John Armstrong: Peters has not put a foot wrong since stepping into Acting PM role

To make an assessment of a politician's performance is surely tempting the fickle finger of fate to subsequently prove your verdict is badly astray.
And never more so in the case of Winston Raymond Peters.

For, the time being, the Jeremiahs who forecast his six-week stint as Acting Prime Minister would mean the end of civilisation as we know it are having to eat their words.

Peters has not put a foot wrong during the two weeks since Jacinda Ardern gave birth and the veteran MP took on his temporary role became Acting Prime Minister in her absence on maternity leave.

The Peters Show could not be described as a tour de force. Not yet anyway. At times, he has appeared unusually subdued, even hesitant. It is if the cloak of authority, which comes with the job of prime minister, is within reach, but not yet grasped.

When he has been on public display, he has been assured, capable and competent, even if somewhat less than electric.

The latter change may be the result of him turning down and tuning out the rhetoric in his language in deference to the highest office in the land being under his care, if only briefly.

Such responsibility engenders caution.

If he has seemed restrained, he has consequently looked relaxed. He has been in particular good humour. He has clearly made a pact with himself that he not allow himself to be riled by the media.

When it comes to that most vital of prime ministerial chores, namely effective and ongoing political management of policy, personnel and unforeseen problems, he has doused some minor political conflagrations before they got the opportunity to become a problem.

The Opposition has failed to land a hit on him both inside and outside Parliament's chamber.

He has not hesitated in coming to the aid of Labour MPs who have been under the Opposition cosh, even though he is not technically obliged to help members from New Zealand First's coalition partner.

All in all, Peters has offered glimpses of what might have been had he stuck with National and waited for the job to fall into his lap, rather than jumping ship and forming New Zealand First.

His handling of one thing which has come to his attention has stood out above everything else, however.

That thing is Australia's despicable detention and deportation to New Zealand of criminals and those perceived as likely to become criminals even though they are residents of Australia, but have made the mistake of not taking out Australian citizenship or who thought they were Australian citizens.

Peters played some clever politics this week by highlighting Australia's blatant and inexcusable breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He clinically exposed the Australian Government's hypocrisy in pretending to do one thing to impress an international audience while actually doing quite the opposite to mollify its domestic one.

His prize for coating Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues with embarrassment is likely to come in the form of some kind of retaliatory strike on some aspect of his work as New Zealand's foreign minister.

Australia has something of a track record in punishing New Zealand when it thinks its partner in the trans-Tasman relationship is getting too big for its boots.

Neither do Australian politicians take kindly to being outmanoeuvred by their New Zealand counterparts.

Not that Peters had to think too hard to do that. His smart move was to let the facts speak for themselves, rather than him launching a verbal diatribe in Canberra's direction.

The facts are that the said United Nations convention stipulates that minors should never be locked up in an institution, such as a detention centre, which also houses adult inmates.

Yet Australia's border protection service had done exactly that by incarcerating an unnamed 17-year-old who holds New Zealand citizenship in a Melbourne immigration detention centre and — perhaps worse — had been doing so for the past four months.

It is to Peters' credit that he has demanded that Turnbull's administration "live up to" its obligations as a signatory to the United Nations convention and forthwith remove the teenager from the facility that has been housing him.

The tough regime brought into play three years ago has seen more than a 1000 people with New Zealand citizenship who have fallen foul of the law - along with others deemed as likely to join the criminal classes - being deported to a land which they most likely left during childhood and with which they no longer have any links.

That process is both unjust and inhumane. It imposes a further sentence on many offenders who have already served time in an Australian jail. It imposes intolerable pressures on those locked away in detention centres far from their families, leaving them all fearing for their future and potentially having to pick up the pieces of their lives in a foreign country.

This is not the side of the law and order argument where you would normally expect to find Peters and New Zealand First.

However, he has provided by far the strongest denunciation of Australia's warped thinking.

Unlike the feeble response of New Zealand’s previous National-led Government to Australia's introduction of this crude means of cleansing itself of criminals, Peters has displayed both the guts and the gumption to go where National feared to tread.

Likewise, Ardern should be given much credit for confronting Turnbull over the other half of Australia's double dose of moral bankruptcy - namely the treatment of asylum-seekers detained in offshore processing centres such as that on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

That she got no take-up of her offer for New Zealand to take up to 150 refugees was not her fault. She simply ran into a wall of Australian arrogance and obduracy.

In order to avoid ending up at a similar dead end destination, Peters has taken a rather different tack by trying to shame Canberra into rethinking the fairness of the policy.

Far more than likely, it won't work. It might instead only result in the hastening of the issuing of a deportation order on the young person in question in order to remove the source of the embarrassment.

Regardless, the incident is an indictment on Australia's human rights record. By coincidence, Australia currently has a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. There is fat chance of such a scenario unfolding, but it would be intriguing to watch Australia, the prosecution, tackle Australia, the defendant, on the charge of arch-hypocrisy.

Never mind. Australia may yet pay a price for resorting to using such an unseemly mechanism in order to export its problem residents.

Despite the huge power imbalance in the Australia-New Zealand relationship, there is more than a hint in Peters carefully-crafted remarks and Ardern’s earlier hounding of Turnbull on the matter of asylum-seekers, that New Zealand is no longer going to play the role of doormat.

It cannot afford to do so. Being close to Australia in other than geographic terms risks being seen to be condoning that country’s atrocious behaviour.

To avoid being so tarred by association, New Zealand’s interests on certain matters at certain times might be better served by putting as much distance between Wellington and Canberra as is possible.

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: 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