Prime Minister Bill English today announced the appointment of Gerry Brownlee as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy as Minister of Civil Defence, Nikki Kaye as Minister of Education and Mark Mitchell as Minister of Defence.
The changes follow the resignations from Cabinet of Hekia Parata and Murray McCully.
In other changes Simon Bridges has been appointed Leader of the House and Nicky Wagner has been made Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration.
Mr Mitchell has been promoted to Cabinet.
Tim Macindoe, a former chairman of the justice and electoral select committee and National’s senior whip since the 2014 election, and Scott Simpson, the chairman of the local government and environment select committee have been appointed ministers outside cabinet.
“This is a Government that is focused on the future. Our careful stewardship of the Government’s books over the past eight years has given us a rare opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives and we are going to take it.
“These changes illustrate the depth of talent within National’s parliamentary ranks,” Mr English says.
“As education minister, Ms Parata has changed the conversation in our schools and driven sharp rises in achievement for all our students, particularly Māori and Pasifika.
“As foreign affairs minister, Mr McCully has improved existing relationships and developed new ones, all the while running a truly independent foreign policy for New Zealand.
“Neither will be easily replaced but in Nikki Kaye and Gerry Brownlee we have two very well qualified successors.
“The same holds true for the Ministers who are picking up the roles relinquished by Mr Brownlee to take up the demanding foreign affairs position.
Mr English said he particularly wanted to pay tribute to Mr Brownlee for his untiring efforts to put Christchurch back on its feet after the 2011 earthquakes.
“Having worked alongside him as associate minister for several years his successor, Ms Wagner, is ideally placed to replace him.”
The Prime Minister also announced some changes to the housing portfolios.
Social Housing Minister Amy Adams will remain responsible for Housing New Zealand and all aspects of the Government’s supply of social and emergency housing. She will also take responsibility for the Crown land programme and have a closer involvement in the Government’s overall house building programme.
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith will continue to oversee the various aspects of building regulation, including planning, minimum codes and building sector productivity issues.
The new ministers will be sworn in next Tuesday and the new Cabinet will hold its first meeting on May 8.
| A beehive release || April 24, 2017 |||
Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges will travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tomorrow for meetings with Ministerial counterparts in Dubai.
“New Zealand’s relationship with the UAE continues to go from strength to strength. This visit will be an opportunity to progress discussions across a range of areas, including economic opportunities and collaboration in areas such as renewable energy and the New Zealand-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement,” Mr Bridges says.
The UAE is now New Zealand’s largest export market in the Middle East, and our 12th largest trading partner.
Alongside meetings with counterparts, the Minister will also meet with Dubai-based New Zealand manufacturing firms and Kiwi business representatives as well as the CEO of Emirates Airlines, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
“The UAE is often seen as the gateway to the wider Middle East and North Africa region and a number of New Zealand firms have a presence in market. It is also an increasingly important hub for tourists travelling to New Zealand. The five daily Emirates Airlines flights alone are estimated to be worth $700 million to the New Zealand economy,” Mr Bridges says.
“Like New Zealand, the UAE is investing significantly in innovation and given the complementarity of our respective markets, this presents real potential for greater cooperation. I look forward to discussing this opportunity on my visit.”
The Minister will also attend a Dawn Service to commemorate Anzac Day before returning to New Zealand.
| A Beehive release || April 21, 2017 |||
Foreign Minister Murray McCully welcomes the Angolan Minister of External Relations Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, who he will meet in Wellington today.
“This visit presents an opportunity to deepen this relationship, including through discussing ways to increase trade flows. Angola had one of the fastest-growing economies of the past decade, and appointed its first ever Ambassador to New Zealand, resident in Singapore, last year,” Mr McCully says.
“New Zealand and Angola served together as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council from 2015–2016. Angola is a leader in the Southern African region, and it provides an important voice on African peace and security issues. Our mutual Security Council terms also provided an opportunity for increased engagement between our two countries.”
While in New Zealand, Minister Chikoti has also met with the Minister of Trade and the Minister for Primary Industries, and will discuss business opportunities with the fisheries sector.
| A Beehive release || April 05, 2017 |||
An agreement to boost New Zealand-China trade was today signed by Customs Minister Nicky Wagner and China’s Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Wang Lutong.
The Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) ensures border agencies in New Zealand and China recognise one another’s trusted exporter programmes.
