For the second day Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has defended the United Nations Compact for Migration that would give the United Nations a say on New Zealand’s immigration policy, but is refusing to tell the public what the Government’s position is, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“It is an appalling breach of public trust that the Government continues to keep Kiwis in the dark over their plans, especially because there are just four days before the United Nations (UN) agreement will be signed in Morocco.
“I called on the Minister to release all Government advice on the Compact and to put the issue to Parliament for a vote before committing New Zealand to it, however he has refused.
“Australia, the United States, Israel, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia have all joined a growing list of countries who have said they will not sign the agreement sighting concerns over its ability to restrict their sovereign right to set migration policy.
“Switzerland and Italy have confirmed they will give the Parliaments a vote on the issue before committing to the Agreement.
“The Government should not sign this Agreement. The Agreement treats legal and illegal migration the same and calls for restrictions on freedom of speech and the media. It is likely to have a detrimental effect on New Zealand’s ability to set independent policy today and in the future.
“National’s position is clear. Leader Simon Bridges earlier this week said National opposed the UN Agreement and would pull New Zealand out of it in Government.”
National has called on the Government to join other likeminded countries in condemning the use of military action by Russia on Ukrainian ships, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Todd McClay says.
“The recent use of force to capture Ukrainian vessels and citizens violated the 2003 agreement between Russia and Ukraine and National condemns those actions in the strongest possible terms.
“We join the governments of likeminded countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union Member states as well as NATO in condemning Russia’s unprovoked actions.
“We call on Russia to release the 24 Ukrainian sailors it has detained and to enter into meaningful talks with the Ukrainian Government in respect of disputed territories and free access to the Crimean Peninsula.
“But while a growing number of countries that New Zealand shares common values with have spoken out against Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine as they amass more than 80,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, our Government once again is silent.
“The Government should progress the Autonomous Sanctions Bill, launched by the previous Government. Doing so would allow us to better stand up against this type of aggression by imposing sanctions, outside of the UN process.”
Just 14 days after the Rotorua Rescue Helicopter service was scrapped lives are already being put at risk, MP for Rotorua Todd McClay says.
“Yesterday a man working on a forestry site near Rotorua received an electric shock from powerlines. The 35-year-old Tauranga chopper was being serviced in Auckland and the Taupo helicopter was out on another job.
“This was a serious incident. Ambulances had to drive to the scene when a chopper would have been able to get there much faster.
“Rotorua was given assurance that we would have a better rescue service and faster response times. Yet just two weeks after our chopper was taken away, it’s been proven that this is not the case.
“There was only one rescue chopper available for the Bay of Plenty area this week and that is appalling.
“Rotorua needs its own rescue helicopter and the Government must reverse its decision to close our bases.
“The Rotorua base was the only one in the country to close. Frankly this is not good enough. Local people are right to be angry. The Government and Philips Trust have questions to answer.”
The Prime Minister needs to use her visit to Singapore this week to sign the stalled New Zealand – Singapore Enhanced Partnership negotiations which has now been delayed by seven months, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“The National-led Government was set to sign a major Enhanced Partnership agreement with Singapore covering the areas of trade and economics, security and defence, people-to-people links and research, technology and innovation in April this year.
“It is now 332 days since Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters boasted in Parliament that the Enhanced Partnership with Singapore would be signed quickly.
“However under this Government the comprehensive upgrade to the $2.5 billion two-way economic relationship with Singapore has completely stalled.
“This was initially due to Singapore’s frustration that it wasn’t originally exempted from the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill. But that was settled thanks to a late Government backdown in September.
“It is imperative that the Government makes this deal a priority. Australia is already reaping the financial and relationship benefits of upgrading its similar arrangements with Singapore over two years ago, and New Zealand needs to catch up.
“One important element of the proposed deal is for Singapore to conduct air training at Ohakea for its F15 aircraft. This would have a huge economic benefit to the Manawatu region with over 500 personnel based here, and would help build on the long, strong ties between our two Defence Forces.
“In December last year, 332 days ago, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said he was ‘delighted to confirm talks were continuing,’ and that given he was part of a ‘new Government with a bit of drive and action’ the Ohakea proposal would get ‘settled much faster’ than under the last Government.
“We haven’t heard a peep since.
“Whether and when this comprehensive upgrade with Singapore gets over the line will be a big test for the Prime Minister this week in Singapore.”
National congratulates Dame Annette King on her appointment as New Zealand's High Commissioner to Australia, National's Foreign Affairs and Trade Spokesperson, Todd McClay says.
"The role of High Commissioner in Australia is a very important one and Dame Annette certainly has the experience to build on our relationship with Australia and provide the care and maintenance that is needed.
"New Zealand’s relationship with Australia has floundered as a result of a number of unnecessary disagreements and mishandlings by the Labour-led Government.
"It will be important for our new High Commissioner to repair any damage that has been done over the last year. It is in the best interests of Australia and New Zealand that our two governments continue to have respect for each other and work closely together.
"I am pleased that the strong objections to political appointments previously held by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters have been dropped.
“Given the importance of our membership of the Five Eyes, Mr Peters should in future not rule out similar appointments of effective and appropriate people to maximise the influence that membership of the Five Eyes offers New Zealand.”
The Government should be doing all it can to ensure New Zealand reaps the benefits of the boom in tourism but the only firm decision in its draft tourism strategy is to impose another tax, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Support for tourism is about priorities and while the strategy outlines some worthy goals to boost the value of tourism it is short on immediate action that the sector needs.
“New taxes on visitors, working groups and reviews simply aren’t the answer for a sector which welcomed a record 3.8 million visitors last year and needs Government action now.
