Labour causes rift with Australia

The Herald reports:

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has strongly condemned the New Zealand Party – saying should it be in power after the election it would be “very hard” to build trust.

“New Zealand is facing an election. Should there be a change of Government, I would find it very hard to build trust with those involved in allegations designed to undermine the Government of Australia,” Bishop said today.

“I’m referring to Bill Shorten using a foreign political party to raise questions in a foreign parliament deliberately designed to undermine confidence in the Australian Government.”

Bishop made the extraordinary comments after Labour MP Chris Hipkins on August 9 put in two parliamentary written questions to Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne about the legal status of an Australian born to a New Zealand parent.

This is a huge blunder by Hipkins, who used his special position in the NZ Parliament to try and help Australian Labor topple the Australian Government.

It is no big issue that sometimes there will be different parties in power in NZ and Australia. Governments go out of their way to forge a good relationship regardless of the side of the political fence you are in. Two good examples are Helen Clark & John Howard and John Key & Julia Gillard. They worked together for the good of both countries, putting aside the fact that they know NZ National Party would of course prefer their sister Liberal Party to be in Government, and the same for NZ Labour and Australian Labour.

So it is not a big thing that each party may have a few activists who go over and help at an election time, or even share campaign advisers etc.

But what is a big thing is for an MP of one country’s Parliament to use their role to help the parliamentary party of another country’s Parliament. And that is what Chris Hipkins did by asking these two written questions (1, 2)on behalf of Bill Shorten.

It would have been obvious to Hipkins that Australian Labor wanted this information to bring down a Government MP. He may not have known it was the Deputy Prime Minister but he would have known why Australian Labor was asking, and also be aware the Australian Government has a one seat majority in the House of Representatives and so the loss of even one seat could bring down the Government.

That was just days after an Australian journalist asked about Australia’s Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s citizenship.

Here’s why Hipkins involvement was important, even though there had been media inquiries also. There is no deadline for DIA to respond to inquiries by foreign journalists. Even if it was a NZ journalist asking, they could take up to four weeks to answer under the OIA.

But by having Hipkins ask a parliamentary question, the Minister is obliged to answer within five working days or one week. So Hipkins was able to get Australian Labor the information as much as three weeks earlier.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, apparently responding to Bishop’s comments, tweeted that she knew “absolutely nothing about the Barnaby Joyce case until it broke in the media yesterday”.

“I value our relationship with the Australian Govt highly. I won’t let disappointing & false claims stand in the way of that relationship,” Ardern tweeted.

What false claims? It is established that Hipkins was asking on behalf of Australian Labor. If she doesn’t know what her front benchers are doing, that doesn’t make the claim false.

“I greatly value New Zealand’s relationship with the Australian Government. I will not let false claims stand in the way of that relationship.

“I would happily take a call from Julie Bishop to clarify matters.”

So she is calling Julie Bishop a liar and saying the onus is on the Australian Foreign Minister to call her, not her to call Bishop and apologise for what Hipkins has done.

NZ First leader Winston Peters, a former Foreign Minister, said the Hipkins’ “hit” on Joyce was the equivalent of the underarm delivery.

“It is distasteful to see the New Zealand Labour Party colluding with the Australian Labor Party on what was a political hit job targeting the Australian Deputy Prime Minister.”

Have to agree with Winston on this one.

Peters said if any of his MPs behaved like Hipkins they would be demoted right down the list.

“You cannot have people behaving in that rogue way, or think it’s a smart idea. The truth is, she [Ardern] must have known.”

Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee said Bishop’s comments were understandable given Hipkin’s actions – which he described as “quite extraordinary.”

“It’s extraordinary that a New Zealand member of Parliament has allowed himself to be used by a party in a different country with an intent to bring another party in that country down.

Make no mistake this has caused huge anger within the Australian Government. Helping the Opposition to try and bring down the Deputy Prime Minister will mean very frosty relations if Labour forms a Government in New Zealand.

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