It’s great to be here today. Can I first of all acknowledge the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand for that generous welcome, and also Melanie Thornton of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs and the whole team there for hosting this event today here in Parliament.
Can I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues here today – in particular our international affairs experts Todd McClay, Mark Mitchell, Gerry Brownlee, Tim Macindoe, Simon O’Connor and Chris Penk.
I would like to welcome all the Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and representatives from embassies, high commissions and missions from around the world here today. We are delighted to have you with us and appreciate you taking the time to be here.
And to our panellists – Charles Finny, Tracey Epps, John Martin and Anna Powles – thank you for taking the time to help us today with your expertise. I look forward to hearing your contributions later on.
As you may be aware, National is currently running the ruler over all of our policies. This year we are launching our discussion documents, phase two in our policy development.
We’re focused on being a constructive and hardworking Opposition, holding the Government to account and putting forward ideas to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
Today we are launching National’s International Relations Discussion Document. It covers our approach to Foreign Affairs, Defence, Security, Trade, and Overseas Development Assistance.
It is tempting, as a small country, to look at the geopolitical and trade tension between the great powers, conclude that there is little we can do to affect the global environment, take fright and duck for cover.
As Fran O’Sullivan noted in her Herald column last week, the risks and threats of a prolonged trade war between the United States and China “will have huge ramifications for New Zealand business, the economy and global harmony”.
The risks and threats are real, but as a country we must look beyond them. Where there is uncertainty we mitigate by doing what New Zealanders expect us to do. We just have to confidently roll up our sleeves and seek out new opportunities.
I am unapologetically optimistic about what New Zealanders can continue to achieve on the world stage, and what the Government can do to represent our interests.
Every day, New Zealanders seek out opportunities to travel, work, and play in every corner of the globe. The New Zealand passport is among the most powerful in the world. Our reputation as honest, friendly, engaging, unthreatening people carries over to our privileged position on the world stage.
We have fought hard for this position, and we must work hard as a country to maintain it.
One of the features of New Zealand's foreign policy is its consistency. We have always preached the virtues of democracy, human rights, a liberal trading system, the rule of law, and a robust multilateral rules-based order as the best mechanism to promote peace, prosperity and security.
There has been broad consensus between the two major political parties on these values. In turn, our international partners generally know what we will say. We will stand against aggression. We will aim for global collaboration on issues that can only be advanced globally. We will push for free and fair trade rules.
Those values are rooted in our country's long history of unbroken democracy, embrace of political and economic freedoms, tolerance, a staunch defence of fundamental human rights, and a recognition of the need to provide security and safety to our people at home and abroad.
Our friends, partners, and allies need to know where we stand. And so do New Zealanders.
National's positioning on international relations issues is anchored in our values. We don't need to consult with ourselves for days and weeks to determine our position on Russia's aggression on Ukraine. We don't need to pause and think about our response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people. We don't need to anguish over whether we recognise the illegitimate re-election of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. These are reflexive positions that the Government should be able to speak out on immediately.
International relations is not a great game. It is not a subtle art of hoodwinking competitors and saying as little as possible. It is not a shadow-dance. In its most simple form, it is about achieving greater security, prosperity, and benefits for New Zealanders. It is about engaging with like-minded countries to focus on mutually positive outcomes. It is about speaking out for, and acting on, the values and concerns of New Zealanders.
We believe that as a Government we can and should demystify international relations. Our foreign policy interests are straightforward. It is up to Government to constantly articulate what our interests are, and what we are doing to deliver gains for New Zealanders.
The balancing and prioritising of competing interests is the basis of any effective foreign policy.
We acknowledge that as a political party, and when in Government, we need to continue to make the case with New Zealanders for our economic and diplomatic relations with other countries.
And we also have to be much clearer with our friends, allies and partners on where we stand.
There have been recent examples where the present Government has not delivered a clear position to our friends and partners. I will not dwell on those, except to say that we must continue to use foreign policy as a vehicle to improve the opportunities for New Zealanders, and must continue to anchor our policy positions in our values. We must be clear about those positions.
If New Zealanders do not understand our interests, then we cannot expect our friends and partners to understand them.
And if our positions are confused, as long as we are explaining and clarifying those confusions, then we are not advancing our relationships. We do not have the luxury of having Washington, Beijing, Canberra or London waiting on the end of the line until we’ve decided what it is we want to say.
We should be seeing more information, debate and dialogue in our country about our international activities.
We’ve shown how this could be done. We launched roadshows around the country to discuss the text of the TPP and Trade Agenda 2030 and we opened Parliament for debate on the deployment of troops to Iraq.
