Appointments to a new Intelligence and Security Reference Group raise a number of serious questions for Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn, National’s Spokesperson for GCSB and NZSIS Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Inspector-General has said this group has been brought together to help her stand ‘in the shoes of the public’.
“But several members of her group are far from objective in their view of our intelligence relationships, or in some cases the existence of intelligence services at all.
“Nicky Hager made his views about the Security Intelligence Service clear in a public talk in 2011, when he said the agencies should have been closed in the 1990s because their ‘main long-term anti-communist rationale [was] gone’.
“He then questioned the legitimacy of their role in identifying and monitoring terrorist threats.
“The Inspector-General needs to explain how this group was appointed. That they have been appointed and met with the Inspector-General before their appointment was made public is worrying given the values she is supposed to promote.
“Did the Inspector-General discuss the appointments of the group with the Prime Minister before the first meeting? And what statutory power can she cite for the appointments?
“Will this group have top secret clearance? If so, how can we be sure the information they will have access to will be secure?
“Will the Inspector-General be sharing intelligence with them? Where will the line be drawn?
“And what role will this group’s opinions have in the oversight of our intelligence operations?
“It is naïve to believe that New Zealand does not need intelligence and security services. Our intelligence and security agencies deal with very sensitive information and must be able to operate with discretion.
“The Inspector-General needs to clear these matters up urgently and answer the questions that the appointments of this group raises, so that our intelligence community can be confident in the progress of their work.”
It’s an inconceivable blunder for David Parker to have blindsided Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua with the latest America’s Cup base proposal, National’s America’s Cup spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and Crown-Maori Relations spokesperson Chris Finlayson say.
“It defies belief that when Mr Parker and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff agreed last weekend that the latest of their many iterations of potential America’s Cup bases was to be progressed they hadn’t consulted Ngāti Whātua,” Mr Brownlee says.
“But given the Council and Government’s track record of not informing important stakeholders of their proposals – most recently America’s Cup holders Team New Zealand two weeks ago – it could be true. However, we would have expected that the iwi be included.”
Mr Finlayson says the Crown is obligated to negotiate redress of the Waitemata Harbour with local iwi, which means Ngāti Whātua should have been one of Mr Parker’s first ports of call when dreaming up alternative America’s Cup base options, but he seems to have forgotten to include them or been unaware.
“For Ngāti Whātua to be surprised to discover two 110 metre concrete structures on Wynyard Wharf in the latest proposal suggests Mr Parker isn’t across his brief and hasn’t been communicating well at all,” Mr Finlayson says.
Mr Brownlee says the America’s Cup is an extremely important opportunity for New Zealand to market itself to the world.
“Mr Parker needs to get a better grasp on the details of the project to ensure that this event is a success and lives up to its full potential.”
Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee has today thanked Sir Maarten Wevers for his service to the Earthquake Commission (EQC) following his resignation.
“Sir Maarten Wevers chaired one of the biggest insurance company responses to any natural disaster anywhere in the world," Mr Brownlee says.
"New Zealand had not experienced an event that had caused such widespread destruction, and Sir Maarten was pivotal to the EQC’s remarkable response to the challenges posed.
"Prior to the Canterbury Earthquakes the EQC had 22 employees, at its peak time after the earthquakes the commission employed 1800 staff.
"While Sir Maarten was chair, the EQC handled about 470,000 lodged claims. The 2600 outstanding claims represent 0.6 per cent of that total number.
"Many of the claims that are outstanding are remedial claims, others will be disputed scopes of work, but the EQC is still open to claimants concerns.
"It is disappointing that the Minister responsible for the EQC does not have confidence in the team that has delivered such exceptional results thus far.
"It is important to note that insurance policy costs in New Zealand have not risen to post-quake predictions thanks, in large part, to the work of Sir Maarten and the EQC.
"Thank you Sir Maarten, for your service to the EQC, and also to the people of Canterbury.”
The breath-taking voter deceit of Winston Peters has been laid bare over his apparent satisfaction that minor changes to Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in the Comprehensive and Progress Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) were the key to New Zealand First supporting the deal, National Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee says.
“Putting to one side the admission that the New Zealand Government will still be open to legal action by foreign companies in the updated trade deal – the abolition of which was apparently a sacred bottom line for New Zealand First support – Mr Peters is also now supporting greater access to New Zealand assets for his life-long bête noir, the Chinese.
