Washington’s Victoria Gaither will address the National Press Club Tues Feb 5 2019 and in doing so will present an overview of the most imminent and beguiling political conundrum of the era.

This centres on the Trump administration, its objectives, and how it intends to implement them.

Emmy award –winning Miss Gaither began her career at ABC working with Ted Koppel, became a mainstay of the Washington National Press Club, and there an associate of the New Zealand Club’s lifetime achievement award laureate, the late Connie Lawn.

In her talk Miss Gaither (above) will take her audience inside the Trump administration, its people, and its consequences for New Zealand.

Inquiries to National Press Club events director Rex Benson at... This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dear Sir

I was greatly concerned with Stuff’s Editor-in-Chief Patrick Crewdson’s proclamation to disallow articles that challenged climate-change in his company’s publications. I was nonetheless heartened to see that a Mr Andy Esperson of Nelson had complained about this to the Media Council.

As Mr Esperson’s complaint however was not upheld I considered your organisation as perhaps the only court of appeal available to apply pressure to reinstate the previous status quo.

In New Zealand greenhouse gas estimates are the result of computer modelling studies.

These estimates are therefore speculative rather than proven and subsequently globally the warming theories remain challenged by a substantial body of science.

The Fairfax organisation’s decision to shut down any debate on the topic remains worrying.

The Media Council’s decision to support Fairfax in ignoring any contrary discussion is even more concerning.

The only reasoning that I can come to is that the Fairfax decision must be ascribed to a marketing drive to encourage subscriptions among younger and therefore more ideologically-prone subscribers.

The Media Council meanwhile could therefore be viewed as deliberately encouraging censorship on a current topic and one that a large range of citizenry regard as still being up for debate.

There is also the matter of Fairfax’s dominant position, indeed exclusive presence, in many cities in which there are substantial scientific research institutes.

For instance Nelson, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton would be among them.

There was a time when such cities accommodated rival newspapers proclaiming their political allegiances.

The belief is that the subsisting newspaper, in the absence of this rivalry, should take an impartial line.

The Fairfax chain and with the endorsement of the Media Council now emphatically infers that this state of affairs of balance ceases to exist.

Yours faithfully

Rick Long

(Mr Long for many years has been a municipal and regional councillor and is currently a District Health Board member)

Sunday, 04 March 2018 15:56

Philippines is Multi Cultural, Diverse, Polynesian, Points Out Ambassador Gary Domingo

Philippines is Multi Cultural, Diverse, Polynesian, Points Out Ambassador Gary Domingo

 An intense and often exclusive focus on the economies of north Asia dazzled and often blinded New Zealand to a clear view of the rather more accessible value of the Philippines, the country’s ambassador Jesus Domingo told the National Press Club in Wellington.

He observed a similarity between New Zealand and the Philippines in that both nations were obscured by more powerful neighbours.

Australia in New Zealand’s case and China for the Philippines

In New Zealand’s case this was Australia. In the Philippines instance it was the industrial powerhouses of north Asia, notably China.

Mr Domingo was speaking on the topic of “New Zealand’s Asia Opportunity Hiding in Full Sight---The Philippines.”

Mr Domingo, who also represents his country in Oceania, noted the Philippines transition in historical terms in relatively recent times from a Spanish colony to moving under the United States aegis, and then more recently still to independence under the Washington governmental system.

This had made the Philippines far more multicultural, and diverse than was widely perceived, he said.

For example it was not generally understood that the Philippines lay on the northern fringe of the Polynesian migration and settlement.

“We even look like you!” He ventured, reinforcing his people-like-us theme.

The sharing of a number of Polynesian-Maori words was testament to all this he noted.

Mr Domingo touched upon but did not specify the trade and investment links which include for example Philippine ownership of New Zealand food processors Griffins, and also Goodman Fielder.

Neither did he dwell on the New Zealand trade balance with the Philippines which runs at five times in New Zealand’s favour.

Mr Domingo veered diplomatically away from the submerged issue of why in the current free trade frenzy the Philippines featured so rarely, if at all.

He did stress though the Philippines pre-eminence in the export of its people reprising the concept of an empire on which the “sun never set” because Philippine nationals were everywhere; 50,000 in New Zealand.

Noting that a common language, English, and a common religion, Christianity, were powerful elements in enabling Philippine nationals to become productive members of Commonwealth economies, he also stressed his peoples' pre-eminence in caring in roles such as “nannies, and nurses,” as he described them.

