Was John Key born lucky or what? Political performance tends to be judged on three things – the unemployment rate, the petrol price at the pump, and the market value of your house. This year, Key was lucky enough to hit a peak in the business cycle just as the country went to the polls. Since then, the long awaited drop in the value of the NZ dollar versus the greenback has begun – a slide that will ultimately push import prices up, including petrol prices. Read the rest of this entry »
Ridiculous reported comments on RNZ this morning by Trade Minister Tim Groser, as he sought to dampen down concerns about yesterday’s leaked draft of the IP chapter of ther Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. According to Groser, ‘extreme’ positions are common at the outset of negotiations, and these get whittled down over the course of negotiations. Fine. Except that we’re not at the outset of these negotiations. The outset was six years ago, and negotiators were hoping to have some sort of ‘framework’ deal finished in time for the APEC meeting in a few weeks’ time. These ‘extreme’ positions are what we’ve reached near the intended end of the negotiations. Read the rest of this entry »
The release by Julian Assange on Wikileaks of the draft Trands Pacific Partnership chapter on intellectual property – including drug patents – contains some pretty disturbing evidence about what’s still on the table. The leaked drafts pertain to the May 2014 negotiating positions and enable comparisons with the August 2013 positions that Wikileaks released last November. Wikileaks overview of the new data is available here. Read the rest of this entry »
Apparently, the Key government is still pondering how New Zealand will contribute to the fight against Islamic State. Long may it ponder, given the lack of consensus among our allies as to how to fight IS, where to fight it (Syria, Iraq, or both ?) and with whose ground troops, pray tell. Not to mention the fact that no-one involved seems to have the foggiest idea of what would constitute victory, or what an exit strategy would look like. Face it: open-ended commitments to poorly defined campaigns rarely turn out well. Read the rest of this entry »
The politicisation of (a) the public service and (b) the operations of the Official Information Act have been highlighted by the policy advice package on child poverty that RNZ’s resolute political editor Brent Edwards has finally prised out of the Ministry of Social Development. Not only was the MSD advice on how to alleviate child poverty tailored to fit the political needs and desires of the government, but the release of it to RNZ – which had been seeking the information since May 2013 – was held back until after the election. Read the rest of this entry »
So the Key government is about to launch a four week review of the ability of our existing legislation to deal with “suspected and returning foreign terrorist fighters, and other violent extremists.” According to its terms of reference, the review will consider whether the SIS, GCSB and Police are sufficiently able right now to (a) investigate and monitor suspected and returning foreign terrorist fighters ‘and other violent extremists’ (b) restrict and disrupt their ability to travel to conflict zones and (c) whether specific criminal offences should be created to address their behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the main achievements of the Clark government was that it kept New Zealand out of overt involvement in the 2003 Iraq invasion. It also kept our Afghanistan role within the direct UN mandate. By doing so, Clark minimized the risk to New Zealanders from retaliatory action by terrorists – a reality that Britain experienced first hand, and which has been a feature of the response by Islamic State, both in its rhetoric and in the killing of the US and UK citizens it has captured.
Our low level of threat risk from events in the Middle East may now be about to escalate. Next month, the Key government has indicated it will announce what role New Zealand will play – via its special forces and other logistical support – in the US-led offensive against Islamic State. The relatively independent foreign policy set by the Clark government – which was initially codified within Derek Quigley’s Defence Beyond 2000 report – is being brushed aside as a National government reverts to its usual stance on defence. Under National, we will ’independently’ agree to go along with whatever it is our traditional allies ask of us, in MFAT’s fond belief that we will amass some unspecified brownie points in Washington and Canberra from doing so. Read the rest of this entry »
When Parliament resumes on October 20, Prime Minister John Key will reportedly be making a major speech on security and intelligence issues. The speech is likely to indicate how New Zealand proposes to manage the security risk posed by Kiwi jihadis returning home after fighting in Syria and Iraq for the likes of the Islamic State and who have been radicalised by the experience.
There is no practical way to prevent the exodus of New Zealanders intent on fighting for IS, even if the right to travel could be legally infringed, which it almost certainly could not be. Read the rest of this entry »
Will the management split on security and intelligence issues that Prime Minister John Key announced yesterday serve to enhance or to reduce his public accountability on such matters ? On RNZ’s Checkpoint last night, Key was vague about the substance of the division of labour, which seemed to entail a good deal of overlap between his role and that of Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.
Key told RNZ’s Mary Wilson he would be playing more of a ‘leadership’ role on the formation of policy, matters of agency funding and the reform of the SIS, while Finlayson would be handling the “day to day’ matters of signing off interception warrants and shepherding SIS and GCSB legislation through the House etc. Yet Key would still remain aware of the targets of SIS/GCSB interceptions, and Finlayson would now be attending Key’s weekly briefings with security agency officials.
So, if a Key is playing the ‘leadership” role in policy formation at our security agencies – and logically, if the buck stops with the leader – does that mean Key will be accountable via OIA requests and ministerial inquiries if and when a controversy erupts over the activities of these agencies? Probably not. Read the rest of this entry »
It isn’t often that one story can encapsulate (a) the bogus rhetoric used to justify sky-high pay packages for top executives, (b) the unequal way that workers are rewarded for their efforts, and (c) the threat that outsourcing can pose to workplace health and safety. Yet yesterday’s story about the pay package for Lyttleton port chief executive Peter Davie contained all of the above.