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As Jacinda Ardern heads to Europe, analysts ask whether New Zealand is being dragged into Nato – New Zealand Herald

Posted: June 24, 2022 at 9:34 pm

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a joint press conference. Photo / Mark Mitchell

This is not the first time Jacinda Ardern has travelled to Europe against the backdrop of disruption and tragedy.

Her first visit as Prime Minister, in 2018, sought to stake out a post-Brexit relationship with the United Kingdom and Europe, and to bolster relationships with like-minded leaders concerned by the chaos unleashed by United States President Donald Trump.

In 2019, she visited Paris to unveil the Christchurch Call in response to the March 15 terror attack, with French President Emmanuel Macron, one of her closes allies in Europe.

This Sunday, Ardern will leave for a tour of Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom. She will find a continent emerging from a pandemic, and grappling with inflation and war.

The questions that hung over her first visit have been answered, to a certain extent. New Zealand has a good trade deal with the United Kingdom, a trade deal of some kind with the European Union is imminent (although ministers are keen to manage expectations about its quality), and Trumpian chaos has gone on hiatus, at least until the next presidential election.

But new and more troubling questions hang over this trip; Russia's invasion of Ukraine has dragged New Zealand into the orbit of the Nato security alliance, which risks compromising its traditional independent foreign policy, and upsetting major trading partner, China.

The tension between security and trade will colour the first two stops of the trip, first Madrid, where Ardern will be a guest at the Nato leaders summit, and Brussels, where she will attempt to advance trade talks with the European Union.

New Zealand and Nato have been "partners" since 2012, and have worked in "dialogue and cooperation" since 2001, but this is the first Nato leaders summit in memory that a New Zealand prime minister has attended. Other Asia-Pacific leaders from South Korea, Japan, and Australia were also invited, leading some to suggest this meeting will cement an informal expansion of Nato away from the Atlantic and into the Asia-Pacific.

New Zealand Initiative executive director Oliver Hartwich said he saw a revival of the Anzac relationship in the fact that Ardern and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese would appear at the summit together.

"There seems to be a revival in the Anzac relationship when it comes to the defence relationship," Hartwich said.

Hartwich said Ardern could score some points at Nato by mending the Australia-France relationship that had fractured when Australia nixed a multi-billion dollar French submarine when it signed up to the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal with the US and UK.

Ardern and Macron are known to get on well, bonding over their shared wonkishness. Ardern did not attack France when EU trade talks were paused for the French Presidential election, likely aiding free trader Macron against protectionist candidates to his right and left.

The challenge for Ardern at Nato is that the alliance is in the process of working out where it stands in response to global, rather than regional security challenges. New Zealand has to work out where it stands in relation to an enlarged Nato with an outlook that stretches well beyond the "North Atlantic" of the organisation's name, and into New Zealand's region.

Hartwich said this expansion is logical.

"By its name it's a regional alliance, but by its preamble - if you read the Nato Treaty the Washington treaty is very much a values alliance. The preamble makes clear that this is an alliance of democracies fighting to maintain the rule of law."

This "values" reading of Nato could see the alliance logically expand its vision to Asia and the Pacific.

The Madrid Summit is expected to agree a new "Strategic Concept", a document updated roughly every decade, which outlines the broad security picture as Nato sees it. This Strategic Concept is expected to have firm words on the threat posed by China, which could put New Zealand in an awkward position, given its strong trade ties to China.

Hartwich thinks the expansion of Nato into the Pacific is logical, if you look at Nato as a values alliance as well as a regional security pact.

"It is a defensive alliance of values, not so much a regional thing," he said.

"That would make us natural allies.

"We would want to have them here. America has a presence [in the Indo-Pacific], but even the British presence in the Indo-Pacific is increasing so it is only natural they are talking to us."

Geoffrey Miller, a geopolitical analyst at the Democracy Project, said he struggled to see what New Zealand got out of attending the summit.

"They [Nato] get New Zealand as another name on the list and they get solidarity. What does New Zealand get out of attending a Nato summit?

"We lack a long-term strategy and a long-term plan."

Miller said the fast-changing international security picture highlighted the need for the Government to set out a long-term vision of its foreign policy and security.

"We need a post-Ukraine foreign policy blueprint in my view. The world has changed in my view now."

He said New Zealand had enjoyed the "very clear guiding light" of its independent foreign policy for the past 40 years, but the challenging global security picture post-Ukraine, and New Zealand's trade dependence on China had complicated things.

He said a long-term vision was needed because Nato countries were continually making demands of New Zealand and New Zealand needed a long-term blueprint of how it should respond to them.

"We keep being asked to do stuff and we respond - we acquiesce and we say 'yes'," Miller said.

He said New Zealand should be cautious about being unwittingly dragged into an expanded Nato.

"I wonder whether this is the beginning of Nato Plus, whether Nato is expanding from a geographical alliance to a broader Western alliance."

One thing New Zealand could be asked to do is to lift spending to the Nato goal of 2 per cent of GDP (a level of spending many Nato countries struggle to meet).

Millar noted that the military demands of Nato were not backed up with trade benefits from the likes of the US and the EU.

There was an unwillingness of both blocs to contemplate that a closer security alignment with the US and EU could damage New Zealand's trading relationship with China. The EU did not seem willing to offer trade concessions in the looming FTA in return for New Zealand's security assistance over Ukraine.

