Foreign Minister Winston Peters should explain why New Zealand was absent from a joint statement by his ministerial counterparts from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States on China’s proposal to impose strict new laws on Hong Kong, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Reading the statement it is hard to disagree with the language or sentiment of New Zealand’s long-standing diplomatic partners.
“In fact, the statement broadly aligns with New Zealand’s brief comments to date on China’s proposals. So why were we absent in sending a unified message to China alongside partners with shared interests and values?
“New Zealand’s relationship with China is certainly unique, and China has always respected our measured frankness when we take a different view on issues.
“Whether this Government believes we can no longer take those measured positions alongside others is something Mr Peters should explain.”
In what we hope will be a post-Covid world, New Zealand is set to host APEC in 2021, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Host responsibility for the security of delegates, particularly over the Leaders’ Week, requires legislation that fairly balances security needs against New Zealanders’ freedoms.
“A Bill to achieve that has been through a Select Committee process.
“National has supported the process so far. However the Government has chosen to include the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC 2021) Bill in today’s urgency motion.
“It is in our view completely inappropriate that a Bill of this nature is dealt with in the rush of dead of night urgency.
“There is not a Government majority to pass the Bill and National will not support its remaining stages being rushed through under urgency.
“We would urge the Government to recognise that pushing the remaining three stages of this Bill (which is effective in 2021) through urgency is inappropriate. Should the Government choose to remove it from the urgency motion, then our position would change.”
The National Party supports the resumption of Parliament from next week, Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says.
“Tomorrow, the Business Committee will discuss ways in which Parliament can convene and maintain the new social distancing rules as required under level 3 restrictions.
“We understand it is the Government’s intention to pass several pieces of legislation intended to facilitate a response to situations caused by Covid-19. We understand it’s also the Government’s intention to hold a Question Time on each sitting day.
“Before the Budget can be read on May 14, subject select committees need to report their financial reviews to facilitate a financial review debate in the House.
“National MPs, where possible, will travel to Wellington and be rostered in and out of the House to facilitate Question Time and the passage of legislation.
“We do not support Zoom arrangements for Parliamentary debates.
“We look forward to ongoing constructive discussions with the Business Committee and we hope that in this current environment the Government makes all Covid-19 related legislation available to the Opposition as soon as it is prepared.”
New Zealanders who are currently still stranded in India will need assistance trying to return home, National’s spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee says.
“We have Kiwis who are in India who are running the risk of being without medication, money and being evicted from hotels.
“India has had growing unrest since issue of their curfew. There has been an increase in crime and violence which is making an already worrying situation that much worse.
“The Government has announced a mercy flight from Peru but with over 3000 Kiwis currently spread over Asia, only having one flight will not solve the problem for people stranded in India.
“Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued the advice to “shelter in place”. This advice provides no practical help. I would encourage MFAT to look at every possibility for bringing Kiwis home.
“Our responsibility should not just stop at those within New Zealand but extend to include those who are desperately trying to return back to their families and loved ones.”
Jacinda Ardern has serious questions to answer about why she is using the video conferencing system Zoom for Cabinet meetings, National’s GCSB & NZSIS spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Cabinet needs to be able to have robust discussions in a protected environment. It’s where decisions at the highest level are made for New Zealanders.
“It’s unbelievable to think the Prime Minister was advised there were security issues with the platform and then went ahead with using it anyway.
“The Prime Minister has said Cabinet agreed it won’t discuss anything classified above ‘restricted’ because she is aware there could be vulnerabilities with the system.
“When Parliament agreed to the Government spending up to $40 billion in response to Covid-19, nobody anticipated decisions on that borrowed money would be made by only two or three Ministers, without the contest of robust Cabinet discussion.
“There will be commercial sensitivities around borrowing and expenditure decisions which should be accorded the highest level of security.
“Most Select Committees hearings are public, so Zoom is appropriate. Cabinet is never public, so Zoom is not appropriate.
“The moment she knew there were any vulnerabilities she should have looked for another platform.
“It’s important Cabinet follows the rules that every other New Zealander is around distancing – but there has to be a better way than over a platform that is vulnerable to hacking.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters needs to explain the disgraceful decision to not send a New Zealand representative to the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is being held in Israel this week, and will be the largest gathering of countries to fight anti-Semitism.
