New Zealand’s government announced Thursday it will spend billions of dollars more on mental health services and combatting child poverty as part of a new approach to its finances. The liberal-led government unveiled the country’s first so-called well-being budget. It aims to measure social outcomes like health and the environment alongside traditional metrics such as economic growth. The new approach has been lauded by some internationally but criticized by the conservative opposition as meaningless window-dressing. The budget was the first since a gunman killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques in March, and it included money for a gun buyback scheme after the government introduced new laws banning the types of semi-automatic weapons often used in mass shootings. The budget also increased funding for the nation’s intelligence agencies, which didn’t identify the man accused of the slaughter as a potential threat. Overall, new spending was up significantly on previous forecasts. But while government borrowing was forecast to rise, the net debt was expected to stay at about 20% of GDP as the size of the economy also expanded. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the increased spending was worth the extra debt and would help stimulate the economy as global economic growth slowed. “The old way of doing things has left too many people behind,” Robertson said. “New Zealanders want us to measure our success, and invest on their behalf, in line with their values. The values of fairness, the protection of the environment, the strength of our communities.” Under the
A New Zealand lawmaker was given a security escort on Tuesday after threats against her by white supremacists opposed to her views on hate speech, a rare precaution in a country where politicians mingle freely with the public. A debate on hate speech has been raging in New Zealand since the mass shooting in Christchurch on March 15 by a suspected white supremacist that killed 51 people and wounded dozens. Green party lawmaker Golriz Ghahraman, a human rights lawyer who was born in Iran and came to New Zealand as a child refugee, has seen an escalation of threats against her in recent weeks. Ghahraman would now be accompanied by a security escort when she leaves parliament, she told reporters on Tuesday, as the police deemed the threats were serious enough to warrant the extra security. “It’s distressing to have secret white supremacist groups talking about you,” said Ghahraman, who is among a handful of parliamentarians from ethnic minority communities. “After Christchurch, New Zealand has asked us to be different. New Zealanders want us to debate issues robustly, but to keep personal attacks out of it. We have all learnt that words, including online posts, have consequences,” she told reporters in parliament. Ghahraman has called for hate speech to be monitored, infuriating opponents, some of whom have accused her of trying to curb freedom. Online threats have been more alarming. The media group Newshub gave details in a report on white supremacy of threats in private online groups against Ghahraman
“Hate speech is spreading and public discourse is being coarsened. Social media is being exploited as a platform for bigotry. We must all show solidarity in response to this dangerous upsurge in hatred,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech outside the mosque.
An inquiry into Christchurch’s mosques shooting massacre began hearing evidence on Monday, as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern prepared to co-host a meeting in France that seeks global support to tackle online violence. A lone gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook. It was New Zealand’s worst peace time shooting. New Zealand’s Royal Commission inquiry will look into the suspected gunman’s activities, use of social media and international connections, as well as whether there was inappropriate priority settings in counter terrorism resources. “The commission’s findings will help to ensure such an attack never happens here again,” Jacinda Ardern said in a statement announcing a second commissioner to the inquiry. The Royal Commission’s website said it would gather information until August. It will report its findings to the government on December 10. Some in the Muslim community called for better communication about the inquiry. “Many of us in the Muslim community have not received any information about the process for hearings…..so many of us in the community very much feel out of the loop,” said Wellington-based community advocate Guled Mire. “Ultimately, we want our voices to be heard and to no longer be ignored, so hopefully steps are taken to ensure information is directly communicated to members of the Muslim community.” The Royal Commission did not immediately respond to request for comment. Ardern is in Paris this week to co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday
The UN chief António Guterres expressed his admiration for Jacinda Arden’s rapid and decisive response to the mass shootings, which saw the Government immediately take measures to significantly strengthen gun control legislation, and her call to prevent hate speech on social media and the Internet.
New Zealand is willing to work with China on its Belt and Road initiative and can offer its expertise in areas such as regulation and the environment, officials from the Pacific nation’s government said on Monday.
The investment policy championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping has become mired in controversy, with some partner nations bemoaning the high cost of projects. But China’s recent efforts to put a greener face on its infrastructure initiative could smoothen ties with some countries.
“It seems more likely that we can find a win-win situation with China, whether it’s greening the Belt and Road, or helping address some of the issues...around transparency or whether it’s using our regulatory systems, which are amongst the best in the world,” New Zealand’s trade minister David Parker said at an annual China-focused business summit in Auckland.
Senator Fraser Anning has been widely condemned for his comments made shortly after a lone gunman attacked two mosques in Christchurch on March 15. “There is no room for racism in Australia. Sadly, what Senator Anning said after the Christchurch massacre, however shocking isn’t out of character,” Australian Muslim Senator Mehreen Faruqi told the Senate.