Miller said that any changes to New Zealand's foreign policy that compromised its independence had to consider what it would do to New Zealand's trading relationships.

He said there were other paths New Zealand could take on Ukraine, Nato member Turkey and US-ally Israel have both sought to broker peace, without launching themselves into the middle of the US-led sanctions push.

Former defence minister and former foreign minister Gerry Brownlee cautioned against reading too much into the novelty of a prime minister attending the leaders meeting.

He said that while a prime minister attending that meeting was new, defence ministers had regularly attended Nato meetings as "dialogue partners", and that New Zealand had served under the command of the US, a Nato member, during the Iraq training mission.

"We have had various compacts at various times."

He said questions over the independent foreign policy often forgot the fact that New Zealand, more often than not, aligned itself with its traditional partners in most conflicts since World War II.

He said questions over the independent foreign policy were ones of definition, and over how it was expressed.

"You've got to think about how independent foreign policy is defined," he said.

"I've taken objection to New Zealand signing up to communiques on Five Eyes," Brownlee said, noting that Five Eyes was an intelligence-sharing pact and how he was cautious about expanding its remit into something broader.

He said New Zealand should avoid unnecessarily antagonising China.

"I'm not in favour of making an enemy when one doesn't exist.

"New Zealand is now substantially dependent on what happens in the Chinese economy. Today, millions of New Zealanders went to work in jobs that are dependent on our trading economy with China."

The trade outlook with the EU is disappointing. The EU is New Zealand's fourth largest trading partner, but exports by value to the EU have been in decline.

New Zealand imported $12.9 billion worth of goods and services, and exported $4.58b. Exports to the EU have been declining since 2018, when they were worth $6.1b.

By contrast, exports to China continue to boom.

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor warned the trade agreement with the European Union was complicated by the fact New Zealand was effectively negotiating with 27 countries.

He said concessions on issues like dairy and meat were difficult for the EU.

"We have to acknowledge the sensitivities around those products in the EU, that's why it's hard work."

O'Connor suggested that the agreement would have wins in areas other than meat and dairy.

"All those commodities and products are important to us, but we've got a lot of other products as well."

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Factbox: Commonwealth nations meet in Rwanda – what you need to know – Reuters.com

Posted: at 9:34 pm

Flags representing Commonwealth countries fly at the Kigali Convention Centre, the venue hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda June 22, 2022. Picture taken June 22, 2022. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

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June 23 (Reuters) - Heads of government from Commonwealth nations will meet in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Friday and Saturday to discuss cooperation on topics ranging from green energy to rising food prices to the war in Ukraine, among others. read more

Here are some key facts about the Commonwealth and the Kigali summit, which was supposed to be held in 2020 but was twice delayed because of the COVID pandemic.

* What is the Commonwealth?

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It is a voluntary association of 54 countries that evolved gradually from the British Empire and has existed in its modern form since 1949.

* Who are its members?

The Commonwealth includes 13 countries in the Caribbean and the Americas, 19 countries in Africa, three in Europe, eight in Asia and 11 in the Pacific, with a combined population of 2.5 billion.

India accounts for 1.4 billion of its citizens, while 32 members have populations of 1.5 million or less, the smallest being Nauru, which has 10,000 inhabitants.

* Are they all former British colonies?

Most of them are, but that is not a condition for membership. The last two countries to join, Rwanda and Mozambique, have no historical ties to the British Empire.

Gabon and Togo, both former French colonies, are expected to apply to join at the Kigali summit.

* What does the Commonwealth do?

It presents itself as a network for cooperation on common goals such as protecting the environment, boosting trade, supporting democracy, promoting education and gender equality, and giving small states a louder voice on the world stage.

Although it is not a free trade zone, it calculates that its members find it 21% cheaper to trade with other members than with non-Commonwealth countries which are a similar distance away, based on an analysis of World Bank data. Factors include a common language and similar legal and commercial frameworks.

* Who heads it?

Queen Elizabeth has been head of the Commonwealth, a largely symbolic role, since her reign began in 1952. The organisation says the British monarch is not automatically its head, but its members nevertheless agreed at a meeting in London in 2018 that Elizabeth's son Prince Charles would succeed her in the role.

Charles is attending the Kigali summit, representing his mother.

* Who runs it?

It has a secretariat based in London and a secretary-general, currently Dominica's Patricia Scotland.

Commonwealth leaders will decide in Kigali whether to re-appoint her for a second term or replace her with Kamina Johnson Smith, the Jamaican foreign minister. Britain has criticised Scotland's leadership and is backing Johnson Smith, as are India and Belize.

* Who is attending the Kigali summit?

Most heads of government of Commonwealth countries are coming, including Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari, Britain's Boris Johnson and Canada's Justin Trudeau.

But South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa, India's Narendra Modi, Pakistan's Shehbaz Sharif, Australia's Anthony Albanese and New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern are not expected, raising questions about the relevance of the organisation for those countries.

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Reporting by Estelle Shirbon;Editing by Alison Williams

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Factbox: Commonwealth nations meet in Rwanda - what you need to know - Reuters.com

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Ardern reacts to US’ Roe v Wade abortion ruling overturn – 1News

Posted: at 9:34 pm

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Roe v Wade abortion ruling "incredibly upsetting".

Jacinda Ardern. (Source: Breakfast)

The decision is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half of US states.

