Dita DeBoni: Not good enough for NZ to whisper on the big issues

The eerily-similar prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand will be meeting soon – a gabfest John Key says will be "dominated" by talk of the 200 or so New Zealanders banged up in immigration detention centres.

However, while these detainees might dominate talks, we won't, according to Mr Key, be "strong-arming" Australia into changing its stance. 

We definitely won't be "badgering" the Aussies, not putting them in an "arm lock" over it.  I’m guessing, based on that list, that Chinese burns and wedgies have also been ruled out as tactics of persuasion.

But the truth is that it is Australia that has us in an arm-lock.  It knows that thousands of our citizens will continue to flock there to work and enjoy shrimps on the barbie, even at the cost of paying millions in tax without any representation – or even basic social services.

It is the bigger global citizen in every respect, and a key trading partner.  So are we likely to not just suggest Australia extends fair treatment to New Zealanders - but also to please be so kind as to not be creating a human rights catastrophe on our back door step with its downright criminal treatment of asylum seekers?

Of course not.

The prime minister has expressed his concern with low-level offenders with little link to New Zealand being deported. Source: 1 NEWS

When the Prime Minister is challenged to do more for our people in Australia, his peculiar response is to suggest that Australia will eventually change its ways simply because they hold us in such fond affection. 

Proximity and some historical ties may give us some leverage in areas such as trade, but affection for New Zealand has never – and likely will never – shift government policy.

And it is more unlikely than ever to now, considering Malcolm Turnbull will only be able to hold onto his job by appeasing the right-wing faction of the liberal party.  Much as he might admire Mr Key, he's got his bucket-list ambition to be Prime Minister of Australia to think about.

Our Government should just be open about this power imbalance.  Of course, it may then have to admit the stark truth about Aotearoa on the wider world stage as well – that despite our constant crowing about how our ideas of fair play and our "New Zealand values" are a great asset to bodies like the UN Security Council, we count, in the scheme of things, for very little. 

Our foreign policy – even our trade policy, as we see with the TPP – is dictated largely by the United States. 

The best thing New Zealand can do is be an example to the world of innovative thinking around some of the big modern issues. 

The Labour leader hits out at Key over his approach to dealing with Australia’s deportation policy. Source: Breakfast

To some extent we do this already in terms of things like gay marriage rights and (to some degree) the recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Hopefully in other areas – like our poor industrial relations legislation and our mass sell-off of public assets – we won’t prove so inspirational.  There is room to do much better in terms of thing like climate change emissions targets, public health policy and our refugee quota.

But we can also speak out on matters of injustice, even if we are just the whisper of reason in a world of loud aggression.

That means going beyond what we usually do - singing with the choir about ISIS, Iranian nuclear ambition or Vladimir Putin.  It means talking about the horrible injustices happening right next door across the Tasman, as thousands of people – including children – are incarcerated in bleak detention centres without rights, and many, without hope of leaving.

It’s about confronting things like the sexual abuse of women and children in these camps, the harassment of medical doctors and human rights groups that work with detainees, and the completely opaque nature of the way they operate.

Mr Key is right that we can't "strong arm", because we are simply in no position to.  But we can indicate, one way or other, that we notice what's going on, and we're not in favour of it. It is absolutely the very least we can do. 

1 NEWS Columnist Dita DeBoni Source: 1 NEWS

Young NZ fur seal found with fishing line round neck is treated at Auckland Zoo

A young New Zealand fur seal is being treated for infection at Auckland Zoo after being found slumped on a rock ledge at Piha with discarded fishing line around its neck.

A young woman had spotted the injured seal and Department of Conservation rangers responded, DOC ranger Gabrielle Goodin told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

"Literally when we got out there I saw the seal and it was over this little rock ledge and I thought it was dead," Ms Goodin said.

Auckland Zoo vet Lydia Uddstrom said the fishing line has no give, so as the seal grows with it around the neck, the line cuts deeper and deeper.

"It's not a simple matter of cut the nylon off and just chuck him back out and good luck to you. It's really that follow up and making sure that we can control any infection," Ms Uddstrom said.

The vets work in silence, trying to keep the young seal as calm as possible while treating it at the zoo.

The case is a reminder of how a little piece of human waste can cause such pain to an innocent victim.

Fur seals are a conservation success story, with their numbers up.

But so is human interaction with them.

"We have a high population in Auckland, so it's managing that success. How can we make sure we still see a lot of seals, people are interacting with them properly and we can keep them from being injured from things like fishing lines," Ms Goodin said. 

Things are looking good for the young fur seal which has been showing improvement.

"We are hopeful that if we can get on top of this infection and everything else that's going on, he should be able to get out there where he belongs," Ms Uddstrom said.

Seven Sharp’s Lucas de Jong visited the mammal at the zoo. Source: Seven Sharp


John Armstrong's opinion: As Labour fast loses the plot, Sunday's moment of coalition unity was priceless

There’s no show without punch, and although Winston Peters did not say much, he said enough. Unlike the Prime Minister who was something of a disappointment.

Last Sunday’s carefully stage-managed display of unity by Jacinda Ardern and her deputy was not so much a case of fake news as one of fabricated news.

It was somehow befitting of the barmy politics emanating daily from the Government benches in Parliament that the coalition Government should half-celebrate its 12-month birthday having been in the job for just on 11 months.

