New Zealand

2016: The year of whimsical hair pieces and a Key

Good morning. Or afternoon, evening, or noon where ever you all are.

My, my, did we ever have an entertaining year. Though I suspect many will have more colourful phrases to describe the year that was 2016. Below I briefly touch on only two of our shock moments in 2016: one which involves a whimsical hair piece on an orange head, and the man after Obama’s heart.

Mr Donald Trump, if you had not already heard¹, is all geared up as the 45th POTUS. This was ground-shaking news across the globe. Even days following the Trump victory people walked around the streets in a dazed disbelief. One of the great² things that the 2016 USA Presidential elections highlighted was how non-democratic the land of the free was. As you’ve already read elsewhere, Clinton had the popular vote but Trump snagged the electoral college (come back on January 13th to see more on this!).

In other news, with the wake of Mr Trump’s election victory, came Prime Minister (of New Zealand) John Key’s resignation. By no means am I suggesting that Mr Trump’s victory is the reason for Key’s resignation, but here Dr Bryce Edwards suggests that it, and Brexit, bring some additional stressors, so maybe it played a small part.

In my lifetime this has never happened before: a Prime Minister stepping down early. Strategically this works well for the National Party to trial out someone else in the top job and for the nation to gain some familiarity with a new leader before the general elections in 2017.

Key more or so says that he would not be able to give the job his all to complete his term and carry on into another term, and so he has chosen to leave. This is considerate, strategic but considerate. Though I wonder if we should we let a man who has put his hand up to serve the nation just step down because it’s gotten a bit hard? After all it is a hard job to be a leader to a nation. Aren’t our leaders expected to be made of harder stuff? To stand up and continue, to hold us up, and keep the nation going? But then again is it not right for a leader to step down should he or she feel that they are no longer able to give the nation their 100%? After all what use is a leader who cannot fully support the nation?

So what happens now for New Zealand? Do we have to put up with some replacement who we did not vote for? Ultimately, yes. Under our constitutional conventions the resignation of a Prime Minister between elections does not change the composition of the Government. Currently the New Zealand Government, whilst a representative government, is led by the National Party (the majority) and it is the leader of the National Party who serves as the Prime Minister. With Key’s resignation, the Party has  already selected a new leader for their Party who is now the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand, as appointed by the Governor-General.

The New Zealand and American governments are built differently. Our politics are different, as are our needs as nation states. With the change in the air I look forward to seeing how New Zealand balances it’s relationship with Trump’s USA, in the face of a new Prime Minister and New Zealand’s growing economic relationship with China. Conversely what will Trump’s America look like as an ally to nations who are not Russia.³

¹ P.s. Please give us the address to that rock, we would much enjoy curling up under it too

² The definition of great used here is not to suggest that it was a good thing, but maybe more along the lines of a ridiculously crazy flaw in the system


Lithuanian mural depicts Trump and Putin in liplock

Lithuanian mural depicts Trump and Putin in liplock;  Source: CBS News





The Fifth Eye

Recently, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key took a trip to Washington, which included secret  (read: undeclared) trip to the National Security Agency headquarters. This trip seems to have generated new interest in New Zealand’s membership to Five Eyes, some of which has talked about  New Zealand being welcomed back into the fold back in 2009 – a fold that also includes West Zealand (a.k.a Australia), Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Whilst the exact reasons for New Zealand’s some two decade absence are hazy, it is worth remembering that in 1984 then-Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using NZ ports or entering NZ waters, and this was succeeded by the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act of 1987.

[Bonus: If interested check out journalist Toby Manhire’s take (read:opinion piece) on the briefing for POTUS (President of the United States) written in the lead up to the official leader meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister John Key].

Initially, the Five Eyes provided signal intelligence, but they have since extended to include human intelligence and defense intelligence. The origins of the Five Eyes can be traced back to World War II and in particular to the plans of five (yes, you heard it hear first: five) nations regarding the post-war world. Where some call constant vigilance the price of freedom, Anna Crowe speaks of documentations revealed by Edward Snowden highlighting New Zealand’s active role and in its light she questions whether Five Eyes is something wee New Zealand wants a part of. A part that has seen contribution from New Zealand’s own intelligence agencies, including the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) providing signal intelligence. Now, the scandal involving Kim Dotcom and the GCSB might be quite fresh in the minds of some Kiwis – ah, all that trouble with aged-off information, or was the information simply meant to be archived? Does this sound familiar? It should, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle in the USA recently regarding the IRS, an audit and some lost emails – more on this from my partner in crime in The IRS Scandal to Date (as at June 21st 2014).