Watching the removal of a womans fundamental right to make decisions over their own body is incredibly upsetting," Ardern said in a statement on Saturday.

Here in New Zealand we recently legislated to decriminalise abortion and treat it as a health rather than criminal issue.

That change was grounded in the fundamental belief that its a women's right to choose.

"People are absolutely entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue. But those personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions.

To see that principle now lost in the United States feels like a loss for women everywhere. When there are so many issues to tackle, so many challenges that face woman and girls, we need progress, not to fight the same fights and move backwards," she said.

Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta released a statement on Twitter.

The ruling, unthinkable just a few years ago, was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former President Donald Trump.

Many states are now bracing for protests.

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Ardern reacts to US' Roe v Wade abortion ruling overturn - 1News

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Claire Trevett: Labour Government can’t afford to lose to National on health – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 9:34 pm

Health Minister Andrew Little and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / Mark Mitchell

OPINION:

It was in the middle of a glorious summer in January that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a shocking prediction: winter is coming.

Lo, winter has duly arrived with all its excess baggage: Omicron, the return of the flu after two years of absence, the good old-fashioned cold.

Hospital admissions are up more from the flu than Covid and nurse numbers are down, yet another issue from Covid-19.

Despite the certainty winter would come, some seem surprised by its arrival and are now looking for who to blame for this turn of events.

Ardern's explanations for the influx on emergency departments and nurse shortages have ranged from blaming winter to blaming the former National Government.

She simultaneously blamed the nurse shortage on a global shortage and demand from other countries, and on the John Key National Government for not training more nurses or paying nurses better so there were more around this winter.

National is blaming the current Labour Government's health reforms for taking attention away from people who are actually sick, and blaming Labour's immigration settings during Covid-19 and afterwards for not doing enough to attract nurses to the land of milk and influenza.

"We anticipated this," Ardern said at one point. "We flagged that we anticipated winter would be particularly tough."

The peril there is the obvious follow-up question: If the Government forecast winter would come, how has it come to this? Why wasn't more done to prepare for it?

That question was duly asked. Ardern's response was that the Government had increased eligibility for a free flu vaccine, was working with GPs (yes, there is also a GP shortage) and was trying to share the load around hospitals. It had also provided funding for more nurses (even if, alas, it could not find the nurses). In the years before Covid, about 1.3 million flu vaccines were given each year. So far this year, just over one million flu vaccines have been dispensed, and while the rates for over-65s are high (about two thirds), those for 55 to 64-year-olds are much lower, at just 27 per cent.

Ardern daren't use the Covid-19 settings to try to contend with flu - but has urged people to keep wearing their masks as much to protect from flu as Covid.

The health debate is one Labour can't afford to lose.

According to the polls, in the voters' minds Labour has already lost to National on key metrics of the economy, housing and law and order. Its problems with the cost of living will last longer than one miserable winter.

Labour is still most trusted on health both a historical perception and because of the largely successful handling of Covid-19.

Pointing out how much worse things could have been last winter if the Government hadn't put so much effort into staying Covid-free will be little solace for those suffering this winter.

So health is the Government's OK Corral and National knows it. Winter is its best opportunity to fight on that front.

In the past week, the pressure on hospitals, the nursing shortage and delays to elective surgeries were the topics of National leader Christopher Luxon's questions to Ardern, rather than the cost of living.

Beyond proposing an easier immigration route for nurses, National has not yet itself come up with anything solid by way of solutions to the load on the health system. Its sole goal at the moment is to dent confidence in the Government's handling of it.

The Government will need to come up with something a little bit more compelling than "well, we warned you about winter," blaming a government from more than five years ago, and urging people to wear their masks. It has one more summer (and one more winter) to do that.

The new Health NZ structure kicks in from next week and the Government will be hoping that reaps results - but it won't magic up 3000 nurses.

On the good news front, winter may well give the Government a slight reprieve on the law and order front.

New Police Minister Chris Hipkins must feel as if he is something of a spring season himself, having shed the relentless grind of the Covid-19 portfolio to move to Police.

He takes over just as other issues are starting to take over from crime as a hot political issue: the plasterboard shortage and winter ailments chief among them.

It was with a new bounce in his step that Hipkins made his debut appearance as Police Minister in Parliament this week. It may be too soon to say if he is soft or tough on crime, but he was certainly loud on crime, bellowing about the apparent failings of the former National Government to do what it was now calling on Labour to do.

His exchange on Wednesday with National's police spokesman Mark Mitchell turned into something of a pantomime show.

Labour has argued National's ban on gang patches would not work, so Mitchell was asking Hipkins whether he supported the existing ban on patches in hospitals and schools the result of a members' bill ushered in by one Mark Mitchell. Hipkins said he had no plan to change it, so Mitchell asked if he would extend it. Hipkins said he had no intention to. Mitchell then ran out of questions and Labour MPs clamoured for the Speaker to give him more. The Speaker did.

Caught short, Mitchell asked the exact same questions again. Hipkins gave the exact same answer.

Mallard made an observation about deja vu and promptly gave Mitchell yet another two questions.

Sitting along from Hipkins was Poto Williams, who finally got her revenge on Mitchell by starting a slow clap.

Whether or not the change to Hipkins will have any impact on crime is unclear.

But it is certainly a lot more entertaining.