Mr Domingo, noting the presence at this same National Press Club event of Singapore High Commissioner Bernard Baker, singled out the island state as a particularly outstanding example of a Commonwealth member in which flourished Philippine nationals in this caring, nurturing sector,

Mr Domingo defined also a willing quality in the Philippine workforce which he described as being one of “meekness” which enabled nationals to take up such a large part of the arduous New Zealand milking shed capability.

Mr Domingo, who prefers to be known as Gary, served as Philippine Consul in Saudi Arabia, and was a member of the Philippine delegations to the United Nations in Geneva and also New York.


Greg Besa JP Philippine community leader, H.E Jesus Domingo, National Press Club treasurer Bryan Weyburne, National Press Club president Peter Isaac, High Commissioner for Singapore H.E Bernard Baker.

Stalwarts -National Press Club’s Richard Long and Joyce Gibson

Puzzlement -National Press Club event director Rex Kropotkin Benson

Asia traders- Andrew and Melody Criglington

Clubbers- Adrienne and Ian Stewart

 Philippines is Multi Cultural, Diverse, Polynesian, Points Out Ambassador Gary Domingo



Monday, 08 January 2018 12:16

Media No-Go Zones---Where Angels Fear to Tread

Excerpts from President’s interview with National Press Club associate service MSC Newswire

Where do you see the mainstream media now?
In a rather stronger position than it appears to see itself. There are the revenue shifts in which their giveaway versions are flourishing especially in property advertising. Similarly the broadcasters have a solid localised radio backbone via carrying advertising for patent medicines, directed at those of mature years, their audience base. The radio and giveaway grip on district advertising is notable in rural areas where people are not as internet friendly as those who live in the cities. The mainstream is now reaping the benefit of its own investment in technology and so production costs are falling. Paper and plant is an example in print. Electronics overheads in broadcasting. Both print and broadcasting are at last eliminating news double handling and instead are now belatedly sharing divisional content. This applies to the dailies and their stablemate giveaways exchanging news and also we have now the shared corporate umbrella radio-tv broadcasting simulcasts.

Contrary to the accepted version, few of us in the event learn from experience and the newspaper chains were no exception. The one place newspaper people should not be in advancing their cause is in front of constituted authority, especially in something such as combining forces. They pleaded with commissions and courts to no avail. You will now find them more sensibly encouraging management buy-outs, and they have already had at least one success here. Under this operational, rather than judicial, approach they control central shared services in terms of production, procurement, and sales, and also distribution.

More significantly, and this is the important element in all this, I keep getting this strong impression that still nothing actually happens until it is picked up by the mainstream media. Here now is an example.

The major non mainstream news pipeline here now is not as many people believed the bloggers and web site operators. In the event it is the Taxpayers Union watchdog lobby which sends its disclosures out by email, a modern metaphor for a newspaper arriving on your doorstep. It was the Taxpayers that revealed how the government had donated to Saudi Arabia an entire agri stock handling depot.

My interest was pricked because one of our speakers, the Reagan era National Security Adviser Richard Allen, had declared that Saudi Arabia was “totally corrupt” and should be “invaded.” I had observed also that the journalists present ignored these comments, even though they had the speaker’s speech notes.

A similar silence followed the stock handling depot donation revelation.

The Taxpayers though hammered away with stories sprouting from their original break. Eventually the mainstream had to take it up. The point being that only then did the story take legs. They were, and still are, wobbly ones. But only through the mainstream could the episode, Byzantine as it is, enter the wider shared public consciousness and thus generate the imperative for those responsible to try to explain how the New Zealand funded process works had materialised in the desert.

There are a number of curious media no-go zones. These should now be filled, if only to focus community cohesion on the local dailies as problem solvers.

For some reason the dog problem is one such zone. The noisy motorbike problem, another standover matter, and in clear defiance of the law, is another.

Is the mainstream media collectively liberal-left in its attitude?
. The liberal-left leaning of the working journalists was once counterbalanced by the equally strong conservatism of the management-proprietor class. So you had a balance. Today the mainstream is neither right nor left. It is neither liberal nor conservative. The dominant ideology today is political correctness. This is co-equally held by the operations people and the management people. This last do so out of fear of being seen not to embrace it.

How would you say that this ideology manifests itself?
It rests on displaying an exaggerated ultra politeness by bestowing it upon any category that at any time might have been considered to have been officially discriminated against, anywhere, and not just a minority, and not just the materially-deprived. It is transmitted via constant lightly coded call signs signalling that the media person is on the side of the angels. A broadcasting example is in Kauri trees pronounced as “Cody” trees and the place name Keri Keri delivered as “Kiddy Kiddy.”

