Foreign policy was at the forefront this week as almost everyone accused everyone else of “blindly following others” over China, while the PM switched vinyl with Australia’s new leader
International travel is back on for Kiwis but the post-Covid rules and regulations as to who’s allowed where and on what basis are a bit of a – I was going to say ‘dog’s breakfast’ but that’s now a hashtag reserved exclusively for Kamahl Santamaria’s departure from TVNZ’s Breakfast show #dogsbreakfast, and incidentally if TVNZ CEO Simon Power loses his post about #dogsbreakfast I’m also claiming the hashtag #poweroutage – so let’s go with mish mash. International travel rules are a bit of a mish mash, especially in the Pacific where the new travel protocol is that you can only visit another Pacific nation if you’re concerned about that nation’s relationship with China.
That’s why Jacinda Ardern has crossed the Tasman. Australia has a terrible relationship with China and we’re right to be concerned about it. Sure, the trip was dressed up as a visit to congratulate new Australian Prime Minister – checks notes – Anthony Albanese, but we all know, including China, that it was really about China. If only the visit had been a more obvious celebration that ScoMo is NoMo, that would have been something China would have got on board with. As things stand, the Anzac commentariat is now left to work out which collective noun best describes the warm relationship between Ardo and Albo – I’m opting for Cindanese – and who got the better of the vinyl gift exchange. Albo gave Ardo albums by Midnight Oil, Spiderbait and Powderfinger, whereas Ardo didn’t but should have given Albo albums by China Crisis, Shanghai Surprize and Beijing Daddy. Ardo also missed a rock’n’roll trick in not gifting Albo some denim to go with the vinyl, specifically a pair of classic Levi 501s, the acceptance of which would have made for a terrifically announceable – “New Australian PM Happy To Keep 501s ”.
International travel rules are a bit of a mish mash, especially in the Pacific where the new travel protocol is that you can only visit another Pacific nation if you’re concerned about that nation’s relationship with China.
It’s only a matter of time before Albo visits our shores under the new Pacific travel protocol because we also have an increasingly troubled relationship with China, and Australia will be concerned about that. Samoa must also be concerned about our relationship with China because Samoan PM Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is visiting us next week. Samoa’s concern no doubt follows Jacinda Ardern’s recent trip to the US where she was seen as clearly siding with the US in relation to China’s activism in the Pacific. This stance wasn’t broadcast too widely because it only related to her meeting with US President Joe Biden; it would have been much worse if she had made some Sinophobic comments to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.
Still, the signals were picked up in Beijing, causing the Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand to write to the PM complaining about this country “blindly following others”. Even former PM Helen Clark was reported this week as saying that New Zealand shouldn’t be making foreign policy decisions based on “blindly following others”. Query whether this was her own assessment or whether she was blindly following what the Chinese Ambassador had said about blindly following others. You can make your own assessment as to who’s blindly following who by reading Bryce Edwards’ newsletter “The Problem of ‘Blindly Following’ the US Against China”, specifically the section sub-headed ‘Blindly Following Traditional Allies’.
Albo gave Ardo albums by Midnight Oil, Spiderbait and Powderfinger, whereas Ardo didn’t but should have given Albo albums by China Crisis, Shanghai Surprize and Beijing Daddy.
On the upside, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta cannot be accused of following or indeed leading anyone anywhere, blindly or otherwise. She has been criticized in some quarters for not traveling enough in the Pacific, the punishment for which seems to be making her defend the Three Waters reform in her capacity as local government minister, which in turn makes her apparent travelphobia all the more puzzling. If I were both the foreign minister and the local government minister, and were asked to defend the Three Waters reform, you’d find me leaving on an extended diplomatic mission to the furthest Pacific atoll with the patchiest cellphone coverage. I’d struggled with the most basic first question about Three Waters – why are there three waters and what are they? Answering ‘our water, their water and we’re not sure whose water’ is probably tipping fuel on the co-governance debate so I’d blindly follow the science: there are three hydrogen isotopes in nature each of which can combine with oxygen making for three kinds of water on earth: protium, deuterium and tritium. Any follow-up questions are to be placed inside a bottle and tossed into the ocean off Cape Reinga in August to have the best chance of reaching me at the Palmyra Atoll before Christmas.
Besides, Three Waters isn’t the most important three to be asking questions about this week. That three is the three times Guyon Espiner described Chris Luxon’s head as a lightbulb in his profile piece this week, culminating in this Jilly Cooperism: “At the end of the path, the black front door opens and there is the light bulb again, pulsing away on top of a pink, Lacoste shirt, in the thin light of an autumn Sunday afternoon.”
You get the distinct feeling that the writer would blindly follow that lightbulb anywhere.
Have a peaceful weekend.