This dialogue is a necessary part of our democratic system and helps to bring New Zealanders with us as we act internationally.
We must also be prepared to stand against those who would seek to undermine these values.
Over the past few years, we have seen the emergence of new threats to our freedoms and liberties.
This is why National is proposing to pass legislation empowering New Zealand to autonomously sanction organisations when the United Nations is unable or unwilling to do so.
For too long, New Zealand has lacked the ability to act autonomously in defence of democracy, freedom and human rights.
The previous National Government introduced legislation to empower New Zealand to sanction those who seek to undermine these principles.
That legislation should be passed as a priority to allow us to be an active player in condemning actions and aggressions that seek to make our world a less peaceful or tolerant place.
New Zealand has played a leading role in the World Trade Organisation, and led the world in developing strong bilateral and plurilateral free trade rules.
This trade architecture facilitates hundreds of thousands of jobs across our country, brings about higher incomes for everyday Kiwis, and ensures our economy remains resilient in the face of global and domestic financial movements.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a world class trade deal. It is identical to the revised TPP in all but a few small areas. Tariff reductions and market access are identical between the two agreements. They will deliver billions of dollars to our economy, create jobs, give New Zealanders access to new markets, upholds labour and environmental standards, and maintains our right to regulate in the national interest.
But it is not sufficient for governments to sit on their laurels. We must be ambitious and strive to break new ground when it comes to trade.
This is why National is committed to pursuing an ambitious trade agenda.
We want to see our relationships with our core partners like Australia and Singapore deepen and grow.
We will focus on forging new partnerships. National wants to see new agreements pursued in South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.
The United States of America is already an important partner for New Zealand. They are our fourth largest trading partner and one of our most important partners for foreign investment.
Our relationship has been forged in a shared history of defending a common set of values. Our people have sacrificed together, worked together, and traded together.
The next National Government will commit to launching, negotiating, and concluding a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the United States. We are convinced that the architecture of such an FTA already exist in the Trans Pacific Partnership. It does not have to be a drawn-out negotiation. But we do have to win Washington's trust and attention, and we do have to have the political will to see it through.
We are also committed, in Government, to continuing to deepen and broaden our economic relationship with China. According to the World Bank, China’s economic rise over the last 40 years has lifted 850 million people out of poverty. In doing so it has created the fastest-growing middle-class in human history.
New Zealand’s resilience through economic shocks such as the GFC in 2008 has largely been dependent on supplying tradeable goods to this important market.
This is why we have set a goal of doubling our two-way trade with China by 2030.
Security and defence
We also must acknowledge that, in this changing world, new threats against our values and our security are emerging.
The tragedy of Christchurch shows we must be vigilant in protecting our values of tolerance and freedom at home. We must ensure our security services are able to provide for the safety for all New Zealanders.
We are not immune from the emerging ideologies of terror, violence and hate that we have seen in this world. We must continue to stand with the global community to battle terror and to ensure the safety of our people across the world to live, pray, work and travel is secured.
New Zealand is committed to working in our Pacific region and across the world to help support the development of countries. This is why we invest in development programmes through our Official Development Assistance.
But, like all our actions overseas, we must ensure what we are investing in reflects the values of New Zealand.
Our Official Development Assistance is a significant contribution from the taxpayer, so we need to ensure we are focusing on delivering value for money in the investments we make, not simply focusing on throwing money at problems.
We want to ensure our development assistance continues to deliver results to our partners around the world and see an enhanced role for our companies and NGOs to be involved in that process.
In climate change, you'll see that in the document as well. We're proud of the bipartisan approach we are taking to that issue as we seek to work with the Government in the interests of New Zealand and from a values based perspective.
Today is a chance to hear your thoughts on our proposals.
What could go further, or what needs more development.
We know international affairs is important and we want to ensure all New Zealanders are benefitting from our actions overseas.
So thank you for coming today and participating in our panel discussion. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback and developing our policy further so that come election 2020, we’ll be ready to forge a stronger path for New Zealand internationally.
Today National launches our second policy discussion document, on International Affairs. It shows how important our actions overseas are to Kiwis, and how we can ensure those actions deliver for all New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Our international relations policy outlines a plan for ensuring our presence internationally acts in the best interests of New Zealand. That means advancing relationships, promoting our values, enhancing security, and extending trade partnerships to create growth and opportunities for all New Zealanders.
“We will ensure trade continues to deliver new opportunities for New Zealanders.
“We are committed to launching, negotiating and concluding a comprehensive free trade agreement with the United States of America.
“National will prioritise our relationship with the United States, and leverage the strong security, economic and political ties with them to bring this important initiative into action.