I knew the broadcaster Bill Keri Keri, the leading Maori language exponent of his day. An exceptionally courteous person he never assumed that anyone knew who he was. So he always re-introduced himself. I can never recall him describing himself as Bill Kiddy Kiddy.

I should attribute the extreme politeness definition, the bit which requires this tip-toeing around growing chunks of human activity, to Paul Johnson who delivered it to us presciently at the outset of the syndrome.

The point being made here is that such a strong and tendentious filter is being brandished by practitioners who describe themselves as belonging to what they rate as profession.

One which is obliged to cover people and events without fear or favour.

Talking of angels, the National Press Club has involved itself too with some villains – Kurt Waldheim….David Irving?
Kurt Waldheim was platformed while he was secretary general of United Nations. It was not generally known at this time, certainly not here, that he had benefitted from a general post war whitewash, a still unacknowledged official cover up, of Austria’s whole involvement in the war and especially so in the matter of its war criminals. It was only Waldheim’s unstoppable seeking of high office that meant that his participation in atrocities eventually was revealed.

David Irving, who had visited New Zealand before, became an unavoidable international newsmaker after his failed libel case in London, now the subject of the wide-screen film Denial. In the event he was prevented from embarking to New Zealand so the issue became moot.

A National Press Club must confront controversy rather than sidestep it and do so in order to obtain ironically enough an unmediated, direct, account of why beliefs are held and actions taken. Ideally from those who have stood at the cross roads of history. In our case from Chaim Herzog, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Lee Kuan Yew, Oliver Tambo, the Dalai Lama among many others.


A municipal art gallery has hung around the life and times of National Press Club vice president Peter Bush an exhibition encompassing the photo journalist’s work in covering international rugby test matches over almost 70 years.

The photographs of the various All Black matches also literally spill out into the streets of Masterton from the exhibition at the town’s Aratoi Art Gallery..

The son-et-lumiere exhibition is thought to be the first instance at any such municipal gallery in which is commemorated the themes in the same display of sport, photography, and applied journalism, and which then overflows and become amplified in the display shop windows of the township at large.

Masterton is the regional hub of New Zealand’s Wairarapa Valley, an extensive mountain-girt farming region north of the capital, Wellington.

The exhibition is entitled Hard on the Heels and in it Bush runs refrain on his life’s work which is that rugby is a “hard game for hard men.”

In it Bush also demonstrates by inference the order and method inherent in his long career in the preservation and meticulous cataloguing of his negatives.

The exhibition starts at Aratoi with a wall montage of the Hard on the Heels exhibition (pictured) with a voice-over by Bush himself on some of the highlights.

Visitors are then presented with a street map of Masterton with the score or so of retail establishments and cultural institutions at which bunches of the same photographs, but much larger, are on display.

These include for example the famed Masterton Art Club (pictured), not usually a repository of the output of working journalists, as well as the valley’s centre of haute coiffure, Maggie B’s, where stylist Courtney Blake (pictured) sets the scene.

The Wairarapa Valley is one of New Zealand’s most storied regions being still populated by the descendants of many of its pioneering families and because of its spectacular north and south access routes, the Rimutaka Pass and the Manawatu Gorge.

Another thread between art and the press. Masterton’s Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art & History was the recipient of endowments from National Press Club stalwart the philanthropist and physician the late Dr Ian Prior and his family.

Monday, 27 March 2017 10:43

New Zealand should sustain a suitably detached
policy position over present NATO-Russia---
“ We do not have a dog in the fight...”

Five questions for ex United Nations Security Council President Terence O’Brien.

MSCNewswire/National Press Club/EIN service/ Monday 27 March 2017||Few practitioners from any nation have enjoyed quite such an extended career at the heart of the global firmament as British-born diplomat Terence O’Brien (above). He was president of the Security Council of United Nations during the Balkans conflict. He was one of the principal access negotiators on behalf of New Zealand when Britain originally entered the European Common Market. He has occupied posts in London, Brussels, Bangkok and Geneva. He was the founding director of the Institute of Strategic Studies. 

You have been an outspoken opponent of mixing trade with foreign affairs?

This is not strictly accurate. I take issue rather with the jargon that “all New Zealand foreign policy is trade” which is a holdover from earlier times and reflected today in a sense promoted by some New Zealand leaders, that NZ’s success and place in the world is to be judged primarily by the number of Free Trade Agreements that it is able to secure.