“Never one to sweat the detail in his Cabinet papers, the impact of the CPTPP on countries that have Most Favoured Nation status through Free Trade Agreements with New Zealand, such as China, will have completely escaped Mr Peters’ attention.
“Certainly it will come as a huge surprise to New Zealand First’s few remaining supporters that the threshold for Overseas Investment Act approval for Chinese companies purchasing New Zealand assets will double when Mr Peters’ party helps enact the CPTPP.
“That’s because buried in the deal he clearly hadn’t read was a doubling of the investment threshold for CPTPP countries from $100 million to $200 million – a salient fact his more studious colleague, the Trade Minister David Parker, no doubt concluded Mr Peters didn’t need to know when negotiating New Zealand First support for the deal.
“Either that, or this is just another case of Mr Peters saying one thing about New Zealand First’s core beliefs to voters but doing the opposite when the baubles of office present themselves.
“National looks forward to Mr Peters explaining this and his many other inconsistencies in respect of the CPTPP when the full text is released and it is debated in Parliament, before the March 8 signing in Chile, which his colleague Mr Parker has promised,” Mr Brownlee says.
Evidence given to the Environment Select Committee from the Department of Conservation (DOC) today just goes to show the deeply divided factions occurring within the Coalition Government, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Speaking at DOC’s annual review, the Director General Lou Sanson was asked what input his department has had on the new Government’s decision to firstly postpone and then, this week, cancel the introduction of cameras on fishing boats.
“Mr Sanson and DOC have always been spirited advocates of on-board cameras as one of the best practical measures needed to protect our declining marine bird species.
“He told the committee that DOC ‘absolutely’ maintains its position that cameras on fishing boats are essential if we are to reverse the decline in the sort of seabird species we see in our waters.
“It’s therefore quite extraordinary that his Minister, Eugenie Sage, has so quickly and thoroughly distanced herself from Stuart Nash’s decision to cancel the roll-out that the National Government initiated.
“It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that Mr Nash is being leaned on by Coalition partner, New Zealand First.
“I’m surprised that as a junior Coalition partner, the Greens have allowed themselves to be side-lined in this way,” Mr Brownlee says.
The Government’s last minute announcement of a change in the Mānuka honey definition puts one of New Zealand’s iconic export industries at risk, National’s Food Safety spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The repeated changes and subsequent confusion around the definition and test for Mānuka honey are extremely unsettling, and indicate that the Minister has no idea what he is dealing with,” Mr Bennett says.
“This uncertainty has flow-on effects for not only the industry but also exporters and consumers. With only a week until export requirements come into force, the industry is still in the dark.
“Overseas markets are looking to New Zealand to provide a credible and robust definition for Mānuka honey and all that we have so far are a series of failed attempts and back-tracks.
“Yesterday in the House I asked the Food Safety Minister which of the two standards released by MPI outline the accurate test for Mānuka honey, and he said that they both did.
“The definition put out this week only requires one microgram of the 2MAP marker per kilogram, whereas the first definition that was released in December required that the honey had five micrograms of the marker.
“The Minister also indicated that he had carried out “lots” of consultation with the industry around the December test. However the industry tells me that this is not the case. The dropping of legal action after the Minister reverted back to his pre-December test further proves that.
“I’m calling on the Minister to give the industry some reassurance and confirm a test and standard for Mānuka honey once and for all,” Mr Bennett says.
Suggestions that the Prime Minister’s ill-advised interference in Australia’s handling of illegal asylum seekers has led to a spike in such activity is further proof she should take more care with her remarks, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Prime Minister has repeatedly criticised the Australian Government for the way it handles people trying to reach Australia illegally, and advocated for those asylum seekers to be resettled in New Zealand.
“While this is a long-standing offer, the Prime Minister’s grandstanding not only affected our relationship with our closest ally, but has also reportedly led to more attempts by asylum seekers to reach Australia, and also to target New Zealand.
“This is a dangerous journey which has cost lives, and one the Australian Government, supported by New Zealand has worked hard to discourage – and been effective in doing.