“New Zealand and China Customs enjoy a strong working relationship. This arrangement will further strengthen ties by helping streamline the movement of goods,” Ms Wagner says.
“Companies signed up to New Zealand Customs’ Secure Export Scheme will automatically benefit from faster cargo clearance, reduced document checks and less examination.”
The MRA will come into effect on 1 July 2017. More details on the implementation and benefits will be provided to New Zealand exporters and Chinese importers in the coming months.
China and New Zealand Customs also recently launched a Joint Electronic Verification System, which automatically sends New Zealand’s Certificate of Origin data to China for greater assurance over the authenticity of goods.
| A Beehive release | March 27, 2017 |||
New Zealand and China will begin talks on an upgrade of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries on April 25, Prime Minister Bill English announced today.
The announcement followed official talks between the Prime Minister and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Wellington today.
“The FTA with China has been an enormous success,” Mr English says.
“Since coming into force in 2008 two-way trade between our two countries has tripled to $23 billion, creating jobs and opportunities for people in both countries. An upgrade will ensure this momentum continues and ensure that the FTA remains a modern agreement that tackles barriers our exporters face. It will assist progress towards our target of $30 billion two-way trade by 2020.
“The agreement to commence of negotiations also confirms the commitment of both countries to open trade and economic growth,” Mr English says.
“Trade openness and strong ties in the region are critical to New Zealand’s economic growth, prosperity, and job creation.”
Mr English says today’s meeting with Premier Li provided an opportunity to reflect on the successes achieved since New Zealand established diplomatic relations with China 45 years ago, and to set the agenda for the future.
“Premier Li and I also reiterated the value we see in people-to-people links between our two countries, including the nearly 35,000 Chinese students studying in New Zealand, and the 400,000 Chinese who visit annually.
“Both countries also confirmed their commitment to open trade, sustainable development, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
In addition to agreeing a date for talks to begin on a FTA upgrade, the two leaders also announced a number of other initiatives, including:
- Access to China for chilled meat from 10 New Zealand meat processors, initially on a six-month trial with a view to later expanding trade.
- A climate change action plan, to enable closer cooperation as both countries transition to lower carbon economies.
- Mutual recognition of trusted exporters, which will facilitate faster border clearance times for the recognised New Zealand exporters who already account for nearly half of New Zealand’s $9.4 billion of goods exports to China
- An increase in the number of direct flights possible between China and New Zealand, from 49 to 59 under the Air Services Agreement.
- Frameworks to explore new economic opportunities, including on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, aimed at closer cooperation on regional infrastructure projects, and e-commerce, a growing platform that allows New Zealand companies to sell directly to Chinese consumers
- Enhanced cooperation in a number of areas including agriculture, sustainable fisheries, in the South Pacific, environmental issues, education and training, international development, health research, and intellectual property.
- Agreement to strengthen cooperation on judicial and law enforcement issues, to jointly fight corruption and transnational crime.
This is the Premier’s first visit to New Zealand as Premier, but he previously visited as Vice Premier in 2009.
“It was a pleasure to host Premier Li in New Zealand once again, together with his wife Madame Cheng Hong.
“I look forward to hosting them both at a China-New Zealand Gala in Auckland tomorrow.”
List of Initiatives announced between China and New Zealand (pdf 213.9 KB)
| A Beehive releas | march 27, 2017 |||
Five questions for ex United Nations Security Council President Terence O’Brien.
Few practitioners from any nation have enjoyed quite such an extended career at the heart of the global firmament as British-born diplomat Terence O’Brien (above). He was president of the Security Council of United Nations during the Balkans conflict. He was one of the principal access negotiators on behalf of New Zealand when Britain originally entered the European Common Market. He has occupied posts in London, Brussels, Bangkok and Geneva. He was the founding director of the Institute of Strategic Studies.
You have been an outspoken opponent of mixing trade with foreign affairs?
This is not strictly accurate. I take issue rather with the jargon that “all New Zealand foreign policy is trade” which is a holdover from earlier times and reflected today in a sense promoted by some New Zealand leaders, that NZ’s success and place in the world is to be judged primarily by the number of Free Trade Agreements that it is able to secure.