NZ’s modern experience especially in respect to emergent Asia proves emphatically that successful trade arrangements depend firstly and vitally upon sound political and diplomatic relationships (China is a prime but by no means solitary example). NZ’s accomplishments in Asia and indeed elsewhere rely in other words, upon earned trust with other governments. Fostering that trust is a political/diplomatic responsibility.

Predictable trade relationships require a great deal more than nimble private sector commercial skills- although those are indispensable of course to overall success and the New Zealand private sector plus NZ primary producer groups have been notably effective in this regard.

To what extent do you view the recent NZ sponsorship of the UN Israel censure as a development of this blend?

There may have been in the minds of some on the NZ side, the thought that sponsorship might earn credits in some Gulf States where NZ seeks to formalise free trade arrangements; but around the UNSC table there is genuine concern about the danger for the future of ‘two state solution’ to the Israel/Palestine conflict ,that has been the long established diplomatic basis for eventual peace. The present Israeli government appears openly to resile from this formula as it continues resolutely to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank, a practice deplored by the UN Security Council. From the moment it gained a place on the 2015-16 UNSC NZ committed itself to contributing to the search for progress on this key issue. Co-sponsorship of the eventual UNSC resolution which calls as well for Palestinians to desist from provocation and terrorism, was the logical consequence.

Looking back on your days as a dairy sector negotiator during Britain’s entry into the Common Market, how do you view Brexit now in terms of NZ diplomacy and trade?

From the perspective of a small, distant but companionable partner of Europe, Brexit appears to be a mistake. It comes too at a time when conservative populism is on the rise within Europe with the emergence of right wing nationalist political groups in several countries. Twentieth century experiences of European mistakes and miscalculations and their devastating global consequences, not once but twice, are not to be overlooked.

British entry into Europe was a taxing experience for NZ. The deals struck for safeguarding NZ trade interests represented a stay of execution rather than reprieve for this country . Within relatively short periods of negotiated transition the New Zealand farm economy was obliged to diversify production and markets. That process drove foreign policy extending NZ political and diplomatic interests to a wide range of new partners (in the Middle East, Communist Europe, Latin America and, most notably Asia) . It consolidated NZ as a genuine world trader with global interests. Global interests are inextricably bound up with global responsibilities even for small countries, and require contributions to global wellbeing and stability.

The process deepened NZ support for international rules based behaviour particularly in trade but also in directly related areas such as peace and security, freedom for transport and navigation, responsible behaviour in global environmental and resource protection and so forth. Because of the very nature of its own being the European Union (EU) has been a notable champion of an international rules based system. But the fact of BREXIT places a question mark over how influential a collective European voice will now be in the future. At a time when American commitment to global rules is questionable under a new inexperienced President Trump, the need for sustained collective European support for the system has never been greater. The foreseeable future suggests that New Zealand will crucially need the courage of its convictions.

How do you feel about the Helen Clark bid to be the UN Secretary General especially in regard to her role as an officer of the UN at the time?

The selection process for a new UN Secretary General in 2016 sought to break new ground - which is always difficult in the UN. Formal candidatures backed by governments and involving public job interviews were decreed for the first time in 70 years. Hitherto candidatures had been exclusively personal affairs and selection decided behind tightly held UN Security Council doors where the votes of the five permanent Council members (US, UK, France, Russia and China) were decisive. This time a new approach was defined in the interests of greater transparency and democracy in the selection process. It is stretching things somewhat to suggest those goals were achieved.

There was a general sentiment beforehand that the new appointee should be from Eastern Europe (which has never supplied a UN Secretary General ) and also be female (which would be a first). In the event neither aspiration prevailed and the choice, of a Portuguese male, was once again taken behind closed doors at the UNSC.

Helen Clark was a creditable candidate and the NZ government campaigned for her, but her success depended first and foremost upon her own efforts. She came as a candidate from within the ranks of the UN itself, but this is not without precedent (Kofi Annan one the most effective SGs, was a UN Secretariat employee). As head of the UN’s largest aid institution she was well known across a very wide number of UN member countries ( especially developing countries).The reasons for her lack of success will probably never be known in full. Her relatively poor showing in the straw polling of UN member countries before the final appointment, was an undeniable disappointment. The most that can be said is that she was a serious contender; and NZ can take some consolation from that.

What are your views on Russia and NZ’s participation in the US-EU trade embargo?

