue to convey to Equatorial Guinea our concerns about these vessels’ operations and request permission to board the vessels. . .

Manawatu Farm Days to educate the next generation:

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei is launching its own Farm Day program to educate the next generation and the urban community.

James Stewart, Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei provincial president says Farm Days are about educating people about the origins of their food in an entertaining way.

“This is a concept based off the national Federated Farmers Farm Day initiative, which was introduced seven years ago, with a more intimate feel. This year’s school holidays, kids can see first hand the influence agriculture has to the local region and wider New Zealand.” . . .

 Spotlight on dairy efficiency – Shan Goodwin:

THE value of generating a cash budget and balance sheet was highlighted at the first workshop of the NSW dairy Focus Farm project.

The whole-of-business learning initiative, a first of its kind in NSW, will focus on improving operating surplus at the Lismore district farm of fourth-generation milk producer Andrew Wilson.

Over the next two years, a support group made up of fellow producers, financial and accounting experts, dairy industry consultants and advisers and livestock and pasture experts will meet regularly to put in place strategies for reducing fixed costs, maximising natural resources like home-grown feed and boosting productivity and profitability on the 250 milker farm “Torokina”, Woodlawn. . .

 

 


Key #1

December 4, 2014

Prime Minister John Key is Trans Tasman’s politician of the year:

This year’s 10th annual Roll Call can reveal John Key as its Politician of the Year. It was a straightforward choice. Key has stood head and shoulders above the rest in the polls, and his party romped home in its third election, the third time in a row it has added extra seats as well.

Key polled highest among the Trans Tasman Editors, contributors and their Capital insiders who make up the panel which compiles Roll Call, and despite signs there may be trouble ahead for Key if he is not careful, 2014 was his year.

Of course winning a fourth term will be dependent as much on the party’s support staff and their management as the Parliamentary team. The same goes for Labour as it battles to rebuild after its shattering defeat.

Roll Call says Key is “still phenomenally popular and if he comes through a third term without serious damage, a fourth could be within his grasp. But he’ll have to be careful.”

Trans Tasman’s Editors note “Key has not only performed strongly at home, he has become an international figure as well, cementing his and NZ’s reputation abroad with his election as chairman of the International Democratic Union.”

“However there are clouds. The fallout from the “Dirty Politics” saga continues. It should have been firmly put to bed in the campaign. And Key’s tendency to “forget,” or “mishear” the question is becoming a worrying feature of the way he involves himself in the Parliamentary and media discourse.”

“He has the respect – almost the love – of the voters, he needs to be careful he does not treat them with contempt. A fourth term does beckon, but the PM’s tendency to be just a bit smug, a bit arrogant, and at times a bit childish could derail it.”

“For now he is a titan, but Labour has a new leader and a new sense of purpose, and the next election is a long way away.”

National’s Front Bench performed exceptionally well in 2014, with just a single Cabinet Minister losing ground. Nikki Kaye fell from 6.5 to 6, after the “bright young thing” nearly lost Auckland Central. Roll Call suggests she must work harder.

Steven Joyce adds half a mark, taking the man most see as John Key’s successor to 8. “He doesn’t drop the ball and handles a raft of senior portfolios with calm confidence. Outside Parliament he was National’s campaign manager and must share some of the credit for its victory.”

Bill English, last year’s Politician of the Year, maintained his score of 9 out of 10. He is still “the safest pair of hands in the cabinet. Cautious, dependable and now mostly steering clear of debating chamber rhetoric.”

After a bad year in 2013, Hekia Parata has battled back to take her score from 5 to 7. “Key believes she’s competent and wasn’t going to hang her out to dry. He’s giving her the benefit of the doubt in delivering on a gutsy vision for the Education sector.”

Murray McCully takes his score from 6.5 to 7.5 after putting together the team which won NZ a seat on the UN Security Council and doing many of the hard yards himself, while Maggie Barry gets kudos for fitting in well to Conservation and being who “some say is the most popular National MP behind Key himself.” Her score jumps from 3 to 5.5.

The Ministers outside Cabinet are more average with Craig Foss, and Jo Goodhew, going down in score, Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith staying the same and just Nicky Wagner boosting her score from 4.5 to 5.