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Kris Faafoi comes good on 10-year debt, hands proof to the PM as he says farewell to Parliament – Stuff

Posted: at 9:34 pm

Outgoing Labour MP and Minister Kris Faafoi has bowed out of politics, delivering a funny and heartfelt speech to Parliament.

Faafoi, the first MP of Tokelauan descent, paid tribute to supporters and colleagues, and launched a staunch defence of his changes to public media as broadcasting minister.

PM my final note to you is to say it was a deep honour to accompany you on your visit to Tokelau, Faafoi said in his valedictory.

The time on the HMNZS Otago will have to go down as my highlight of the last 5 years. PM, the experience of going back to the place my mother and father were born and raised meant so much, and to do it accompanying you as our PM was next level.

READ MORE:* Labours sensible decision to pause on hate speech law* Points of Order: Nobody wants Covid-19 for Christmas, but new visa is an early gift for many* National declares win after 'trigger-happy' Immigration NZ leaks policy details

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Outgoing Labour MP Kris Faafoi delivers his valedictory speech in the House of Representatives debating chamber.

He also joked that 10 years after promising Jacinda Ardern $500 towards an election campaign if she danced at the Pasifika festival, he had come through with the money, providing a receipt to the prime minister during his speech.

I thought about adjusting it for inflation, but , Faafoi quipped to uproarious applause.

For months, people had been asking Labour MP Kris Faafoi when he planned to retire from politics.

When asked, hed quip back veiled pleasantries. He even claimed hed miss the press gallery too much if he ever left.

I told everyone I loved it, and I do. But theres a time. And this is it, he said on Thursday morning.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Kris Faafoi leaving with two of his three children on the day he announced his retirement from politics.

Faafoi has been in Parliament for 17 years, in various roles. He walked in as a TVNZ journalist, becoming a member of the Parliamentary press gallery.

While he deflected questions, everyone knew Faafoi had set a timer.

As the PM said, I spoke to her towards the end of last term. Family, again, was the issue, but I was convinced to stay because there were things that needed to get finished.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern finally confirmed his resignation on June 13.

Less than two weeks later, Faafoi delivered his valedictory speech to Parliament.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Kris Faafoi has been in Parliament for 17 years. He started as a journalist in the press gallery before becoming a politician.

Its his birthday. But he doesnt think being able to leave the Beehive is a birthday present, per se. Hes turning 46 a good time to leave, he said, while there was still time to start something new.

But another birthday played a far bigger role in Faafois decision to leave Parliament. On Wednesday, his youngest son turned five.

Faafoi spent the morning taking his boy, Theo, to his first day of school. Its moments like these Faafoi wants more of.

Im lucky, my kids love me, and Im happy about that. But I think Ive missed out on things that Id prefer to have been there for, for both George and Fred the older two.

With Theo, when he started school, that was my line in the sand for me to say its time to go.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Kris Faafoi has left Parliament, saying its time to spend more time with his children.

Faafoi, his partner Mae and their son Theo live in Greytown, a quaint town awash with art shops and cafs, perfect for a road trip stop just over the Remutaka Range, north of Wellington.

Faafoi left journalism to become the chief press secretary of the Opposition Labour Party for leader Phil Goff, then stood for Labour in 2010, winning the Mana electorate in a by-election.

When Ardern led the Labour Party to victory in 2017, Faafoi was made Minister of Civil Defence, Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Faafoi decided not to stand for Mana at the 2020 election, with his family leaving Kpiti, and he voiced his plan to resign to Labour and Ardern.

His responsibilities during five years of Government have shifted often.

At various times, hes been the minister in charge of immigration, broadcasting, justice, customs and also the minister responsible for government digital services.

Its his work in broadcasting and consumer affairs which arises most in his interview on Thursday morning.

He said he doesnt have favourites, but broadcasting is a passion.

There's a saying once a journalist or always a journalist. I wanted to make sure that our country continues to have a strong Fourth Estate, he said.

He leaves Parliament as his bill, which will merge RNZ and TVNZ to create a new cross-platform public media entity, is introduced to Parliament. Another former broadcaster, Willie Jackson, has taken over responsibility for that portfolio.

It would have been nice to have been there, to get the legislation through the House and to be there on day one of the new entity, he says.

I'm pretty proud of the work. And once it's up and running, and it gets a hit of steam, I'll watch with great pride. Because I think it'll make a big difference to the media here.

In his valedictory Faafoi defended his changes.

If public media doesnt change the very people who need trusted sources of news, information and their identity wont have it available to them as previous generations have.

We know that right now those audiences are not engaging with public media.

ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff

Parliament applauds Kris Faafoi following his valedictory in the debating chamber.

As consumer affairs minister, Faafoi also introduced market studies. It opened the door for the Government to analyse how competitive certain industries were, and if they were giving consumers a good deal. The first market study was on fuel prices, in 2018. The focus then turned to the supermarket duopoly.

While those were the highs, Faafoi often faced pressure in the justice and immigration portfolios.

Immigration NZ struggled to reboot when the borders started to reopen, and the immigration restart programme announced by Faafoi have faced criticism for appearing to devalue certain areas of work.

He has faced regular questions about why nurses struggle to get residency in New Zealand, given how desperately the health sector needs more nurses.

Meanwhile, as it became clear Faafoi intended to resign, political commentators questioned if his heart was still in the game.