With Russia and NATO we are reaping what was sown. At the end of the Cold War there was an opportunity for the Americans and Europeans to consolidate a cooperative inclusive (of Russia) security system for a post CW Europe. The Soviet led Warsaw Pact subsided into oblivion which is what military alliances historically do when conflicts end, and/or the reason for their existence disappears. NATO in direct contrast did not. It was enlarged with new members, new bases installed and its boundaries extended into Russia’s borderlands - which for the US anyway potentially included Ukraine. But who was the adversary? An enfeebled Russia could do nothing but (as George Kennan amongst others warned) one could not rule out economic recovery by Russia and new leadership that objected to NATO expansion (which included into the affairs of the Middle East) and would push back. Enter Mr Putin, and so it has come to pass. His preemptive seizure of Crimea (where the Russian fleet has had a base for two centuries or so) is contrary to the international rule of law - but hardly surprising in the wake of western foolhardiness.

NZ should sustain a suitably detached policy position over present NATO-Russia. We do not have a dog in the fight. Russia does not threaten the US although Putin clearly intends that Russia be assertive and taken seriously internationally. Russian interference in the US electoral process may or may not have occurred. If it is proven Russians would presumably point to equivalent American policies in the name of “spreading democracy” in Russia ,its satellites, and including Ukraine. They are, on both sides, ‘pots calling kettles black’


Friday, 03 March 2017 15:34

Don Brash to take Hobson's Pledge
into General Election---says
Ordinary People Fear Speaking  Out
on accelerating Separatism

MSC Newswire - National Press Club service - Napier, Friday 3 March 2017  |  Nobody today in so many different roles and for quite so long has stood at the centre of public life so enduringly as Don Brash. Economist, businessman, banker, politician, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank and leader of the National Party has defied typecasting. At one and the same time severe yet extravagant, austere yet colourful, scholarly yet populist, he has contrived always to reconfigure himself around the times. Now he has stridently intervened in institutionally-fuelled separatism. Shrouded in a protective veneer of high-minded fashionable purpose that makes ordinary people fearful to question it, Dr Brash vehemently, unequivocally declares the voguish syndrome as ultimately destined to tear the nation apart......

You are often considered to be at heart primarily concerned with matters economic and their corresponding data. Yet here you are now immersing yourself in what many might consider a socio-ethical issue?

Yes, most of my career has been about monetary policy, banking, and economic issues more generally. But my interest in economics has always been because of my interest in the well-being of society more generally. I have long felt, for example, that it will be difficult or impossible to maintain a broadly egalitarian society in New Zealand – the kind of society in which I was brought up – if average living standards fall too far below those in Australia because of the ease with which skilled New Zealanders can cross the Tasman for very much higher incomes in Sydney or Melbourne.

If we want the kind of healthcare which those in advanced developed countries take for granted, we have to have the living standards to support that healthcare. A few years ago, there was a big debate about whether Pharmac should subsidize the provision of Herceptin for the treatment of certain kinds of breast cancer, and it was noted that Australia did so. The fact of the matter was that at that time virtually all the countries which subsidized access to Herceptin had higher living standards than New Zealand did; those which did not provide a subsidy, had lower living standards – we were right on the cusp. For me, interest in economics has always been about the implications of economic policy for the well-being of society.

Hence, I was strongly opposed to inflation in part at least because of the totally capricious effects which inflation has on wealth distribution – those who save in fixed interest instruments being thoroughly gutted by inflation, while those who borrow heavily to invest in, say, property, make huge and totally untaxed gains with little or no effort. That has always seemed to me to be grossly unjust.

Will the Hobson’s Pledge Movement become a force in the pending general election?
I certainly hope so. I find it very depressing that the National Party has moved such a long way from its roots in this policy area. In 2002, Bill English gave a lengthy and very thoughtful speech, demonstrating clearly that Maori chiefs had ceded sovereignty in signing the Treaty and arguing that the only way for a peaceful future for New Zealand was a “single standard of citizenship for all”.

In May 2003, he pledged that a future National Government would scrap separate Maori electorates, as the Royal Commission on the Electoral System had recommended in the late eighties if MMP were adopted. I made similar commitments when I was Leader of the National Party, as did John Key in the election campaign of 2008. And yet we’ve seen the National-led Government retreat a very long way from that position.

I applaud the fact that the current Government has accelerated the resolution of historical grievances, but utterly deplore the fact that too often resolution has involved not just financial redress but also “co-governance”.