NZ’s modern experience especially in respect to emergent Asia proves emphatically that successful trade arrangements depend firstly and vitally upon sound political and diplomatic relationships (China is a prime but by no means solitary example). NZ’s accomplishments in Asia and indeed elsewhere rely in other words, upon earned trust with other governments. Fostering that trust is a political/diplomatic responsibility.
Predictable trade relationships require a great deal more than nimble private sector commercial skills- although those are indispensable of course to overall success and the New Zealand private sector plus NZ primary producer groups have been notably effective in this regard.
To what extent do you view the recent NZ sponsorship of the UN Israel censure as a development of this blend?
There may have been in the minds of some on the NZ side, the thought that sponsorship might earn credits in some Gulf States where NZ seeks to formalise free trade arrangements; but around the UNSC table there is genuine concern about the danger for the future of ‘two state solution’ to the Israel/Palestine conflict ,that has been the long established diplomatic basis for eventual peace. The present Israeli government appears openly to resile from this formula as it continues resolutely to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank, a practice deplored by the UN Security Council. From the moment it gained a place on the 2015-16 UNSC NZ committed itself to contributing to the search for progress on this key issue. Co-sponsorship of the eventual UNSC resolution which calls as well for Palestinians to desist from provocation and terrorism, was the logical consequence.
Looking back on your days as a dairy sector negotiator during Britain’s entry into the Common Market, how do you view Brexit now in terms of NZ diplomacy and trade?
From the perspective of a small, distant but companionable partner of Europe, Brexit appears to be a mistake. It comes too at a time when conservative populism is on the rise within Europe with the emergence of right wing nationalist political groups in several countries. Twentieth century experiences of European mistakes and miscalculations and their devastating global consequences, not once but twice, are not to be overlooked.
British entry into Europe was a taxing experience for NZ. The deals struck for safeguarding NZ trade interests represented a stay of execution rather than reprieve for this country . Within relatively short periods of negotiated transition the New Zealand farm economy was obliged to diversify production and markets. That process drove foreign policy extending NZ political and diplomatic interests to a wide range of new partners (in the Middle East, Communist Europe, Latin America and, most notably Asia) . It consolidated NZ as a genuine world trader with global interests. Global interests are inextricably bound up with global responsibilities even for small countries, and require contributions to global wellbeing and stability.
The process deepened NZ support for international rules based behaviour particularly in trade but also in directly related areas such as peace and security, freedom for transport and navigation, responsible behaviour in global environmental and resource protection and so forth. Because of the very nature of its own being the European Union (EU) has been a notable champion of an international rules based system. But the fact of BREXIT places a question mark over how influential a collective European voice will now be in the future. At a time when American commitment to global rules is questionable under a new inexperienced President Trump, the need for sustained collective European support for the system has never been greater. The foreseeable future suggests that New Zealand will crucially need the courage of its convictions.
How do you feel about the Helen Clark bid to be the UN Secretary General especially in regard to her role as an officer of the UN at the time?
The selection process for a new UN Secretary General in 2016 sought to break new ground - which is always difficult in the UN. Formal candidatures backed by governments and involving public job interviews were decreed for the first time in 70 years. Hitherto candidatures had been exclusively personal affairs and selection decided behind tightly held UN Security Council doors where the votes of the five permanent Council members (US, UK, France, Russia and China) were decisive. This time a new approach was defined in the interests of greater transparency and democracy in the selection process. It is stretching things somewhat to suggest those goals were achieved.
There was a general sentiment beforehand that the new appointee should be from Eastern Europe (which has never supplied a UN Secretary General ) and also be female (which would be a first). In the event neither aspiration prevailed and the choice, of a Portuguese male, was once again taken behind closed doors at the UNSC.
Helen Clark was a creditable candidate and the NZ government campaigned for her, but her success depended first and foremost upon her own efforts. She came as a candidate from within the ranks of the UN itself, but this is not without precedent (Kofi Annan one the most effective SGs, was a UN Secretariat employee). As head of the UN’s largest aid institution she was well known across a very wide number of UN member countries ( especially developing countries).The reasons for her lack of success will probably never be known in full. Her relatively poor showing in the straw polling of UN member countries before the final appointment, was an undeniable disappointment. The most that can be said is that she was a serious contender; and NZ can take some consolation from that.
What are your views on Russia and NZ’s participation in the US-EU trade embargo?