Both support party Ministers, Peter Dunne and Te Ururoa Flavell boosted their scores. Dunne from 4 to 5 “gets a point for coming through a horrible year with his head/hair up” while Maori Party leader Flavell goes from 6 to 6.5. “We’ll make a call and say he’s going to be an outstanding Minister.”

The dubious honour of low score for National goes to Melissa Lee. “Hard working but faded after a good start.”

Among the thoroughly shattered Labour MPs, there was little to write home about. David Cunliffe’s score falls from 7.5-6 after the election defeat. But “history may judge him more kindly than last week’s headlines. Is he NZ’s Kevin Rudd?”

Andrew Little’s star starts to shine though. His score jumps from 4.5 to 7. “No-one is going to die wondering what Little thinks. He’s a tough talking union man from way back who isn’t going to compromise his beliefs.”

Labour’s low scorer is Rino Tirikatene who stays on just 2.5 out of 10. “Do still waters run deep or are they just still? Has had time to find his feet and still no impact.”

For the Greens co-leader Russel Norman is the standout, holding his score on 7 out of 10. “After John Key Norman works the media better than any other party leader… If the Greens had gone into coalition with Labour he would have been hard to handle.”

And of course the old war horse Winston Peters is still there, blowing a bit harder than usual. He boosts his score from 7 to 7.5. “Does he have the will and the stamina for another three years on the opposition benches and a campaign in 2017?”

This year for the first time Roll Call also looks at the impact those MPs who left Parliament at the election had, and it is here we find this year’s low scorers Claudette Hauiti and John Banks, both on 1 out of 10.

As for the numbers:

Of National’s 60 MPs, 30 improved their score on last year, 7 went down, and 10 stayed the same. There were 15 new MPs who were not ranked.

Of Labour’s 32, 12 went up, 8 went down, 5 remained on the same score as last year and 7 were unable to be ranked.

ACT’s single MP was unable to be ranked. Of the Maori party’s 2 MPs 1 went up, and the other was unable to be ranked, while United Future’s single MP improved his score.

The Greens had 3 of their 14 MPs improve their score, 4 went down while 6 remained the same, one was unable to be ranked.

For NZ First 2 MPs improved their scores, 1 went down and 2 remained the same. 6 were unable to be ranked.

Of the National MPs able to be rated this year, 32 had a score of 5 or higher, while 13 scored below 5, while for Labour it had 16 of its MPs rated 5 or above, while 9 scored below 5.

The 2014 roll call is here.

 

 


New Cabinet announced

October 6, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced the Cabinet for his third term:


“There is a lot of work ahead to continue implementing our plans to build a stronger economy, reduce debt and create more jobs,” Mr Key says.

“The new Ministry builds on the experience of the past two terms in office, and combines experience with some fresh talent.

“A number of Ministers have had significant portfolio changes, reflecting the need to give Ministers new challenges as well as providing a fresh set of eyes in some portfolio areas.”

Mr Key says a number of Ministers have been promoted either to the front bench, or further up the front bench, to reflect their strong performance in recent years and their promise for the future.

“Paula Bennett has been promoted to number five in the rankings, and picks up State Services, Social Housing and Associate Finance in addition to retaining her Local Government portfolio.

“Dr Jonathan Coleman becomes Minister of Health, and also picks up the Sport and Recreation portfolio, which will link nicely together.

“Amy Adams and Simon Bridges are promoted to the front bench, both with significant new responsibilities. Ms Adams becomes Justice Minister and Mr Bridges Transport Minister.

“Christopher Finlayson remains Treaty Negotiations Minister and Attorney-General, while picking up significant new responsibilities in the intelligence area. He becomes Minister in Charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service and Minister Responsible for the GCSB, working closely with me in my new role as Minister for National Security and Intelligence.

“In this role I will continue to be responsible for leading the national security system, including policy settings and the legislative framework. Mr Finlayson will operate within the framework I set and exercise ministerial oversight of the NZSIS and GCSB, including approval of warrants.

“Officials have examined models used overseas and what we are adopting is very similar to what is seen with our closest partners.

“Housing continues to be a key area of focus for the Government, and a Ministerial team of Bill English, Paula Bennett and Nick Smith has been assembled to lead that work. Mr English will have direct responsibility for Housing New Zealand; Ms Bennett will focus on social housing, while Dr Smith will work on housing affordability and construction issues. The Social Housing portfolio will have responsibility for the government’s social housing functions, and for its relationship with the social housing sector.