We see the proposed amendment to the RMA requiring all local councils to invite their local tribes into so-called “iwi participation agreements”, involving co-governance on a grand scale. We saw the legislation establishing the Auckland super-city requiring an Independent Maori Statutory Board, with the Auckland Council giving members of that unelected Board voting rights on most Auckland Council committees.

We see the Government negotiating behind closed doors with the so-called Iwi Leaders Group to give tribes some form of special influence over the allocation of water, despite pretending to believe that “nobody owns water”. We see a proposal to make half the members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum tribal appointees.

The myth that the Treaty of Waitangi created some kind of “partnership” between Maori on the one hand (or more accurately, those who can claim at least one Maori ancestor, always now along with ancestors of other ethnicities) and the rest of us on the other is increasingly accepted as Holy Writ, subscribing to which is becoming essential for many positions in the public sector.

So I’m very much hoping that Hobson’s Pledge can help to substantially reverse this highly undemocratic drift after the next election.

You say that the National government is “pandering” to “separatist demands.” Which of these demands do you consider the most dangerous?

Where do I start? I’ve just listed some of the specific policies which are totally inconsistent with any reasonable definition of democracy. Most of those specific policies stem from the underlying myth that the Treaty established some kind of “partnership” between those with a Maori ancestor and those of us without, as I’ve just mentioned. But as David Lange said in the Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture in 2000, “the Court of Appeal once, absurdly, described [the Treaty] as a partnership between races, but it obviously is not. The Treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts.... To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.”

All the specific examples I gave in answer to the previous question stem from the underlying nonsense that there are two (and only two!) distinct groups of New Zealanders, those with preferential constitutional rights and those without them. This is leading New Zealand to disaster with a whole generation of part-Maori believing that they really do have superior constitutional rights to the rest of us.

To what degree would you ascribe this separatist development agitation as being primarily a project of the political class from whatever background?

Certainly, I think what you call the “political class” is the main driver of this separatist agitation, together with arguably most of the educational establishment, where adherence to so-called “Treaty principles” seems to be an absolute prerequisite for appointment to any teaching or leadership position.

The same is true in the public healthcare sector. But there is plenty of evidence that large numbers of the “general public” do not support the separatist agenda but are literally cowed into silence on the issue.

I regularly get people sidle up to me in the street and, after looking furtively up and down the street lest they are recognized by friends or acquaintances, tell me that they strongly agree with me. One university professor did this recently, but swore me not to mention his name or university department. And some of these people are Maori.

Of course, Hobson’s Pledge has two official spokespeople, one of whom is me and the other is Casey Costello, a woman of Ngapuhi and Anglo-Irish ancestry. But two of our very strongest supporters (though not members of our council) are Maori – one a prominent member of the Ngapuhi tribe and the other Ngati Porou.

The latter was a member of our council when we first established Hobson’s Pledge but, because he is closely associated with a political party, withdrew lest his membership of Hobson’s Pledge raise a question about whether we are a front for the political party he is closely associated with.

He resents the separatist agenda because he believes strongly that it is patronizing, implying that Maori aren’t quite good enough to make it successfully without these constitutional preferences.

Bearing in mind your underpinning career in banking, economics and looking now at the broader picture: where is the country now in your view in terms of nuts and bolts things such as balance of payments and foreign debt?

Compared with some other countries, we are in a good spot, with the economy growing, unemployment fairly low and government debt modest relative to GDP. Our banking sector is in reasonable shape. Even the extent of the country’s (public and private sector) total net external indebtedness is somewhat better than it was a decade ago, though still high by developed country standards.

But there are significant problems just below the surface of that apparently rosy picture. Yes, the economy is growing, but that is largely because the number of people in the workforce is growing strongly because of a high level of net immigration: productivity, and thus per capita income, is growing very slowly indeed, and the Government’s initial objective of closing the income gap with Australia by 2025 is not only not going to be achieved, the gap hasn’t reduced materially over the last eight years.

The ratio of government debt to GDP is modest by the standards of many other developed countries, but the Key Government did absolutely nothing to prepare the population for the need to adjust, for example, the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation if government debt is not to explode, relative to GDP, over the next few decades. (Mr English, to his credit, has refused to renew Mr Key’s pledge on this issue.)

And while the country’s net external indebtedness, relative to GDP, has improved somewhat in recent years, that external indebtedness remains at a high level, the consequence of New Zealand’s running a current account balance of payments deficit every year since 1974. Much of that deficit has been funded by banks borrowing on the international markets to fund the explosion of private sector housing debt, the result in turn of another serious policy failing, the failure to deal with the enormous increase in the price of housing (or more accurately, of residential land).