“National will also further the strong and dynamic economic relationship with China. We will set an ambitious goal of doubling two-way trade between China and New Zealand to $60 billion by 2030.
“Strong trading relationships are valuable to our island nation. Free trade supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across our country and brings about higher incomes for everyday Kiwis.
“In foreign policy, National will ensure we reflect New Zealanders’ values clearly on the world stage. Over the past few years we have seen the emergence of new threats to our freedoms and liberties. We should be prepared to stand against those who would seek to undermine our values.
“That’s why we’re proposing to pass legislation to empower New Zealand to autonomously sanction organisations when the United Nations is unable or unwilling to do so.
“National will also ensure our foreign policy services the public and is accountable to New Zealanders. New Zealanders should be included in our foreign policy. We should be seeing more information, debate and dialogue in our country about our international activities.
“Whether it be in our development assistance or the agreements we seek internationally, our international engagement reflects the values that we project as a nation. To do that we must be more open and transparent with New Zealanders about what it is we are doing on the international stage.
“We would seek more Parliamentary debate, more accountability in our spending, and raise the question of whether Parliament should approve trade deals before they are signed.
“Our International Affairs document outlines an ambitious approach to deliver for all New Zealanders through our relationships with our international partners. Through our relationships overseas we can deliver new opportunities and provide better security for our people.
“National is committed to putting forward policies that will improve the lives of New Zealanders. Today’s launch is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition in over a decade.
“We’re working hard now so that should we earn the right to govern again in 2020, we will hit the ground running.”
A link to the International Affairs Discussion Document can be found HERE.
On behalf of the National Party I send my heartfelt congratulations across the Tasman to Prime Minister Scott Morrison after his election victory last night, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Prime Minister Morrison and the Liberal Party have shown that great campaigns, policies and people matter.
“This is a great victory for quiet Australians, they have been rewarded for their faith and positivity.
“Australia is our closest friend and our countries coordinate on trade, economic matters and defence and security.
“We have a close bond with many historical, cultural and sporting connections. Whether it be ANZAC Day or the Bledisloe Cup.
“When I met Scott and his wife Jen, I was struck by how familiar they were with New Zealand, and knew they were strong friends of ours.
“My best wishes to Prime Minister Morrison and the Australian Government, I look forward to the continued growth of our countries’ relationship and am excited to work with you in the future.”
The Government is failing more patients than ever with at least 10,000 more people than last year on track to miss out on much-needed surgery, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Ministry of Health figures for the nine months to March show the total number of patients discharged from elective surgical specialties was nearly 6,500 procedures behind where it should be at that point in the financial year.
“When you add this to at least 1,500 cases that Health Minister David Clark said were cancelled due to the junior doctors’ strike in April, the number of unperformed elective surgeries is almost certain to be about 10,000 fewer by year’s end.
“The Government promised to do more in this area, but on current progress 10,000 people are going to be turned away from the operating table.
“This is a serious problem. These procedures include cancer, cardiac and neurosurgery operations, so they are more than minor.
“District Health Boards are currently 179 cardiac surgeries behind where they should be. It would be a tragedy if anyone was to die while waiting for an operation that should have been performed by now.
“On current projections more than 1,800 fewer gynaecology procedures and 1,500 fewer orthopaedic procedures will be performed by the year to June 30.
“Despite calling for more to be done while in Opposition, Labour didn’t even mention elective surgery in its election manifesto and removed targets at the first opportunity. This is the result.
“This is what happens when a Government talks about need but does nothing to meet it. The Health Minister has to step up to the plate and ensure this doesn’t become the first year in the past decade where fewer elective procedures are undertaken than the year before.
“This Government criticised the previous National-led Government for setting targets, saying they created perverse incentives. I cannot think of a more perverse outcome than the significant downward momentum in the health sector after they were removed.”
Table showing acute and elective surgery discharge numbers for the financial year and previous two full financial years attached. To be on track to meet last year’s figures, health boards should be at least 75% of where they were this time last year.
The Government has been caught out making up an entire work programme in answer to plummeting business confidence, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a business audience that business confidence ‘was not the elephant in the room, it's a flashing great neon sign with giant lights and fireworks going off behind it’.
“In answer to this, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson launched the ‘Business Partnership Agenda’ which they said ‘brings together the strands of this Government’s economic strategy’.
“Since then the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister haven’t mentioned the agenda once. Not in a speech, a press release or even a tweet.
“The website hasn’t been updated since it was launched. It still lists the Chief Technology Officer as a Government initiative, despite the idea being axed in September last year. Eleven of the website links on the page don’t even work.
“This is a Government with no economic plan which is slowing New Zealand down. The Business Partnership Agenda was clearly made up on the hoof and then forgotten about after the daily news cycle. As usual, all talk, no action.