“A new tax isn’t a silver bullet for the tourism sector. It won’t see any new revenue from the tax for years and with Australians excluded, 40 per cent of our international visitors won’t have to pay the levy anyway.
“It’s important to put the new tax in context. Visitors already contribute over $2 billion a year in GST and other taxes. The visitor tax would raise $80 million but that’s money visitors could otherwise spend in the local communities and businesses it purports to help.
“The last National Government offered tangible support with the Tourism Infrastructure Fund established last year and a $76 million package to support our walking tracks and huts. This was achieved without sticking a tax on visitors at our border.
“Those policies are still delivering value to the sector across the country.
“Given the size and value of the tourism industry, we need a Government that is serious about investing in projects and infrastructure now. It is lazy governance to kick for touch with a working group and invent another tax.”
The Government needs to give an assurance that no New Zealand taxpayer money will be used by the Papua New Guinea Government to buy 40 Maseratis and hundreds of other luxury vehicles for APEC next month, Nationals Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“It would be extremely concerning if any of the $15 million New Zealand has given to PNG to help it host the APEC leaders meeting was used in this way and taxpayers have a right to more detailed information on exactly what this money will be spent on.
“The Government needs to give us an assurance it won’t be on the luxury cars which PNG has confirmed it will buy.
“It is important that APEC is being hosted by a Pacific Island nation, and as a neighbour New Zealand should support PNG to ensure it is a success.
“However, at a time when taxpayers are being asked to provide hundreds of millions of dollars more assistance to Pacific Island countries, the Government needs to demonstrate that additional aid will be used properly to improve the lives of people in these countries.
“Luxury vehicles won’t do that and the Government needs to be clear it won’t happen.”
Trade Minister David Parker needs to secure an exemption for New Zealand from recent American steel and aluminium tariffs from his trip to Washington DC, National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.
“Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump imposed a 25 per cent tariff on all steel and a 10 per cent tariff on all aluminium imports into the United States. This made it much harder for New Zealand steel and aluminium exporters to get their product into the world’s largest market and sets a concerning precedent in our trade relationship with the US.
“New Zealand is a strong trading nation that values open and constructive dialogue with its trading partners. The United States is New Zealand’s third largest trading partner, however, the threat of escalating tariffs remain an issue of concern for our exporters.
“Australia has already been granted an exemption from these steel and aluminium tariffs following a visit to Washington by their Trade Minister.
“It is in the best interests of both New Zealand and the United States we also receive the same treatment as Australia and that the additional steel and aluminium tariffs are removed.
“Tariffs hurt global trade and New Zealand’s overall economy, so the Trade Minister must come back from his trip with a guarantee that New Zealand steel and aluminium exports will be exempt from these US tariffs.”
The passing of the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement at Parliament today shows National was right to push ahead with the original deal in the face of significant opposition, National’s spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade Todd McClay says.
“The revised TPP will have huge benefits for New Zealand exporters. If National did not do the hard work of negotiating the original TPP deal, there would be no agreement for Parliament to pass today.
“As the many submissions made on the Bill show, this revised-TPP is essentially the same deal that National negotiated and delivered. It delivers exactly the same benefits for exporters.
“Being part of the TPP and its revision means New Zealand businesses and exporters will have greater access to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. It also puts our exporters on a more level playing field and we know that when given those opportunities, they will succeed.
“New Zealand has been a leader in pushing for this revolutionary deal since 2008, and was the first country to push for the TPP to live on after the US withdrew. It was this engagement and negotiation with 10 remaining countries that ensured New Zealand exporters would have unprecedented access to Japan and other important markets.
“Despite slight changes, the revised-TPP remains a high-quality deal. That is why the National Party pledged its parliamentary support to help get the agreement over the line.
“Hundreds and hundreds of officials and trade representatives have dedicated the last decade to this agreement. The National Opposition would like to express our sincere thanks to them, members of the business community and the public for their ongoing support of TPP and the jobs it will create.
“I would also like to thank Labour and New Zealand First for going back on their opposition, hanging up their protest signs, and finally voting for the TPP.
“By being part of this multilateral agreement, we have shown that free trade is still possible, and important, in a time of increasing protectionism around the world. It was vital that this deal received bi-partisan support to show New Zealand’s commitment to free trade.”
The secret sale of the Rotorua Rescue Helicopter is a disgrace and the Philips Rescue Trust and the Government must urgently confirm their commitment to a Rescue helicopter and base in Rotorua, Rotorua MP Todd McClay says.
“The future of the Rotorua Rescue Helicopter and base was cast into doubt earlier this year and local people deserved to be kept informed of what’s happening.
“A Government call for tender for rescue services which excluded Rotorua prompted around 500 people to attend a public meeting at the Rescue Helicopter base to express support for the retention of the a rescue helicopter and base in Rotorua.
“The closure of the Rotorua base was proposed by the Government in its tender document. Despite hollow assurances from the Labour-led Government, Rotorua is still not mentioned in the tender document and I am extremely worried that our base is set to close.
“The news is not good for Rotorua. The Tauranga Rescue chopper has recently been upgraded and there is industry talk that the Taupo chopper is also soon to be upgraded. The Rotorua helicopter has been sold.
“The Rotorua Rescue helicopter is one of the busiest recue choppers in the country. It has saved many lives and has very strong support from the Rotorua community. The helicopter and rescue equipment was purchased from the hard work and generosity of local people and local charitable trusts. For our helicopter to be secretly sold with the money being spirited out of town in the dead of night is disgraceful.
“I understand the old Tauranga chopper is also for sale. Rotorua doesn’t want Tauranga’s castoffs, that the Trust could not sell it is its problem and not Rotorua’s.
“Local people will be very angry to learn that their chopper has been sold. If the Rotorua base is closed lives will be lost.”