A carefully-chosen audience was corralled on Auckland’s AUT campus to hear — or rather endure — Ardern taking close to half-an-hour to spell out her Government’s 12 priorities.

1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch and Benedict Collins give their opinions of the Acting Prime Minister who ran the country during Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave.
Winston Peters. Source: 1 NEWS

Admittedly, it is difficult to inject excitement into a discussion of the virtues of intended alterations to the structure of the various Cabinet committees which meet weekly in the Beehive.

But one further priority would be finding a new speech writer for the Prime Minister before someone falls asleep and drowns in the verbiage. Or simply dies of boredom.

The said wordsmith's job is probably safe, however. The strict instruction from upon high would have been not to include the merest morsel of anything that those listening might find interesting — and which would detract from the whole purpose of the occasion, specifically the need for the Government to project an image as rock solid unified.

The political pantomime had one overriding objective — convincing an increasingly sceptical public that although Ardern and Peters might not always be on the same page, they are still capable of trading smiles on the same platform after 11 months of jostling one another.

While the Labour-New Zealand coalition has witnessed sporadic bouts of internal guerrilla warfare in recent times and principally on New Zealand First’s part, it is vastly over-dramatising things to suggest this so far occasional rebellion could become full-blown civil war.

So there was no chance of Peters going AWOL last Sunday. It would, however, have helped the coalition’s cause considerably had he uttered the immortal words "of course she's driving the car" during the earlier stages of the developing friction between the partners in Government. He was unwilling on Sunday to stretch the metaphor any further. But when it comes to back-seat driving or driving backwards, Peters is a master.

He has not taken on board any perceivable role as a back-room fixer for the coalition despite such a role having the capacity to alleviate some of the huge pressures weighing on Ardern’s shoulders.

He has instead exploited her inexperience as Labour’s leader and the fact that she spreads herself thin to bolster his party’s leverage within the coalition.

It is such game-play good that threatens the Government’s stability. It is not so much that the partners might clash over policy. As Ardern repeatedly notes, the coalition comprises three parties. There is always going to be disagreement over policy.

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships - John Armstrong

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships; whether, to use the parlance, they act on the basis of good faith and no surprises.

Ardern’s response to suggestions of disunity is to pretend there is none when she is so questioned. That is not credible.

She has now sought to brush off those claims made by her opponents by creating a distraction through repackaging her party’s priorities and relaunching them as a "coalition blueprint" under the title of Our Plan.

It would not have taken Labour’s spin-doctors long to dream up that title. It is the exact same one as used by National during the John Key-Bill English years in their similar quest to turn New Zealand into Utopia.

The only difference between Labour’s and National’s respective efforts was that Key was dismissive of such "vision documents". They might be useful in listing goals. They rarely provide detail of the means to be adopted to reach those goals. The day-to-day pressures of political life inevitably result in the prime minister of the day focusing heavily on short-term political management. Concentrating on the long-term can always be postponed to another day.

National’s various versions of vision have accordingly sunk without trace. That experience would have been a factor in Simon Bridges’ acidic observation that there was nothing in the long list of platitudes, banalities and truisms in Ardern’s blueprint which he would find hard to swallow. He isn’t wrong.

The producers of Ardern’s massive missive may have feared the same fate awaits their product as afflicted National’s equally turgid equivalent, creation.

That hurts. But Bridges is making the pertinent point that Ardern’s claim that her plan amounts to a "shared vision" of the three parties in her governing arrangement is utterly meaningless.

All it says is that the three-party grouping stretches so far across the political system that National can be accommodated with room to spare.

That makes it hard to keep the whole show on the road at the best of times.

With ministers falling like nine-pins, bureaucrats thinking nothing of splashing out $1.5 million on a justice policy summit and private consultants growing fat on the tidy sums to be made from servicing the plethora of working parties and task forces doing the work that career public servants are arguably better left to do, Labour is fast losing the plot.

But never mind. Ardern and her colleagues got what they wanted. That was a minute or two of coalition unity at the top of the six o’clock news. Given Labour’s growing malaise, that’s priceless.

The Prime Minister gave details of the Government plan during a speech in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS


Man arrested after fatal stabbing in Upper Hutt

A man has been arrested following a man's death in Upper Hutt this afternoon after being stabbed.

Police have launched a homicide investigation.

Emergency services were called a scene on Golders Road in Upper Hutt shortly after 4:30pm and despite their best efforts to revive the victim, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police arrested a male nearby the scene of the assault and are currently speaking with him.

"There is not thought to be any risk to the public at this time, however the Police investigation into what happened continues," Detective Senior Sergeant Martin said.

Police car Source: 1 NEWS

The Hastings' Four Square that sold four winning first division Lotto tickets

Hastings was the lucky home to four winning first division Lotto tickets last night.

Flaxmere's Scott Drive Four Square was the winning shop and TVNZ1's Seven Sharp meet with the owner.

"We have five first division winners in Flaxmere, and we have got four of them," owner Becky Gee said.

"Usually one shop gets one but one shop got four, unbelievable."

Last night there were 40 first division winners, who each get $25,000.

Ms Gee says she doesn’t know who the winners were yet, but says hopefully she’ll find out soon.

"Hopefully it’ll go to people who need it, to pay a lot of bills."

Lotto confirmed that one person purchased four of the winning tickets, which means they take home $100,000.

It turns out Scott Drive Four Square is where to buy a winning ticket. Source: Seven Sharp