Other changes include:

Gerry Brownlee becomes Minister of Defence, while retaining the role of Leader of the House and his Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and EQC portfolios.

Anne Tolley becomes Minister for Social Development.

Dr Nick Smith becomes Minister for the Environment.

Nikki Kaye becomes Minister for ACC.

Michael Woodhouse becomes Minister of Police. He also becomes Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety – a new portfolio title to reflect the modern focus of what had previously been the Labour portfolio.

Jo Goodhew becomes Minister for Food Safety.

Mr Key says, in announcing his new line up, three new Ministers will be appointed. Maggie Barry is to go straight into Cabinet as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Minister of Conservation and Minister for Senior Citizens. Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith will be Ministers outside Cabinet holding a variety of portfolios.

“Two ministers previously outside Cabinet have been promoted to Cabinet. Todd McClay will be Minister of Revenue and Minister for State Owned Enterprises, while Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will be Minister of Corrections, Minister for Ethnic Communities and Minister for Pacific Peoples.

“Craig Foss remains a Minister, but will now serve outside Cabinet as Minister for Small Business, Minister of Statistics and Minister of Veteran’s Affairs.

“Chester Borrows will not be appointed to the new Ministry. He will, however, be National’s nominee for Deputy Speaker, and I want to thank Chester for his service as a Minister,” Mr Key says.

A number of Ministers continue largely in their current portfolio responsibilities. These include Steven Joyce in Economic Development, Hekia Parata in Education, Murray McCully in Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy in Primary Industries, Tim Groser in Trade and Climate Change, and Nicky Wagner in Customs.

“The support party Ministerial and Under Secretary roles have already been announced, but I want to acknowledge again their contribution to the formation of a strong, stable National-led Government.”

Mr Key says the National Caucus will meet tomorrow (Tuesday 7 October) to elect its three whips for the coming parliamentary term.

The new Ministry will be sworn in at Government House in Wellington at 11am on Wednesday morning.

The list of names, positions and rankings is here.

 


Free trade fairest

August 28, 2014

Prime Minister John Key says free trade will lift kiwi incomes:

National today released a set of policies that reinforces the Party’s commitment to openness with the world as the path to lift New Zealanders’ incomes, in contrast with opposition parties that want to isolate us from the rest of the world.

“New Zealand’s economic prosperity relies on selling our goods and services to the rest of the world,” says National Party Leader John Key.  “The fewer barriers there are for our exporters, the better off New Zealanders will be.”

“That is why as Prime Minister I have been working hard on behalf of New Zealanders to crack open more doors to free trade, alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Trade Minister Tim Groser.

“This includes pushing for a high-quality free trade agreement under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes economic giants like the United States and Japan.

“The choice for voters in this area, like so many others, is stark.

“The Greens want to end free trade and Labour, riven by caucus division, is very confused about what it wants after previously being in favour of free trade.  The Dotcom party, of course, is totally opposed to free trade.

“There can be no doubt that this combination in government would damage the cause of New Zealand’s exporters and damage New Zealand’s economic prosperity.

“Raising barriers to the rest of the world and halting the momentum of trade agreements with key markets like the US, Japan and Korea, would be disastrous,” says Mr Key.

“Our policy to encourage free trade is one of the most important ways we can become more prosperous.

“Trade agreements allow New Zealand companies to access big international markets as if they were part of New Zealand’s domestic market.  For a small country they are hugely important.”

Mr Key made the comments at the opening of the New Zealand Winegrowers conference in Blenheim today as National released its Trade, Foreign Affairs and Tourism policies.

“The wine industry is a leading example of New Zealand companies thriving on the world stage,” says Mr Key.

“The policies we are releasing today show our commitment to remaining open to trade with the world, having an independent foreign policy, and encouraging and supporting our crucial tourism industry.

“Should National have the privilege of forming a government after the election, I would continue as Minister of Tourism, working hard to promote New Zealand as a tourism destination,” he says.

Mr Key also announced along with Education Minister Hekia Parata that the National Government has decided to create a $10 million fund over five years to increase the provision of Asian languages in schools.