Faafoi said those questions started when he became less available for media interviews, which he said was due to needing to spend more time finishing his last projects while in Government.

I used to write commentary. I know how it is, he said.

I turned up to the office every day to give it 100%. I know there was some commentary at the end, just because I wasnt doing a few interviews but that did not mean my heart wasnt in it, he said.

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Kris Faafoi comes good on 10-year debt, hands proof to the PM as he says farewell to Parliament - Stuff

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Tale of 2 Summits: Why Jacinda Ardern Said No to the Commonwealth, But Yes to NATO – The Diplomat

Posted: June 22, 2022 at 11:15 am

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns decision toattendthe upcoming North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Spain but to skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda symbolizes the changes she is making to New Zealand foreign policy.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) started June 20 in Kigali, with the main high-level meetings on June 24 and 25. TheNATO summitwill be held in Madrid from June 29 to 30.

However, Ardern is only attending the NATO summit. She issendingher foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, to attend the Commonwealth meeting in her place.

Ardern is hardly alone with her decision to stay away from CHOGM so far,only 35of 54 Commonwealth leaders have sent an RSVP. New Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be among theabsentees Deputy Prime Minister (and Defense Minister) Richard Marles will go instead.

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This is despite the fact that this years CHOGM is being held during the Queens Platinum Jubilee year and just over a month before the Commonwealth Games the groupings sporting flagship. The summit will also be the first CHOGM since 2018, the first CHOGM in Africa since 2007, and the first to be hosted by a new Commonwealth member Rwanda was never a British colony, but voluntarilyjoinedthe Commonwealth in 2009.

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Indeed, Rwandas hosting of the summit this year is not without controversy. Freedom House, a U.S.-based think tank,callsthe country not free, with a ranking of just 22 points out of 100 placing it firmly in the bottom third of its global rankings, two places ahead of Russia.

Freedom House says the Rwandan regime led by authoritarian President Paul Kagame undertakespervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents.

This years CHOGM also threatens to be overshadowed by a U.K. plan to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Prince Charles, who reportedlycalledthe deal appalling, will be representing the Queen at the summit in Kigali.

Despite these two red flags, prominent human rights organizations are not calling for a boycott of the event. Rather, they want Commonwealth leaders to draw attention to the problems. Human Rights Watch, for instance, hasaskedleaders to voice their grave concern to the [Rwandan] government on its human rights record. And, in reference to the Rwanda-U.K. asylum-seeker deal, Amnesty InternationalwantsCommonwealth members to seize the opportunity in Kigali to denounce this inhumane arrangement.

Arderns no-show at CHOGM is probably driven partly by domestic political considerations and timing. This Fridays inaugural Matariki public holiday, which marks the Maori New Year, was a key election campaign pledge by Arderns Labor Party in 2020 and the prime minister is scheduled to attend a pre-dawnceremonyon the day, June 24.

Outside of the Commonwealth Games, the Commonwealth has a low profile, but it has a lot going for it. Few intergovernmental organizations can rival it for size with the Commonwealths collective population reaching2.6 billion, only the likes of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the United Nations (U.N.) represent more people.

Moreover, the Commonwealth has a particularstrengthin representing small states, especially island ones 25 of the 54 members are classified as Small Island Developing States. This means the Commonwealth can be a particularly useful forum for discussing climate change and environmental issues. The results have included initiatives such as theCommonwealth Litter Program, which has made real differences to countries such as Vanuatu in fighting plastic pollution.

The Commonwealth is more than just a talk shop, but the disparate nature of its membership is a major challenge. The Commonwealth includes wealthy, democratic countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the U.K. but also poor, authoritarian ones such as Cameroon, Rwanda, and Uganda. In between, there are also some rich authoritarian members (such as Brunei) and less well-off democracies (such as India)

Of course, there is still great value in an organization that brings opposing sides together for a robust exchange of views. The new geopolitical fault line between the Global South and North over Ukraine is a case in point. While Western countries including New Zealand have provided strong support to Ukraine, most non-Western countries have not followed suit.

It would do Ardern good to listen to the rationale that countries such as South Africa and Mozambique might have for not falling in line with the Western position. Countries perhaps learn best when they are not just surrounded by their like-minded friends.

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However, in the new Cold War, ideology is back with a vengeance and many countries are drifting away from pragmatic, inclusive groupings towards more ideologically-driven ones. For Australia, this means countering Chinese influence with the reinvigorated Quad arrangement (with India, Japan, and the US) and AUKUS (with the United Kingdom and the United States); for New Zealand, the Pacific Islands Forum and bilateral meetings with Australia and the United States have taken on greater significance.

All of this explains why Ardern has accepted an invitation to attend NATOs Madrid Summit next week. Jens Stoltenberg, the alliances secretary general, has recently been at pains tohighlightthe invitation to the blocs Asia Pacific partners Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. The reason is obvious on June 16, Stoltenberg specificallymentionedChina as one of the priorities for the meeting, which will set out a new Strategic Concept, effectively a blueprint for the future of NATO.

And while NATOs main focus will remain on security in Europe, last years summit in Brussels held well before Russias invasion of Ukraine was noteworthy for making China its main priority. The summitscommuniquemade NATOs position crystal-clear: Chinas stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to Alliance security.