Tuesday, 21 February 2017 12:58

“Trying to predict President Trump through
traditional means, such as monitoring after-the-fact media,
is like using ouija boards, tarot cards, and horoscopes”---Scot Faulkner

The newly installed Trump Administration continues to catch New Zealand officialdom by surprise. So National Press Club president Peter Isaac asked Washington insider Scot Faulkner (above) what Wellington’s response should in fact be? Mr Faulkner was elected the first Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives. His reforms became a model for the operation of national parliaments around the world.

The New Zealand Foreign Ministry has set up a special focus group solely for the purpose of identifying early warning of new policies promulgated by President Trump, the ones which will have an impact on this country. Can you short circuit this by helpfully forecasting any of these pending surprise policies?

The New Zealand Foreign Ministry’s Trump Task Force will only be of value if it discards long held assumptions and embrace a totally new way of thinking and acting. Trying to predict Trump through traditional means, such as monitoring after-the-fact media, is like using ouija boards, tarot cards, and horoscopes.

The Ministry’s primary objective should be to move at “Trump speed” and navigate in Trump’s world. Non traditional sources, non traditional methods will be keys to success. Thinking like a visionary risk-taking entrepreneur instead of a politician is the first step into this new reality.

Trump is unique. No one like him has ever been the President of the United States. While a few Presidents had business experience, their main credentials were either the military or government. America usually faced political or military crises. The 2007-2008 economic collapse convinced most Americans that something radical was necessary. So they rallied around a businessman who was known to most as a reality television star. As Trump stated, “everyone else has failed you – what do you have to lose? Try me.”

Trump’s unique background means unique thought patterns and processes. President Trump gets his ideas, news, and validation from places never before involved in governing. He is fearless, non linear. He embraces chaos, acts on intuition, moves quickly, and uses surprise as a strategic weapon. Sometimes only he knows the ultimate objective. He is a student of military history, especially Sun Tzu. That is what gave him the winning edge in business, the Republican primaries, and the 2016 general election.

Trump’s new Administration is already being tested by China, Russia, and a variety of other nations. President Trump’s responses will indicate many things: how fast he responds, how he responds, how he views the challenge and the challenger, how he frames the challenge within his existing world view, how willing is he to vary from stated positions to address a unique situation, how willing is he to escalate, whose advice does he value, who he collaborates with, and who, how, and what does he communicate regarding the challenge to Congress, the American public, and other nations.

New Zealand needs to understand that the next four to eight years has a very different global player. Trump’s approach will be very personal, intimate, intuitive, immediate, chaotic, and against all conventional wisdom, very successful.

All the indications are that the New Zealand diplomatic apparatus in New York and Washington was wrong footed by the Trump ascendancy. This led to falling in line with the Obama era last moment positioning of New Zealand as co-endorser of the UN anti-Israel resolution. Does New Zealand need to backtrack here?

New Zealand should always be wary of being pulled into American politics. Obama’s last minute swipe at Israel during his waning days as President should have been avoided at all costs. Obama’s behind the scenes orchestration of the resolution, which was being delayed until the new Administration, was ill-advised and dilatory. It undermined decades of America being a positive force in the region.

President Trump is a great friend of Israel. He and his team believe that, historically, enemies of America have funded the radical elements of the Palestinian cause.

Trump is committed, heart & soul, to destroying radical Islam and reining-in Iran. His priority is working with those nations that share his view. He sees Israel, and the moderate Arab governments, like Egypt and Jordan, as allies in eradicating ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their regional and tribal affiliates throughout the Arab world, Asia, and Africa.

Trump and his foreign policy team fundamentally differ from the Neo-conservatives who surrounded President George W. Bush. They adhere more to the Reagan-Thatcher/John-Paul II approach of destroying tyranny, but not trying to second guess centuries of local custom through nation building. America’s role is to inspire, not intervene, in a nation’s journey toward a freer society.

Israeli settlements are far more complex than the media portrays. Palestinian contractors and workers build Israeli settlements. West Bank unemployment soars whenever Israel slows or suspends new settlements. The chasm between peaceful, free, and democratic Israel and violent, oppressive, Islamic failed states in the region is stark. Land for Peace has been a chimera for Israel. De-radicalizing Palestinian leaders and their movement would go further in creating lasting peace than continuing to place the onus on Israel.