“These policies together demonstrate National is committed to seeing New Zealand remaining open to the world, continuing to generate economic prosperity through good relations with other countries, and lowering barriers to trade.”

New Zealand would not be where it is economically or socially if it wasn’t for the free trade agreements negotiated by successive governments.

Until recently National and Labour have had a reasonable degree of consensus on the importance of free trade.

That is no longer the case.

Labour is back tracking on its commitment to open borders and it would be dragged further back if it needed the support of the Green, New Zealand First and Internet Mana parties to govern.

Only a National-led government will guarantee continuing focus on free trade and the economic and social benefits which come from that.

 


Craig rules Conservatives out of govt

July 20, 2014

Conservative leader Colin Craig is planning to contest the East Coast Bays seat.

He hasn’t made a formal approach but he’s keen for sitting MP Murray McCully to stand aside in the hope that people who voted for the National MP would back Craig instead.

There are several flaws with this, not least being there is absolutely no guarantee the people of East Coast Bays would vote for him in sufficient numbers.

The outcome is even less certain now that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is talking about throwing his hat in that ring too.

Craig’s case hasn’t been helped by his party’s chief executive Christine Rankin saying the Conservatives could go right or left and work with National or Labour in government.

Voting for Craig would be difficult enough for National supporters in East Coast Bays if his party was committed to supporting a National government,. Few, if any, would countenance it if they thought there was any chance they’d be helping Labour cobble together a coalition.

The Conservative’s case for an electoral accommodation is even weaker now that Craig has said binding referenda would be a bottom line in coalition negotiations.

At the Conservative Party conference today, leader Colin Craig had a clear message to Prime Minister John Key.

He won’t do any type of deal with National unless it agrees to binding referenda. . .

There is absolutely no way a major party would agree to that policy and even if they did, Andrew Geddis points out that a cconstitutional  change of such magnitude should not be passed by a bare majority.

It’s constitutionally improper to even suggest that this happen – it would be like the Maori Party saying that their price for supporting a Government would be for that Government to legislate via a bare parliamentary majority to make the Treaty of Waitangi a “higher law” constitutional document that could be used to strike down other laws. I don’t care whether you think that would be a good outcome; it would be a bad way to bring it about. . .

But even if it did it wouldn’t work under our system which gives parliament sovereignty:

. . . How in a system of parliamentary sovereignty can Parliament (in the shape of a National/Conservative majority) pass a law that says that the general public is able to, by referendum, bind future Parliaments in their lawmaking decisions?

Even if a National/Conservative Government were to use their majority in Parliament to pass a referendum law that says that if the public vote in the future for or against some measure Parliament “must” follow that vote, exactly how would this law be “binding”? If a future Parliament were to just ignore the result of such a referendum – as is the case with current Citizens’ Initiated Referendums, for which no apparent political price gets paid – then what could be done about it? How, given our system of parliamentary sovereignty, could a court order today’s Parliament to do what a past Parliament said it must do? And what could a court even order in such a circumstance? What odds a judge saying to Parliament “because an Act was passed a few years ago saying that you had to make a law if the public voted for it, you now have to draft, debate and enact this particular Bill on this particular issue.”? . . .

Craig is demonstrating his ignorance of constitutional niceties and his own political naivety by making binding referenda it a bottom line and in doing so has ruled his party out of government.

It’s the sort of policy which might gain votes from the disgruntled.

But the party is a long way from the 5% support needed to get into parliament without the safety net of an electorate seat. Thankfully the chances of him being gifted one were already low and this bottom line will ought to have killed the idea completely.


Political story of the day

June 19, 2014

The round-up of political stories while Politics Daily is taking a break seemed  like a good idea but it was taking too much time.

Instead, I’ll feature a political story of the day and welcome you to add others.

My pick won’t necessarily be the most important one, and today’s isn’t:

Politics. It just IS cricket: Sports diplomacy at the UN – Audrey Young:

The United Nations hasn’t seen so much fun in ages.

The Palestinian chief diplomat at the UN tried out his first game of cricket.

The Prime Minister told risqué jokes about his wife.

And Foreign Minister Murray McCully was stumped, possibly for the first time in his life.

Cricketing legend Sir Richard Hadlee was the draw card on the East Lawn of the United Nations at an event to promote the Cricket World Cup next year jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia, starting February 14. . .

Make cricket, not war?


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