Arderns invitation to attend the NATOs 2022 Madrid Summit is also something of a reward for aligning New Zealands foreign policy more closely with NATO and the West generally over the past few months. After all, Ardern has overhauled New Zealands foreign policy by introducing sanctions against Russia and sending military equipment and weapons to Ukraine and by making a symbolic contribution of New Zealand troops to Europe to assist with the war effort.

But as Stoltenberg likes tosay, security does not come for free and the meeting will undoubtedly also serve as an opportunity to put pressure on New Zealand to provide even more assistance. The NATO secretary general recentlypointed outthat there have been seven consecutive years of rising defense investment across Europe and Canada. New Zealands military spending shows a remarkably similar trajectory, withspendingnow at the 1.5 percent of GDP level up from 1.1 percent in 2015, although still well below NATOs target of 2 percent.

Albanese is also travelling to Madrid and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has alreadyinvitedthe Australian prime minister to visit Kyiv. Zelenskyy will also be aguestof honor at the NATO summit.

If he accepts, Albanese would be following in the footsteps of many other NATO country leaders who have travelled to Ukraine in recent weeks, including the U.K.s Boris Johnson, Frances Emmanuel Macron, and Germanys Olaf Scholz.

And given the focus on Western unity and solidarity in recent months, theres every chance Jacinda Ardern would travel together with Albanese on any European side-trip to Ukraine, on a joint ANZAC solidarity mission.

Ardern is backing NATO over CHOGM. She might be choosing Kyiv over Kigali.

This article was originallypublished by the Democracy Project,which aims to enhance New Zealand democracy and public life by promoting critical thinking, analysis, debate, and engagement on politics and society.

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Tale of 2 Summits: Why Jacinda Ardern Said No to the Commonwealth, But Yes to NATO - The Diplomat

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Claire Trevett: The warning to ministers as Jacinda Ardern signals a mother of all reshuffles – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 11:15 am

PM Jacinda Ardern explains her Cabinet reshuffle after the Swearing-in ceremony for new Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty at Government House. Video / Mark Mitchell

OPINION

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stripped Poto Williams of the police portfolio this week and reallocated roles held by outgoing MP Kris Faafoi, she also put her other ministers on notice.

The changes Ardern made in her reshuffle were something of a bare minimum. The tougher reshuffle will be the one she makes in about six months' time when she has to negotiate between ministers who want to leave, those she might want to leave, and the bear pit of ambition in the middle benches.

Ardern's forewarning a larger reshuffle is nigh is effectively a signal to ministers to weigh up whether they have the appetite to stay and engage in some frank self-assessment about whether they think Ardern has the appetite for them to stay.

Because if Ardern considered her first reshuffle minor, it indicates her second will be large.

Part of that will be to try to inject a fresh face and fresh energy into Labour the unrelenting nature of Covid-19 has seen the Government age in the public eye much faster than a usual government would.

Doing that will mean something of a clean-out of ministers who may have got away until now with being a bit average.

Ardern has been shown to have quite a brutal and pragmatic streak when it comes to reshuffles.

There is little mercy if a minister is letting the side down.

Meka Whaitiri, David Clark, and Phil Twyford all found that out in the last term of Parliament. Once her confidence has been shaken, it has also proven very difficult to claw a way back. They may well be among those Ardern is hoping will consider their futures.

Ardern also now has the luxury of a wider, hungrier middle bench than in the last term of Parliament. But as Labour falls in the polls, she also has to keep them disciplined and happy; the chance of a promotion is one way to do that.

Ardern also needs to be sure that the most competent of those survive beyond the 2023 election when Labour will inevitably lose MPs after their extraordinary 2020 result.

Those she will be keen to protect include Rachel Brooking, Vanushi Walters, Barbara Edmonds and Camilla Belich.

Ardern's mini-reshuffle this week did contain some hints as to what might happen in her wider reshuffle.

Giving Kieran McAnulty an associate role in local government is likely to mean Nanaia Mahuta loses that portfolio in the reshuffle and is left to focus on foreign affairs. It is understood Mahuta is keen to shed local government, but Ardern wants the controversy of the Three Waters reforms to be dealt with first.

A change in six months would be a good time for a new minister to take on the wider reforms for local government without being so closely associated with Three Waters.

Hipkins may also lose his ongoing skirmishes to keep the education portfolio he has won that battle twice because he is one of Ardern's MVPs. But whether he will win a third time in six months is less certain. Ardern giving a vast chunk of the schools portion of the education portfolio to Jan Tinetti shows where she wants that to end.

There will be room freed up for her by other ministers who decide to retire. In fact, Ardern's concern may well end up being that too much room is freed up.

Government in normal times is exhausting enough and burnout is a factor that will decide some of those ministers' fates.

Summer will be the critical time for ministers to weigh up whether they have the stomach for another term, especially if that term is in Opposition.

There are already rumours about whether Kelvin Davis intends to hang around. Health Minister Andrew Little may also well be turning his mind to the question of bowing out - the health reforms will be completed, he is unlikely to be promoted any higher and he may well look for another opportunity.

There is also speculation about Damien O'Connor - although he is perhaps the most valuable he's ever been to Labour in his political career and they will be wary of losing the West Coast seat.

Poto Williams is a cautionary tale for other ministers who are not necessarily on top of their portfolios.

As yet she has not been demoted from her 10th ranking in Cabinet, but that appears to be largely a matter of not wanting to give National too much satisfaction.