“If this is how the Government treats the business community – it’s no wonder confidence is so low. It’s stayed at rock bottom levels since the August speech. The Prime Minister and Grant Robertson need to explain what’s happened to its Business Partnership Agenda so businesses can start to have some confidence again.”
Government Ministers received a Discussion Document from Police and Transport officials proposing roadside drug testing in December 2017, but 17 months later it has still not been released, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The revelation in response to National’s questioning that Ministers have been sitting on a roadside drug testing Discussion Document for so long confirms the Government has been dragging its feet in addressing the serious issue of drug impaired driving.
“There can be no excuses for Ministers taking 17 months to agree on a Discussion Document when a New Zealander dies from a drug impaired driver every five days.
“Road deaths from drug impaired drivers have steadily increased in recent years from 14 in 2014, 27 in 2015, 54 in 2016 to 79 in 2017. The number of road fatalities from drug impaired drivers now exceed those for drink driving by 79 to 70. But the number of prosecutions number just 200 for drug impaired drivers, compared with 16,000 for drunk driving.
“When Police Minister Stuart Nash was asked about a petition launched following the death of Matthew Dow in a crash involving a drug driver, he said ‘There’s a Discussion Document that’s been approved by Cabinet that’s going out to the public early next year.’ We now know the Discussion Document had not been approved.
“It was inappropriate for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters to say on Thursday that the delay was due to the Christchurch Mosque attack when Ministers had the officials’ drafted Discussion Document for well over a year.
“It’s obvious that the reason for the delay is the divergent views between the governing parties. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter is on the public record saying that roadside testing was too intrusive and that she was unimpressed with recommendations from her officials to introduce roadside saliva testing.
“National has heard from both Police and Transport officials who are frustrated Ministers are not acting on this issue. The Government has a blind spot when it comes to the risk of drug impaired driving due to their liberal policies around drugs.
“We will be seeking further explanation from Ministers about why it has taken so long to agree on the Discussion Document. National has a Bill on this issue which is ready to go through Parliament but it was voted down by Labour, NZ First and Green MPs in October 2018. National tried again to get the Bill introduced last Wednesday but it was blocked by Speaker Trevor Mallard triggering Nelson MP Nick Smith being suspended from Parliament.
“The revelation on Friday in the Coroner’s Court that the Waverley tragedy in June 2018 was caused by a driver impaired by cannabis and synthetics reinforces the urgent need for roadside drug testing. This was the worst road accident in a decade, killing seven New Zealanders.
“The Government, with National’s support, passed new gun laws in just four weeks in response to the 51 lives lost in the Christchurch Mosque attacks. We need the same sort of commitment and urgency to address drug impaired driving which causes the death of over 70 New Zealanders a year.
“National wants a proper roadside drug testing regime in place as soon as possible and before any of the Government’s law changes liberalising access to drugs takes effect. We will continue to push for the introduction of our own Bill but would equally support rapid progress on any Government Bill to get drug impaired drivers off the road.”
The Government’s pledge to build 100,000 homes in 10 years has fallen by the wayside just 18 months into its term, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“This is yet another broken promise from the Government. The Prime Minister told the nation that KiwiBuild would deliver 100,000 homes in a decade, but this was a pipe dream from the start and it hasn’t taken her government long to back away from it.”
When pressed by media today on whether the 100,000 homes in 10 years target would remain as part of KiwiBuild’s long-delayed “recalibration”, Housing and Urban Development Minster Phil Twyford compared it to American nuclear ships in the 1980s, saying he could neither “confirm nor deny” whether it would remain.
“The Prime Minister then failed to confirm in the House that the Government would retain the 100,000 houses target
“Halfway through the Government’s first term they’ve only built 80 houses, compared with an initial policy of 1000 in its first year – a policy they starting referring to as ‘just a target’ in January to reduce expectations.
“The 1000 houses target was then officially dropped as part of KiwiBuild’s policy, and now it seems the 100,000 houses target is gone too.
“The Government’s year of non-delivery is getting worse by the day. If Phil Twyford is looking for a ship to compare his KiwiBuild programme to, the Titanic would seem more appropriate at this point.
“National knows the answer to providing New Zealanders with houses is to reform our planning laws to make it easier to build.
“We know a bold solution is needed to the Resource Management Act, which has been a planning nightmare. That is why we will put forward a reformed RMA Bill to show there is hope and a way forward.”
The National Party welcomes today’s announcement of proposed amendments to the Climate Change Response Act as a positive step towards establishing an independent advisory Climate Change Commission, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“While we have found common ground on the Commission’s form and function, the net-zero target for long lived gases, and the separate treatment of methane, we have serious reservations about the expected rate of reduction for methane.
