Barbara Dreaver on the Pacific Islands' Forum: 'Da plane, da plane' - if Jacinda Ardern hadn't shown up we would have been penalised for it down the line

Now that the phosphate dust has settled and the shameless self-promoting headlines about the Pacific being "leeches" and a waste of time and money have lost their hysterical edge - let's take a look at some facts.

The song called Jacinda New Star in the Sky clearly delighted the Prime Minister. Source: 1 NEWS

Firstly to deal with the issue of "da plane, da plane" – it seems only appropriate here to bring in Tattoo from Fantasy Island for those old enough to remember this dubious 80s TV progamme.

Yes, it cost money to send up an extra plane to Nauru to make it possible for our Prime Minister to get there.

That is true.

What is also true is there have been several, not just the one, but several multi-flight trips organised by the former National government around the Pacific because some politicians across the political landscape found it uncomfortable to travel on the C-130 Hercules the whole way.

It's not unusual so I'm not sure why this suddenly became a big issue.

It was important for the Prime Minister of New Zealand to be in Nauru for the Pacific Islands' forum for a multitude of reasons.

The geo-political landscape in the Pacific has changed radically in the last couple of years.

The Prime Minister is making a one-day appearance at the Pacific Island Forum. Source: 1 NEWS

At this forum Air Force 2 flew in a US delegation, a high profile Chinese delegation were there, other Asian countries, the European Union all vying for influence.

From a geo-political stance alone it's crucial New Zealand is a player in this.

Just ask Australia which is having kittens over the thought of PNG and Vanuatu giving port power to the Chinese. Then there are serious security issues.

South East Asia and a bigger push since 2016 from South American cartels are pushing drugs through the Pacific to Australia and New Zealand, fisheries are being depleted - these are all issues that affect New Zealand – why wouldn't we be there?

Instability in the region is bad for New Zealand.

Bi-laterals with Pacific leaders are equally important.

New Zealand wants island country votes at regional and world level – the UN security council which we headed at one point is a case in point, the World Health Organisation and many more. Votes are gold and don’t think that NZ doesn't want to tie up Pacific votes any less than the big players.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters could easily have done the job but he's not Prime Minister.

You can throw money around the region as much as you like but to underestimate personal relationships in the Pacific is sheer ignorance.

Mana is quite rightly attached to New Zealand's leader being there and if Jacinda Ardern hadn't shown up for her first Pacific forum we would have been penalised for it down the line one way or another.

New Zealand cannot afford to tread with the same ignorance Australia does as it blunders through the region – incredulous that things are happening that they don’t like.

To suggest that Jacinda Ardern is not tough enough is ridiculous. I’m told by people who know first-hand that she more than holds her own in a bi-lat and so she should – it's the very least we would expect any of our Prime Ministers to do.

While the above is important there is also something else. A palagi friend who I really respect had the following to say and I couldn't agree more.

"For me the importance of the Pacific is much more cultural – we are part of this place and Pacific Islanders are part of us.

"It's who we collectively are. We give to each other and sustain each other with language, music, laughter. And in doing so we are all creating a unique culture that is different – the rest of the world can only wonder and admire us."

As someone who has lived and worked in the region for nearly 30 years I have nothing but contempt for the sheer ignorance I have been reading from those whose idea of the Pacific is lying poolside at Denarau with a pina colada.

New Zealand needs the Pacific as much as the Pacific needs New Zealand. In fact some countries have made it clear they don't need New Zealand at all.

The National government understood this - so does this Government. Let's move on.




Winston Peters explains party's support for raising refugee quota

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says NZ First shared the Labour Party's "aspiration" to increase the refugee quota, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced it will be raised to 1500 today.

The NZ First Party leader's position was in stark contrast to comments made at the start of the month at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.

"We never made a commitment to double the refugee quota," Mr Peters told media at the time.

The Deputy PM went on to argue there were other priorities for the Government.

"We've got 50,000 people who are homeless back home, and I can show you parts of the Hokianga and elsewhere, parts of Northland, with people living in degradation.

"We have to fix their lives up as well before we start taking on new obligations of the level that some people would like."