Williams should drop down the ranks a bit in the next reshuffle the front bench have to be both competent behind the scenes and capable of performing on stage, that stage being Parliament.

The saga of Williams and National's Mark Mitchell is a salutary lesson in the merits of putting people into portfolios they are interested in.

Mitchell had been all but invisible prior to Christopher Luxon taking over the leadership and giving him the Police portfolio.

Mitchell transformed into the Incredible Hulk. He has gone about things with all the subtlety and effectiveness - of a sledgehammer.

By contrast, Williams seemed to lack enthusiasm for the portfolio and failed the basic metric of ensuring it did not add to the troubles already on the Government's plate.

Mitchell has called the appointment of Hipkins "window dressing," arguing changing the person does not change Labour's ability to confront gang violence.

The selection of Hipkins one of Ardern's top ministers is partly about optics. It is partly a show that Ardern is taking the issue seriously enough to give it to one of her top performers.

But Hipkins is far less likely to end up looking bewildered and bamboozled under Mitchell's attacks.

He will have to take a long look at the policy settings the perception is that Labour's law and order policy has not shifted in response to the changing gang landscape.

Those changes were starkly spelled out in police intelligence reports on what deportees from Australia had wrought on the New Zealand gang scene.

But Hipkins' job is not to transform Labour into a party that is hard-line on crime it is to get the issue of Labour's management of crime out of the headlines.

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PM: ‘Very hard to read into’ Labour’s Tauranga byelection loss – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 11:15 am

Picton crash tragedy, BB guns send mall into lockdown and time to say goodbye to pre-departure Covid testing in the latest New Zealand Herald headlines. Video / NZ Herald

By RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is downplaying the suggestion the Tauranga byelection was a drubbing for the Labour Party, saying it is hard to read anything into the result.

National's Sam Uffindell won by more than 6000 votes, well ahead of Labour's Jan Tinetti and Act's Cameron Luxton.

But Ardern said Tinetti received one of the better results the party has seen in Tauranga in a number of decades.

"I think actually for byelections, it's very hard to read into them as someone who's run in a byelection myself because it's just simply not the same as in general elections, you don't often have every party represented, so I'm not quick to read into individual outcomes."

Tinetti came in with a very similar proportion of the vote to what Labour did in Tauranga when it became government in 2017, Ardern said.

"Of course hearing from Jan and what she was hearing and experiencing, we listen to that in the same way as what we hear and experience with all of our MPs and every Tuesday we reflect on that in our caucus meeting."

Ardern acknowledged that it was tough for many people at the moment.

"People do see the Government taking every effort we can to try and ease those pressures on people and Jan heard that out on the streets as well."

People were likely to look to the international environment and see that New Zealand was not the only country currently dealing with significant inflation and energy issues, Ardern said.

"It is our job to ease the impact of that and that's what our Budget initiatives were all about."

Flu is now a greater cause of respiratory hospitalisation in some Auckland hospitals than Covid-19, Ardern said when asked if the Government was considering raising the Covid traffic light setting back to red.

"When you think about back when we changed to the orange settings, then we were looking at roughly a rolling average of 10,000 cases, we had over 500 hospitalisations, you know close to 30 in ICU.

"Our rolling average now is under 5000 cases, we've got about ... 350 in hospital and five in ICU."

Some hospitals, particularly in Counties Manukau, were experiencing significant pressure - not just with Covid but also flu and other winter illnesses, Ardern said.

"Here I have an ask for the public, please get your flu vaccine, please wear your mask, it's not only helpful for Covid, it's helpful for flu, and please if your issues are non-acute but you do need medical attention, do also make use of Healthline."

- RNZ

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Jacinda Ardern’s Government catches the post-Covid winter blues – Stuff

Posted: at 11:15 am

SUNGMI KIM/Stuff

Jacinda Ardern is fighting political battles on many fronts.

ANALYSIS: On the shortest day of the year and as a cold snap hits the country, it is unsurprising the Government seems to have a case of the winter blues.

First the health system is under clear strain with workforce shortages particularly in the nursing workforce where there is a staggering shortage of 4000 nurses, according to the nurses union.

Health Minister Andrew Little confirmed on Monday there were over 2500 equivalent full-time nursing vacancies in March.

Second, the Governments new bill to change Oranga Tamariki oversight to a board contained within the Ministry of Social Development is being opposed by every other party in Government. It is rare to find ACT, Te Pti Mori and the Greens in agreement on much.

Thats not to mention various survivors criticising the overhaul.

ROBERT KITCHIN/STUFF

PM Jacinda Ardern speaks to media before Caucus.

READ MORE:* GIB and the competitive problems of plasterboard* Meat, Starbucks and Hello Fresh in short supply as staff isolate and supply shortages continue* Building projects grind to a halt as dominant Fletcher freezes Gib orders* Covid-19: National's Shane Reti says hospital upgrades don't help chronic short-staffing

Consumer confidence is now at its lowest ever ebb since the series began in 1988. Lower confidence means less spending, which means economic contraction. Whether that leads to a full-blown recession will only be known with time, but its not good news and demonstrates the economic anxiety out there.

And then, right when the shortages of Gib board in particular are making the news, the Government did what everyone screaming out for plasterboard to finish their house or renovation was asking for: another taskforce.

