Getting the terms of engagement right with Australia

A visiting Hong Kong democracy activist and former top public servant had this advice last week: “It is in each country’s interests to be clear about the terms of engagement.”

Anson Chan was talking about engagement with Hong Kong and its domineering master, China, which, she said, under Xi Jinping, is not upholding the 1997 “one-country-two-systems” undertaking when it took over the territory.

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Dribble politics: quenching policy hotspots

It’s the third term, for sure. Last week Michael Woodhouse dribbled some policy coolant on a political hotspot: hot immigration numbers. Judith Collins tried the same on police numbers.

Teeming immigration has nicely swelled economic growth statistics, which boost re-election chances in 2017.

But it has also kept wages low in some sectors through liberal issuance of holiday and temporary work visas, has contributed to careering house prices and added to the strain on underfunded health, education and social support services, not least for parents brought in to reunify families.

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Do capitalists want to keep capitalism healthy?

Justin Lester is young, intelligent and gawkily personable — mayor of Wellington against what some thought long odds. What could he do for Labour nationally if he was in Parliament?

Certainly, senior Labour figures drew attention to him through his two council terms.

He, Phil Goff in Auckland and Lianne Dalziel’s easy win in Christchurch and higher Labour-Green numbers on big-city councils have lifted morale a little in a Labour party fearing a fourth term in opposition.

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Where is the “centre” in populist times?

Helen Clark doesn’t know when to bow out. That is not a statement about her bid to boss the United Nations. It is about her bossing the Labour party.

Labour needed, she told Radio New Zealand last week, to hold the “centre ground”, as she said she had.

That implies that Andrew Little’s Labour party, shacked up with “left”-ish Greens, has tilted too far “left”. It glosses her failure in 2008 to hold the “centre” against John Key’s National party.

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Now for a revamp of “tertiary” education?

John Key declared on The Nation that he would serve out a fourth term if re-elected. That would make him the third-longest-serving Prime Minister.

King Dick Seddon did four and a-bit terms from 1893 to 1906 — 13 years, 41 days.

Farmer Bill Massey did most of four terms, from seven months after the 1911 election to six months before the 1925 one — 12 years, 10 months. (One term was five years.)

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Rule by citizens and remaking the constitution

Rule by citizens: that ideal is what a leading Young New Zealand First man said drew him to be active in Winston Peters’ party.

This young man, like most of his expanding cohort in the party, is a university student, not a gullible yokel. He is completing a master’s degree.

On cue, New Zealand First passed a remit at its conference two weekends back that pushed for citizens’ initiated referendums (CIRs) to be binding, needing signatures from only 5% of the electorate to get it up (against 10% now) though requiring, on Peters’ intervention, a 66% yes vote to pass.

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Robertson’s task: to build something to be proud of

Three National ministers and an MP proclaimed in Parliament last Wednesday their “pride” in what their government has done on climate change. Really?

The cabinet’s proud record is an emissions trading scheme which exempted farmers and traded in crooked units from Russia and Ukraine plus tentative moves on transport and heating and research on animal methane.

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