With Russia and NATO we are reaping what was sown. At the end of the Cold War there was an opportunity for the Americans and Europeans to consolidate a cooperative inclusive (of Russia) security system for a post CW Europe. The Soviet led Warsaw Pact subsided into oblivion which is what military alliances historically do when conflicts end, and/or the reason for their existence disappears. NATO in direct contrast did not. It was enlarged with new members, new bases installed and its boundaries extended into Russia’s borderlands - which for the US anyway potentially included Ukraine. But who was the adversary? An enfeebled Russia could do nothing but (as George Kennan amongst others warned) one could not rule out economic recovery by Russia and new leadership that objected to NATO expansion (which included into the affairs of the Middle East) and would push back. Enter Mr Putin, and so it has come to pass. His preemptive seizure of Crimea (where the Russian fleet has had a base for two centuries or so) is contrary to the international rule of law - but hardly surprising in the wake of western foolhardiness.
NZ should sustain a suitably detached policy position over present NATO-Russia. We do not have a dog in the fight. Russia does not threaten the US although Putin clearly intends that Russia be assertive and taken seriously internationally. Russian interference in the US electoral process may or may not have occurred. If it is proven Russians would presumably point to equivalent American policies in the name of “spreading democracy” in Russia ,its satellites, and including Ukraine. They are, on both sides, ‘pots calling kettles black’
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk | Monay 27 March 2017 |||
Report coverThe Government’s failure to index tax brackets to inflation since 2010 now costs the average Kiwi income earner almost $500 each year according to a new report released today by the Taxpayers’ Union. The report, "5 Options for Tax Relief in 2017", models five options to deliver meaningful tax relief packages which could be part of Budget 2017 with fiscal implications of $3 billion or less.
The report is available for viewing and download at www.taxpayers.org.nz/5_options.
Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director, Jordan Williams, says, “The National Government likes to talk the talk on lower taxes, but this report shows very clearly that they are simply not walking the walk. Because tax thresholds have not been adjusted with inflation, the average Kiwi worker is now paying $483 more per year in tax than in 2010.”
“By 2020, Government surpluses expected to be $8.5 billion per year. With Bill English having pumped $10.36 billion into new spending, and only $415 million allocated for tax relief in that time, if now isn’t time for meaningful tax relief it never will be.”
“In addition to modelling various options for tax relief to compensate New Zealand families who are paying more, the report calls for tax thresholds indexed to inflation going forward. That would prevent Wellington increasing the average tax rate paid by New Zealanders every year, raising extra revenue for the Government, in real terms, without the transparency of actually raising taxes.”
Budget allocations since 2010“If we instead indexed thresholds to the growth in average earnings, dating back to 2010, the average earner would save $1,350 each year, or $26 each week."
“With the Government set to make a decision on Budget 2017 and its tax relief package in the coming weeks, we hope this report gives taxpayers assistance in understanding what is realistic for Budget 2017.”
The paper was prepared by the Taxpayers’ Union, with input from Research Fellow, Jim Rose, former IRD head of policy, Robin Oliver, and a former team leader of revenue forecasting at Inland Revenue, Dr Michael Dunn.
5 Options for Tax Relief assumes the Government commits to a $3 billion tax relief package. When asked in 2016 how substantial a tax relief would be on the cards in 2017, John Key said "$3 billion I reckon".
There is a distinction between inflation-indexation and average-earnings indexation. Inflation-indexation involves adjusting the thresholds of each tax bracket to inflation. Average earnings indexation involves adjusting the thresholds to the growth rate of average earnings. For example, if average wage growth is 3% in 2017, the thresholds of every bracket will increase by 3%.
The options with a fiscal impact of $3 billion or less which are modeled in the paper include:
- a tax-free threshold up to $13,000. This would save all taxpayers earning more than $13,000, $1,295 each year;
- a reduction of the marginal tax rate of earnings between $48,001 and $70,000 to the lower rate of 17.5%, and an increase of the 10.5% threshold from $12,000 to $24,000. This would benefit all full-time income earners but especially targets middle-income earners. For example, a dual-income earning household with a combined income of $100,000 would save over $4,000 a year;
- reducing the tax burden of high income earners by eliminating the top tax bracket and reducing the $48,001+ rate to 26%. The model also reduces company and trust tax rates are reduced to 26% – reducing incentives to income shift and minimise administrative burden. This option would save a professional, earning a salary of $120,000, more than $4,300 each year;
- an increase to every threshold without adjusting any of the tax rates; and
- a reduction of the company tax rate to 13%. This would make New Zealand the second most tax competitive country in the OECD.
| A Taxpayers Union release | march 27, 2017 |||
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has announced that New Zealand will open an embassy in Dublin, Ireland.