“It is also a very difficult issue for Australia to manage, which is why the Australian Government has so clearly, and fairly, resented Ms Ardern’s comments.
“Her insistence that Australia allow New Zealand to handpick 150 asylum seekers who meet UN refugee status, while Australia handles the rest, on top of the message this sends to human traffickers and those desperate to attempt to reach Australia, shows a disregard to the complexity of the problem.
“New Zealand should be supporting efforts to help curb such dangerous attempts, not helping to promote them and the Prime Minister needs to be more aware of that.”
The Government’s foreign home buyer ‘ban’ is fast unravelling, with Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters confirming that Singaporeans may be exempted, along with Australians – begging the question which country is next?
“The Government has repeatedly claimed foreign buyers of New Zealand houses can be banned without breaching any of our international agreements. Then on Wednesday, following objections raised by the Singaporean Government, it admitted it would breach the NZ-Singapore Closer Economic Partnership.
“And yesterday Mr Peters confirmed the Government is in fact working on an exemption for Singapore.
“The question now has to be asked, which country will need to be exempt next? And if we refuse an exemption, what impact will that have on our important international relationships?
“For example, we are currently upgrading our FTA with China. Will our largest goods trading partner accept being told that our Government will treat Australians and Singaporeans differently in New Zealand than Chinese?
“This is a confused Government desperate to ram through desperate concessions agreed in its coalition talks. It continues to treat our international relationships with contempt. It needs to start thinking beyond tomorrow’s headlines before it does real damage.”
National Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee has urged the Prime Minister to concentrate on getting her own government in order, rather than continuing to interfere in the domestic politics of our neighbours.
“The Australian Government is again having to defend its approach to dealing with illegal asylum seekers after Jacinda Ardern used a meeting with the Australian Opposition Leader to force the issue back onto the Australian political agenda.
“New Zealand has a long-standing offer to take 150 refugees but it is up to the Australian Government to take that up. The Australian Government is aware the offer is there, and is clearly frustrated by Ms Ardern’s repeated attempts to embarrass it into accepting it.
“While we should always be able to speak frankly and raise concerns, Ms Ardern should be giving more consideration to the difficulty of dealing with issues like asylum seekers, and asking herself whether her approach is in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders.
“What might further frustrate the Australian Government is being lectured to by a Prime Minister whose own Government continues to lurch from shambles to shambles.
“We are entering another week of Parliament with little of Labour’s own legislation up for debate and the Government preparing to rush through laws under Urgency to take away $1060 a year from someone on the average wage.
“The Government continues to break its promises and to find itself unable to explain to New Zealanders its policies and direction.
“With business and farmer confidence dropping significantly, the Prime Minister should focus more of her attention on getting her own Government’s affairs in order before telling other leaders how to run theirs.”
Recreational fishers will be relieved to hear that Stuart Nash appears to have completely rejected the recommendations of a report that would have brought onerous compliance costs on them, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
The public policy think tank, the New Zealand Initiative, yesterday released the findings of a five year study into the state of New Zealand's recreational fishing sector.
Among its recommendations are imposing a licensing regime on recreational fishers, introducing a registration system for boats and requiring recreational catch reporting.
“The Minister has gone from a reserved positon on the report last night, to being unequivocal today and rejecting most of its recommendations.
“In answering my questions in the House today, the Minister provided welcome confirmation that recreational fishers will not be required to get a license to catch a fish in the marine environment, they will not have to register their boat, and will not have to report their catch.
“Now that he has clarified the long held positon (as outlined in the report) that recreational fishers “will have priority status where the abundance is insufficient to support both commercial and non-commercial fishing” the question arises; will he move to compensate commercial fishers for reduced total allowable take in over-fished areas? And, who will pay for the compensation now that he’s rejected all the recommended revenue streams recommended in the report?
“These questions will give the Coalition something to think about. As usual, there are a number of conflicting positions between the Greens, Labour and New Zealand First.
“For example, the Minister recently announced he would put a stop on the roll out of digital monitoring on commercial fishing vessels. He’s obviously under pressure from New Zealand First and their supporters yet one of the recommendations we see here in this report is to improve data collection on these fleets.
“Forgive the pun, but Stuart Nash is literally floundering. Just last night he had no answers for recreational fishers, now he’s got to find some for the commercial sector.”