“National was clear on its position, as I outlined at my speech at Fieldays last year. We have taken a principled approach to these negotiations, including seeking different treatment for separate gases, and I am pleased to see this reflected in the Bill.
“We are not convinced that the proposed 24-47 per cent reduction for methane meets our test in terms of science, economic impact or global response.
“We’re committed to taking short term politics out of climate change policy, by having an enduring Commission which will give science-based advice for successive governments.
“New Zealand has been a global leader in sustainable agricultural production. For this leadership to be enhanced the sector must continue to embrace change, but this target goes beyond credible scientific recommendations.
“We have signalled to the Government in earlier discussions that it is exactly the sort of decision a newly formed Climate Commission should advise Parliament on, rather than politicians cherry picking numbers. Waiting five years to finally assess whether it’s fit for purpose is not acceptable.
“National remains committed to finding a bipartisan approach to climate change that delivers the best outcomes for New Zealand.”
After sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report for two months, the Government will report back later this week making next to no changes, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“National understands the Government will ignore the majority of the working group’s recommendations and instead kick the can down the road for further work, like it did with the Capital Gains Tax.
“This review cost $2.1 million, only for it to be put on the scrap heap.
“The fact the Government expected to release its response in late March suggests once again it hasn’t been able to make crucial decisions on pieces of work it commissions.
“New Zealanders will rightly be questioning what the point of this Government is when it commissions work, only to reject it because the coalition can’t agree with each other.
“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group had a wide ambit to look at the whole of the welfare system, including whether or not to remove all obligations and sanctions in line with the Labour Greens confidence and supply agreement, increase benefit rates and changes to working for families.
“Given 13,000 more people are on the benefit since the election, it didn’t need another expensive working group to tell it what to do.
“With a 31 per cent reduction in the number of sanctions being imposed on beneficiaries who do not fulfil their work or training obligations, New Zealanders will rightly be asking where is the fairness in our welfare system.
“National did extensive work in Government to make the welfare system fairer. We increased benefits above inflation for the first time in 43 years and strengthened obligations and sanctions to make sure people who were looking for work were attending job interviews and getting into training.
“It isn’t kind or compassionate to reduce incentives to work and to stop Kiwis being more aspirational and live more meaningful lives. National believes New Zealanders are better off in work and creating opportunities for them and their families.”
National has uncovered yet more irresponsible and wasteful spending from the Government with new information showing Corrections, under Minister Kelvin Davis, has spent more than a million dollars on frozen slushy machines, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Information released under the Official Information Act shows Corrections spent $1.095 million on 193 ice slushy machines at the end of last year for staff to enjoy flavoured frozen beverages at work.
“This is an extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money. The Minister has responded to this by saying ‘who cares?’ Well I think most hardworking taxpayers will.
“Corrections claims that the summer of 17/18 was particularly hot and this increased the risk of volatile prisoner behaviour. It then says it managed this with handheld fans, cold water and cold flannels for staff and there were no major incidents."
“Corrections seems to be saying that by keeping staff cool that this stopped violent prisoner behaviour.
“Corrections then says that despite there being no major incidents in the 17/18 summer, it took the decision the following year to provide crushed ice machines and electrolyte replacement mixtures. It said this would also ‘minimise the risk of sodium depletion from dehydration.’
“Corrections says that there is research to say that drinking slushies ‘offers immediate and effective means of significantly reducing core body temperature’ and is ‘three times more effective than drinking water’.
“It wasn’t just one machine per prison, there are 26 slushy machines at Rimutaka and Arohata prisons, 20 machines at Mt Eden Corrections Facility, 18 at Christchurch Men’s Prison and 15 at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. These machines offer two or three different flavours of drink per machine.
“It’s unclear whether prisoners had any access to these cold, flavoured beverages.
“This frivolous spending follows the Government’s Justice Summit which saw $1.6 million including $20,000 on three registration desks, $970,660 on consultants, $26,592 on MCs, $65,800 on gourmet catering and $101,528 on international speakers.
“Government departments under Labour have got the idea that taxpayer money is there to spray around on whatever. Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis owes New Zealanders an explanation and an apology.
“This kind of spending shows the Government doesn’t need to be taxing Kiwis more, as they clearly don’t know how to spend what they’re already taking. I have no doubt we’ll see more of this wasteful spending as the ‘wellbeing’ Budget kicks in. Slushy funds everywhere, not just for Shane Jones and Corrections but across the public service.
“National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn and we would take care of your money by spending it wisely.”
OIA response from Department of Corrections can be found here