Labour breaks away from caretaker convention calling for ceasefire in Gaza
Chris Hipkins has acknowledged that ‘constitutional purists’ may not necessarily welcome the party’s statement but says 'they cannot stand by any longer'
Mōrena, and welcome to The Bulletin for Monday, November 20, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: Act and NZ First keen on appointing ‘black-letter law judges’; inside the Exclusive Brethren and its pursuit of money; Australia beat favourites to win Cricket World Cup; but first, as Labour calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel, National accuses them of playing politics
Chris Hipkins calls for immediate ceasefire
As cities in New Zealand hosted now recurrent protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza yesterday, Labour leader Chris Hipkins made a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire between Gaza and Israel. “We are urgently calling for a ceasefire. Israel and Hamas need to immediately ensure the conditions for a ceasefire are met and to commit to a lasting peace in the region,” he said. “I, and the Labour Party, cannot stand by any longer in the face of the horrific scenes we are witnessing without calling for a ceasefire," Hipkins said. Hipkins also called for Hamas to release all hostages immediately. A poll conducted by Talbot Mills released last Friday found 60% of New Zealanders want a full ceasefire.
‘The caretaker government did seek agreement from the National Party… and we did not get that’
Hipkins made it clear he was speaking as Labour leader, not as the caretaker prime minister and acknowledged that his decision to make the call was an unusual one, one that “constitutional purists will also probably not necessarily welcome”. He said National rebuffed his offer to make a bipartisan call for a ceasefire. “The caretaker government did seek agreement from the National party to call for a ceasefire, and we did not get that,” he said. National responded by saying the caretaker government had approached the party on Friday about calling for a ceasefire. National wanted to seek advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and received notice about the call Hipkins was about to make four minutes before Hipkins began speaking yesterday. In a statement, a spokesperson for National said, “It is very disappointing that Chris Hipkins is playing politics with such a serious issue.” The spokesperson added that National supports the goal of a ceasefire, however, the conditions haven't yet been right for one.
Hipkins puts ceasefire call in context of domestic affairs
Hipkins’ comments on foreign affairs did strike something of a domestic tone. Hipkins said that as there was “no end in sight” to negotiations to form a government, he needed to make a statement as Labour leader. As talks continued over the weekend in Auckland, National leader Christopher Luxon said yesterday there are “three or less issues” that require sorting out. Opinion is diverging about whether the talks are taking too long. Writing on his Substack, Philip Crumb, editor of Newstalk ZB Plus, argues the proof of the pudding is in eating. “Time spent now agreeing a fulsome coalition agreement will undoubtedly be time well spent.” Vernon Small says Luxon “looked like a political innocent being played by NZ First leader Winston Peters and has been upstaged with the media by Act leader David Seymour.” The University of Otago’s Michael Swanson points out the time being taken pales in comparison to government negotiation processes around the world.
Negotiations continue on deal to pause conflict and hostage release
Around the same time as Hipkins’ statement, The Washington Post reported that Israel and Hamas had reached a “tentative U.S.-brokered deal” that would pause the conflict in Gaza and allow some women and child hostages to be free. The Post had to walk that back after US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson clarified that a deal had not been reached but “we continue to work hard to get to a deal.” Reuters, Al Jazeera and the BBC all have reports this morning of a deal “being close”. As Israel continues to make its case for its operation at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, alleging that Hamas has a command and control centre underneath the hospital, an evacuation has been underway to rescue premature babies from the hospital. Hospital staff have strenuously denied Israel’s claims about the hospital. As Al Jazeera reports, a poll from November 14 has Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity among Israeli Jews at about 4% and both his opponents and traditional allies are calling for him to resign once the current war ends.
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Act and NZ First keen to focus on ‘power of the bench’
Commentary about the political or ideological alignment of the judiciary is something we’re familiar with as part of American politics and media. It is more unusual for it to emerge here. As The Post’s Luke Malpass writes, that looks set to change as Act and NZ First express a desire to look at the “power of the bench – its composition, the sentences it hands down, the precedents and case law it creates”. Malpass writes both parties seem keen to be much more active in appointing rigorous and black-letter law judges as and when able. Both parties are particularly concerned with emerging case law based on the principles of the Treaty, and the introduction of concepts into the New Zealand common law, such as tikanga. It is, as Malpass writes, one of the reasons Winston Peters is reportedly keen on being Attorney General.
Exclusive Brethren ‘has effectively become a “pyramid scheme”’
Craig Hoyle, chief news director at Sunday Star Times, has authored a book, Excommunicated, about his experience growing up in and walking away from the Exclusive Brethren church. In a report for the Sunday Star Times yesterday, based on leaked documents, Hoyle reveals how the pursuit of money is driving the secretive church, with one insider saying the sect has effectively become a “pyramid scheme”. “The religious group has an aggressive focus on maximising revenue from members and wider society, and current and former members said large sums of money were flowing upward towards world leader Bruce Hales,” he writes. The report also revealed that incoming prime minister Christopher Luxon has had ongoing contact with senior Brethren since speaking at one of their seminars in 2016 and is not ruling out a similar appearance as prime minister.
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