The Anti-Israel Resolution validated Trump’s view that the United Nations is currently there to promote radical anti-Western policies while wasting vast sums of money. It further proves his wisdom of pursuing America’s interests through bilateral, not multilateral, arrangements.

New Zealand has supported in spirit the US-EU trade embargo against Russia called up by President Obama. Is there a defined timetable to conclude this embargo?

There is no defined timetable for ending or modifying the trade embargo against Russia.

President Trump and his inner circle have a non-ideological practical “America first” world view. It harkens back to the 17th/18th Centuries. During that era, Western nations united to stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire then competed, sometimes violently, to dominate world trade.

President Trump wants to build relationships with Russia and China for ridding the world of rogue players – radical Islam, Iran, and North Korea. This is why he picked Rex Tillerson, who has strong relationships with Russia as his Secretary of State, and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who is friends with President Xi Jinping, as Ambassador to China. This is also why Trump picked a skilled fighter, James Mattis, as his Secretary of Defense.

Trump’s trade and business team is equally ready to help America win in world commerce. Wilbur Ross, Steve Mnuckin, and Robert Lighthizer will aggressively negotiate favorable trade agreements and rebuild U.S. competitiveness.

Russia remains problematic as its adventurism in Ukraine and intimidation of the Baltic States complicates Trump’s desire to be “frenemies”. Tillerson will be challenged to craft the right mix of incentives and punishments to refocus Russo-American relations. The current US-EU trade embargo will be assessed within this context.

The Transpacific Partnership Agreement signed in Auckland last year was No 1 on President Trump’s hit list. Looking at the longer term where do you see the advantages/disadvantages in this?

President Trump is all about building one-on-one personal relationships with world leaders. Bi-lateral relationships were his strong suit in business and will serve him well as President. They allow him more flexibility and agility. He has little interest in multi-lateral agreements or entities.

This is why TPP was in his cross hairs as a candidate and now as President. New Zealand and other TPP nations need to offer their best “value proposition” for trade relationships that will benefit the U.S. as much as themselves. These are the kinds of agreements that will get Trump’s attention and become his priority.

Trump prides himself on the foreign investments in America he has facilitated or promoted. He wants American companies to “come home” to America, and foreign companies to settle in America. Trump’s goal is to bring the best of the world to America to rebuild infrastructure and generate lasting employment opportunities. There is a new world of opportunity for New Zealand investment and partnering in America.

Given the available evidence it is hard not to conclude that officials here have only a threadbare understanding of what is going on in the relevant circles of United States policymaking. Where should they be looking? Who should they be talking to now?

Trump’s tweets remain the best original source. Trump won the nomination and the general election by going directly to the public. Over 50 million Americans follow Trump on Twitter and Facebook. The Washington-New York media have become completely irrelevant to the Trump Administration and to Trump’s America.

President Trump has revolutionized the way policy is created, promoted, and implemented. The establishments within the Federal Government, Congress, media, academia, and policy forums, still do not have a clue about what is happening before their eyes.

America’s post-Cold War drift through four failed Presidents has come to an end.

Reagan won the Cold War by using skills he developed in movies and television to command the world stage. Those skills destroyed the Soviet Empire, relaunched the U.S. economy, and redefined the role of government. Trump is using his business and reality television skills to command the world stage for himself and the United States. Like Reagan, Trump is seeking to defeat tyranny, in this case radical Islam, relaunch the U.S. economy, and not just redefine, but completely reinvent government. The establishment dismissed Reagan until he succeeded. The establishment is dismissing Trump, and will be just as embarrassed should he succeed.

Conservative talk radio speaks for Trump and puts his actions and tweets into context. They aggressively expose the liberal media and the Democrats when they promote fake news and conspiracies about Trump. Trump watches Fox news, listens & calls into conservative talk radio, and avidly follows their social media posts. Each validates the other. The most articulate and insightful conservative commentators are Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine, and Chris Plante. Washington-based WMAL radio hosts all three.


Saturday, 11 February 2017 12:57

Morgan's Runabout
On Display at
 Annual Journo
March Past

Energetic agricultural specialist Jon Morgan decided to acquire a new car in order to commemorate his 50 years in journalism. The hands-on reporter opted for both substance and style. He acquired the very last of the British premium luxury cars in service in the New Zealand corporate and official sphere--- the Rover that was once also  the standard limousine for diplomats and cabinet members.

The vehicle with its smooth leather and wood upholstery is barely run-in.  The acquisition went on display at the 22nd annual review of long serving Wellington region journalists which is always held in January on the Morgan estate near Otaki.


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