“New Zealand and Ireland enjoy a very warm relationship which is underpinned by our shared values,” Mr McCully says.
“We work closely together on issues such as climate change, disarmament, and human rights, and are also both members of the Small Advanced Economies Initiative.
“Having an embassy in Dublin will enable us to build on and strengthen this relationship.
“Ireland is an important member of the European Union, so the Embassy will also support New Zealand’s interests in Europe, including as they relate to the negotiation of a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU.”
The Government, through Budget 2017, has committed $4.8 million in capital funding to establish the embassy and a further $9.1million to cover operating costs over the next four years.
The new funding was announced today as part of the launch of Trade Agenda 2030.
More information can be found at www.mfat.govt.nz/tradeagenda2030
| A Beehive release | March 24, 2017 |||.
Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith has today announced the winners of New Zealand’s most valuable and prestigious annual science awards, the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes.
“The Prime Minister’s Science Prizes celebrate scientific achievement, highlight the impact science has on New Zealanders’ lives, and aim to attract more young people into science careers,” Mr Goldsmith says.
“The awards were introduced to raise the profile and prestige of science careers and previous winners have become excellent ambassadors for science here in New Zealand and overseas.
“A prominent part of the Government’s science strategy is encouraging more engagement with science and technology among our young people and the wider community.
“The awards are a key part of the Curious Minds work programme - a national strategic plan for science in society launched in 2014 to help all New Zealanders engage with science and technology.
“The award recipients are role models, educators and communicators, who all play a part in inspiring others to become involved with science, I want to congratulate all of them on their awards, and for their commitment to promoting science,” Mr Goldsmith says.
The prizes were presented by Prime Minister Bill English at a ceremony at Parliament today:
- The Prime Minister’s Science Prize ($500,000) – The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit, led by Professor Richie Poulton (University of Otago).
- The Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize ($200,000) – Professor Brendon Bradley for his work in Civil and Natural Resources Engineering (University of Canterbury).
- The Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize ($150,000) – Diana Christenson (Koraunui Primary School, Lower Hutt).
- The Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication Prize ($100,000) – Rebecca Priestley (Victoria University of Wellington).
- The Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize ($50,000) – Catherine Pot (Onslow College, Wellington).
More information about this year’s winners is available at www.pmscienceprizes.org.nz.
| A Beehive release | March 21, 2017 ||
Finance Minister Steven Joyce, and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith have welcomed the release of the Productivity Commission’s report New models of tertiary education.
“We would like to acknowledge the Commission’s time and effort in considering this issue, and the wide engagement of the tertiary sector in the inquiry,” Mr Joyce says.
“We share the Commission’s commitment to further improving the way that tertiary education delivers relevant skills for New Zealanders, and will review the recommendations and opportunities identified in the report.”
“The Government will carefully consider the Commission’s recommendations over the coming months. We have work underway on some of the matters raised such as improving the accessibility of information for prospective students,” Mr Goldsmith says.
The Commission’s report is wide-ranging, and makes 49 recommendations. These focus on:
- Improving information and its use across the tertiary education system,
- Improving regulatory settings, particularly around quality assurance,
- Reforming how Government purchases tertiary education,
- Ensuring the “system architecture” supports clear roles, accountabilities, and expectations to drive better, and more innovative, tertiary education performance.
“The Government will keep an open mind on all of the recommendations, with the exception of the Commission’s view that interest should be reintroduced on new student loan borrowing.
“The Government is committed to retaining interest-free student loans for borrowers residing in New Zealand,” says Mr Goldsmith.
“We do not want to see young people starting their working lives with unmanageable debt. We know that for those who stay in New Zealand after graduating, half will have repaid their loan in under six and a half years.”
“Tertiary education provides students with the skills and qualifications to get good jobs and good incomes, contribute to the country’s economy, and be part of an innovative and successful New Zealand,” Mr Joyce says.
The Government will respond formally to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations in due course. The report will be tabled in Parliament at 9am today, and can be found on the Commission’s website www.productivity.govt.nz.
| A Beehive release | March 21, 2017 ||