Good to see that after five years in power and months into a plasterboard shortage, the Government has again hit the ground reviewing.

The prime minister is now also under pressure to apologise to people caught up in the MIQ system, since the courts have now found that from September 1 to December 17 last year the system unjustifiably limited the rights of the rights of some New Zealanders to enter the country.

The Government has said it wont appeal, but the prime minister, so far, is certainly not apologising.

This is a niggly time of year for Governments. Darkness and cold envelopes voters, and while the newly minted Holiday of Matariki will offer many people a long weekend reprieve, there is a long cold winter ahead before the next holiday of Labour Day in late October.

While Covid-19 may have retreated from the front pages, what we are seeing now is the consequences of the Governments Covid-19 policies during 2020 and 2021.

Dom Thomas/RNZ

The hospital waiting lists, deferred surgeries and staff shortages have all been bottled up, or simply not fixed.

The flu, which is back with a vengeance, has not really been around for the past two years thanks to closed borders, and Covid public health measures.

The hospital waiting lists, deferred surgeries and staff shortages have all been bottled up, or simply not fixed during the acute phase of the pandemic either due to closed borders or other Covid priorities.

Obviously, the lingering questions around MIQ are also as a result of Covid. As are the inflationary pressures squeezing through the economy as a result of loose monetary and fiscal policy that arguably lasted for too long.

That these issues are not unique to New Zealand is no surprise a similar set of policies were pursued in lots of places in the developed world even if New Zealands big blue moat protected us more and lockdowns and the like were taken up with greater vigour than elsewhere.

Politically, it gets tougher from here. The victories of Covid-19 management are now well behind the Government, the counterfactual of lots of deaths never experienced.

But the deferred challenges as a result of the response to Covid are here now. And thats without worrying about a resurgent opposition.

Winter is here for the Government.

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Claire Trevett: PM Jacinda Ardern may regret writing off the Tauranga byelection as a lost cause – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 11:15 am

Labour's Tinetti is vying for the Tauranga seat.

OPINION:

It pays not to over-interpret byelection results, but when it comes to the Tauranga byelection both National and Labour should bear something in mind.

Labour should not too easily dismiss the result as a foregone conclusion and National should not get too cocky about its convincing victory.

Labour's caution should be in case Tauranga proves to be something of a bellwether result at least for other provincial seats.

All Labour's candidate Jan Tinetti could muster by way of solace after getting about 25 per cent of the byelection votes was to say she had done no worse than in 2017. In 2017, Tinetti was a first-time candidate and Labour was rising from a dismal poll base.

If the byelection result is mirrored in the general election result, then Labour has lost all of the advantage it got in the 2020 election and in the Tauranga byelection it seemed happy to let it go without even a fight.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should perhaps be ruing her decision not to make just a little bit more effort in the Tauranga byelection and writing it off as a lost cause so thoroughly from the very beginning.

National was always going to win, the PM was right in that. But not putting in at least a token effort to get the Labour vote out and try to hold on to some of the 2020 vote in that byelection may have been a mistake, with a general election little more than a year away.

Ardern did not visit the campaign at all, partly by circumstance but also by design: she was out of action with Covid-19 and then on the US and Australia trips.

She had a visit scheduled in the last week but was sick that day. On byelection day she was in Queenstown.

The by design element was so she was not associated with a stonking loss - and to try to starve it of attention.

In a bid to distance herself from the loss, Ardern had written off Labour's chances from day one - not just downplayed them but written them off completely.

It left Jan Tinetti fighting alone. It also sent an appalling message to the people of Tauranga - and by extension the people of other provinces. To Labour voters it sent the message not to bother voting. To the rest it sent the message that Labour had given up holding on to its 2020 haul.

In 2020 Labour came close to taking the Tauranga seat Simon Bridges' majority shrank to 1800 votes and Labour beat National in the party vote.

It did take a number of other supposedly safe National provincial seats.

At the time the PM acknowledged many of those voters may not have normally voted for Labour - and pledged to govern for all of them. Success in 2023 will depend on Labour at least holding some of them.

The Tauranga byelection would have been a way of trying to hold up that vote.

As it was, Act put up more of a fight in Tauranga than Labour did and it had even less chance of winning.

The reason Act leader David Seymour went there time and again was to take out insurance for 2023 when the same voters will also be casting party votes.

Show the voters you're there and listening through the term and it just might help in 2023. Act's candidate Cameron Luxton pulled in 10 per cent of the vote, higher than in 2017 or 2020, despite National's vote also rising.

As for National, the votes for Sam Uffindell were as much votes for leader Christopher Luxon and renewed hope in the party among its base as for Uffindell himself. Luxon needed a good win there by way of concrete evidence that the party was back.

However, National should not get too cocky because there is little doubt Uffindell's result was inflated by a low turnout on the left.

The Green Party did not stand a candidate at all. Labour barely raised a finger to campaign. Once Ardern had declared the contest over before it began, its voters had very little incentive to go out and tick a box.

The 2015 Northland byelection showed National the perils of taking a win in a seat for granted.

Then prime minister John Key announced that NZ First's Winston Peters did not have a snowball's chance in hell of winning it. Northland may well be the winterless North, but it was clearly a bitterly cold day in hell and Peters won.

Tauranga could well be a lesson to Labour that it also pays not to look as if you are taking a loss in a seat for granted.

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