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Q+A: Panel response to interview with John Allen

Published: 10:38AM Sunday September 06, 2009 Source: Q+A

Panel response to JOHN ALLEN interview

PAUL So what do our panel make of the Foreign Affairs appointment, what do they make of John Allen.  Well I can begin the discussion perhaps by saying at last someone real at Foreign Affairs.

MATT ROBSON - Progressive Deputy Leader
 I'd absolutely agree with you, but I'd say worry about this John, there'll be a committee already in Foreign Affairs working out how to get rid of you, because there's a report in 200 commissioned by EMFAT  which was an Australian consultancy firm, which was hidden from us as Ministers, we came across it by accident, which said there's a closed and repressive culture in EMFAT and if you think, you get moved sideways.  So I think that has been the fact.  He's got a big job, he's got big issues, Afghanistan, climate change, President Obama is chairing the Security Council on the 24th of September.  He said I want to move form non proliferation to genuine disarmament, which will bring him into clash with interests in the United States who are against that message.  So it's a question I think of not being a friend with the United States, but whether we go as someone on equal level or we go with the deputy to the deputy sheriff.

PHIL O'REILLY - Business New Zealand
 And I disagree with that point about EMFAT, the reality is that EMFAT, best of people at EMFAT are the best of New Zealanders, they're fantastic folk, but there has been a tendency not to focus on trade so much, and I think the big opportunity for John is to get more focused on trade, and my sense of talking to lots of officials in Wellington about that and around the world, is many of them are up for it and I think he'll lead them very very well.

MATT Well I disagree that they're the best of New Zealanders, the advice that a senior EMFAT person gave to me, was that he was told as a young EMFATer that when in doubt do what the Australians and the Brits and the Yanks do.  That was the advice to him and many of the times when it's supposed to be our interests, people in EMFAT have actually looked to other shores as to what our interests are, otherwise you find it hard to explain why we were in Vietnam, you find it hard to explain why we backed President Suharto over East Timor, you find it hard to find why EMFAT argued so much that we'd have a policy that aligns with the United States over so many years.

THERESE ARESENAU - Political Analyst
 I think we're seeing a sign of changing culture in Wellington, the fact that he was even on TV talking to us, John Whitehead talked openly as well.  He is the first one who's come from outside into EMFAT but I would argue that he's exactly the sort of person that the reformers that set up the Chief Executive contacts had in mind.  You know people who could come in from the outside, bright, he's obviously - he's got a vision and that's what I really like about him.

PAUL  Trade focus there's not doubt about that.

THERESE Trade focus but you have to understand what trade is actually about, it's not just about raising more money, it's not just about increased productivity, it's increasing the future for our children, it's allowing our best and our brightest to stay home instead of having to go overseas, and ultimately it's bringing in more money so that we can afford a first class health and education system, and that's something - there's a human side to it and I think he bring that in.

PAUL What about aid, of course New Zealand's aid, you know responsibility for dispensing aid has now gone back into Foreign Affairs, have you got a problem with that?  He makes a point that it's gotta be a balance doesn't it, you know that diplomacy and aid are inextricably linked.

MATT Of course it has to be a balance and when it's inside EMFAT it won't be a balance trade, it will go back to being the grab bag of things that it was.  The report that we had as ministers was that they didn't know their backside at EMFAT from their elbow in regard to development aid, and therefore you got Prime Minister Muldoon putting a cigarette factory as aid into Samoa, you got EMFAT campaigning for Mike Moore to get his job at the WTO, and Don McKinnon in the Commonwealth, all good things for New Zealand but going to 93 countries with aid wasn't effective.  This new broom, I'm all for this new broom, it's a good appointment if he's going to open up and open up the culture, because you want your people discussing what are the best options for New Zealand, how should we get it not having a one world view, but with aid...

PAUL Well hang on here's what John Allen actually said about aid.

 John Allen:  'Well aid has always been aligned with diplomatic goals, I mean if you look at the footprint of our aid it's predominantly into the Pacific, the reality is that there's both diplomatic and aid initiatives in the Pacific and they are inextricably linked.'