“The Government has failed to send a single representative, not even the Governor-General or a Minister, to this significant event. We send Ministers and Members of Parliament to a number of events around the world, but not to this one.
“New Zealand received an invite, and now we are going to be one of the only first-world countries, on the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, to not be there.
“The Holocaust was the most terrible crime against humanity, it is embarrassing New Zealand won’t be present at this event.”
New Zealand should emulate our friends Britain and Australia by keeping troops on the ground in Iraq but with contingency plans to move them quickly if required, National’s Defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee say.
“We do not want to cut and run unduly, leaving others to shoulder our responsibilities,” Mr Mitchell says.
“We have a proud history of operating in the Middle East to keep the peace and it’s important that we are not distracted from our continued efforts to stabilise Iraq.
“We would expect the Iraqi government to take all steps necessary to control the security situation and ensure all coalition bases are protected from attack.
“There needs to be strong contingency plans in place to get our people out of the country if the Iraqi government loses control of the situation.”
Mr Brownlee said the Government briefed the Opposition on the situation in Iraq earlier this week.
“We share the Government’s concern over the recent escalation of hostilities. Now is the time for cool heads.
“We would urge all parties to move forward with meaningful dialogue rather than tit for tat retaliation.”
Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ refusal to directly express displeasure to the Russian Ambassador and his Government over Russian allegations the New Zealand Defence Force failed to clear a firing range of exploded ordnance and are guilty of murdering seven Afghan children is as appalling as it is unsurprising, National’s spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Gerry Brownlee says.
“Mr Peters deflected questioning on his refusal to call in the Russian Ambassador by saying the Russians were attempting to engage the British Government on these matters.
“This clearly implied he is happy to accept the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) reputation being significantly tarnished as collateral damage in a scrap between two other Governments.
“Even the Prime Minister acknowledged to Parliament that the NZDF had cleared the firing range in question to the acceptable standard at the time. She noted the range had previously been used by other military, including the Russians.
“While the death of any innocent civilians is distressing, the strength of Russia’s allegations against New Zealand is unacceptable.
“When the Russian’s left Afghanistan after the long civil war some years ago, they left behind an estimated 30 million land mines. These are said to kill or maim 2000 Afghans every year.
“Mr Peters told Parliament there was no need for him to call in the Ambassador because he was watching the proceedings of the House and that would suffice. If Russian Ambassador Zuev was watching, he would’ve heard only conciliatory and soothing commentary from the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
“That is a disgrace. At the very least Ambassador Zuev should be called into the Foreign Minister’s office, and the Foreign Minister should directly express New Zealand’s displeasure at these Russian allegations and strongly suggest that Russia pays some of the costs for the further clearing of the 40 square kilometre firing range, currently being borne by the New Zealand taxpayer.”
Growing tensions in Hong Kong amongst police and pro-democracy protestors are cause for increased alarm, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Small movements throughout history have led to eventual significant change. The current Government of Mainland China rose from such a protest movement and its achievements have been considerable.
“The demand for change in Hong Kong will need meaningful dialogue and a path to progress change if more bloodshed is to be avoided.
“Former British dependent territory Hong Kong has access to history and experience which may be helpful in reaching resolution to the current disruption which threatens the territory’s prosperity and until now, peaceful lifestyle.
“Hong Kong should reach out for that help and Beijing should be confident about its achievements and continue the measured restraint it has shown so far.”
Complacency over terrorist threats cannot be the legacy of the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed in Sunday's successful attack carried out by US Seals on the ISIS headquarters, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Those involved in the raid have made the world a little safer for a time.
“National in Government took the decision to join the US led coalition against ISIS because we could see no country was insulated from state-less ideologically driven terrorism.
“Al-Baghdadi and his followers were, and are, pure evil. ISIS is an idea, it has not died with Al-Baghdadi.
“Our security services, both civil and military, need to be as vigilant and connected as ever to like-minded countries. Strong terrorism laws are only a bother to terrorists. As ISIS followers disperse throughout the world, we need to have strong anti-terrorism laws.”