However, while standing next to Ms Ardern during the announcement today he took a much softer line on the refugee issue.

"This is about people not about politics and controversy, the fact is it was put to me in Nauru that the 1500 figure was already there, which it wasn't.

"The Labour Party policy I knew was an aspiration towards that, so was New Zealand First's an aspiration towards that, and I knew the Greens had a higher target," Mr Peters said.

"All I did was put out the plain facts and to say that it was a work in progress and I'm not surprised with the speed at which the progress has taken place.

"This was always on the cards that we'd get it done when we had all the background work done on refugee centres and a host of other things," he continued.

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand's refugee quota was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Major points

- There will be six new settlement locations, on top of re-establishing Christchurch as a settlement location.

- Expanding the public housing supply for 150 extra refugee families is expected to cost $32.5 million over three years.

- Budget 2018 included money to build new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre  

The NZ First leader said the increase was “always on the cards”. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

New Zealand's refugee quota jumps to 1500 per year from July 2020, Government announces

New Zealand’s refugee quota will be raised to 1500, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. 

It was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

That's 500 extra people who'll be making New Zealand home annually. Source: 1 NEWS

"It is the right thing to do," said Ms Ardern. 

"It puts New Zealand much more in line with the humanitarian policies of other developed countries."

Deputy PM Winston Peters said the increase was "about people, not about politics and controversy". 

The NZ First leader said the increase was “always on the cards”. Source: 1 NEWS

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Major points

- There will be six new settlement locations, on top of re-establishing Christchurch as a settlement location.

- Expanding the public housing supply for 150 extra refugee families is expected to cost $32.5 million over three years. 

- Budget 2018 included money to build new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre 

ONN 1 News at 6 promo image
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Background

Yesterday, Ms Ardern told media she wanted to see the current quota increased but a sticking point has been the vastly different policy positions of Labour's Government partners. 

Labour pledged to raise the quota to 1500 and the Green Party aimed for a quota of 5000.

Earlier this month NZ First's Winston Peters told media in Nauru that the focus needed to be on New Zealanders struggling at home.

"We have 50,000 people who are homeless back home and I can show you parts of Northland where people are living in degradation," Mr Peters said, while being questioned at the Pacific Islands' Forum.

National's Simon Bridges said yesterday if the refugee quota was lower than 1500 it would be a demonstration of "Winston Peters undermining the Prime Minister".

"If you look at the Prime Minister's rhetoric she's made great play about being a globalist, a progressive with soaring rhetoric on these issues.

"It's all very well to do the photo ops, the international pieces, but when you've got important questions like this back home that... [are] now are up in the air because of a lack of unanimity and cohesion."

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS


Don Brash says Massey's Vice Chancellor should consider resigning after email dump

Former National Party leader Don Brash is calling for Massey University's vice-chancellor to consider her position, saying it's "almost untenable".

The university prevented Dr Brash from speaking at its Manawatū campus last month.

He was due to give a speech about his time in politics, but vice-chancellor Jan Thomas cancelled the talk for security reasons.

The university had cited a Facebook post on 3 August that linked to the event page and included the comment "take a gun".

But the former National Party leader is calling on the university's Vice Chancellor to resign. Source: 1 NEWS

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act contain correspondence to and from Ms Thomas in the run-up to the cancellation.

In one email, on 9 July, the vice-chancellor said she did not want a "te tiriti led university to be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".

On 10 July, Ms Thomas emailed to say she would like to know the options for banning the politics club from holding events on campus.

She said the "racist behaviour of Dr Brash - given te reo is an official language of NZ and we are a tiriti-led university - can't be ignored".

Speaking from China, Dr Brash said he considered Ms Thomas' position almost untenable and told RNZ that he believes she was "totally misleading".

"Quite frankly, I don't know if she can stay in her position."

Dr Brash has previously said he believed it was his views, rather than safety concerns, that led to him being banned from the publicly-funded university.

The documents also contain many emails sent to the university objecting to its cancellation decision.

- By Amy Williams

rnz.co.nz

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas and Don Brash Source: rnz.co.nz