PAUL We've talked about that of course, but well he's sees them inextricably linked as you say.

MATT  Nothing wrong with it being connected and economic development certainly is a big part of how people come out of poverty, the unequal distribution of wealth throughout the world, but if you for instance have an aid focus and a development focus, in Indonesia which our diplomatic goal was to be friends with President Suharto.

PHIL Twenty years old Matt, 20 years old, we're focused on the Pacific, it's a good idea to give people a job, to give people some economic development, that's what the goal is, I think that's a fantastic goal.

PAUL Therese you got on to it before about the character of John Allen, the nature of this person, who he represents, I mean he's the kind of charismatic person, it seems to me from watching this morning, who you could send anywhere and he could represent us in a real kind of clear fashion.

THERESE What I like about him too is I think he epitomises what we talk about in terms of public service, because he's successful, he could go anywhere, he could do anything, and he's decided Phil as you said, you know he's a great New Zealander, he wants to make a difference, and I do think he sees that this is a pivotal point in our development, because trade - we hear it a lot on this show don't we about increasing productivity, growing the economy, and here's someone who understands that, and is taking up a key post to do it.  I thought it was interesting him talking about India as well and the possibilities there, so he is a man who - and he's spoken about this before, we have to think long term, and that refreshing to hear because when John Key was on this show he talked about how governments tend to think in three year cycles, we need people within government who are thinking more long term to solve these problems.

MATT Phil I would agree with you, I mean what he has opened up is the debate across a whole range of areas, development, the question of trade, the question of what our diplomatic goals are and finding the balance, that is the key, and I hope he can do that.

PHIL A lot of this is about coordination too, getting EMFAT getting better coordinated with Trade and Enterprise and Investment New Zealand and key markets for New Zealand, and he's the sort of guy who will be able to cut through a lot of the bureaucratese to get that balance, I think that's one of New Zealand's biggest opportunities.

PAUL Well yes but has it been too cocktail partyish, has it been too art history?

PHIL Well like I say the best of them Paul, fantastic, I mean I'm lucky enough I go overseas and talk to them, they're fantastic.

PAUL But do they really know what business people need?

PHIL Sometimes they're not well connected, and I think that's the issue, sometimes they don't speak fluent business, they don't necessarily understand business well, so we do need much more of that kind of activity.

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  • daved said on 2012-11-04 @ 11:01 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Saddly enough we seem to be really living in another world not the real New Zealand. We are good at farming and the industries relating to this industry. We need to become the best in the word instead of focusing on 1.5 million people who live in Auckland and their housing problems. Be proud we are different to countries like China and America. Our inovation relating to farming and horicuture is sort by the world. We are inovative, clever and pioneers. Not apprieciate so we leave!!

  • 4awinner said on 2012-05-27 @ 09:47 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Retirement. Crazy raising the age! Why because this means more unemployment for the new generation. What is a better investment giving young people the dole or retiries a pension. Pension recievers do not ushally cost the country in crime and all the othe social woes that sucks this cuontry dry. BECAUSE young people NEED a job and future. We have 4 children in Australia all doing very well. The wages give them hope for the future which New Zealand could not but they still love this country.

  • Yady said on 2011-11-28 @ 09:41 NZDT: Report abusive post

    the country is full of complacent morons who love to complain but dont get of there arse to vote.... cant beleive where this country is headed, where just like the yanks, maybe worse because we think we are better than them....shame shame shame..... who can blame us for moving to aussie... the nz government is for the nz rich list, they dont care about the poor..... shame shame shame..... and the media should be held accountable.... they done this... i want to hear the tea tapes!

  • Yady said on 2011-11-28 @ 09:35 NZDT: Report abusive post

    those who didn't vote should be ashamed of themselves.... this country is full of moaning couch potatoes..... just what national needed... shame shame shame....

  • cheekychick said on 2011-11-27 @ 10:03 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Michelle Boag calling Winston names is disgusting and offensive Jan

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