Review: Australian 60 Minutes’ successful work on Jacinda Ardern’s government ‘at ease with’ China
The promotional video accused New Zealand of close ties with China. Video / Nine Network
It was a smooth transition last night on Australian TV as the latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice went into a supposed 60-minute talk about New Zealand “getting closer to Beijing” for their billions of dollars in trade.
The final scene on Celebrity Apprentice was billionaire British business mogul Lord Alan Sugar delivering a pompous sermon to a petulant little guy who once finished second in Australian Idol who then quickly took to the storm.
A minute later, at 8:30 p.m., 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort stared at the barrel delivering the opening monologue for his segment titled Kiwis Might Fly – the promo that had caused a little hype and a lot of attention. sneers among the Kiwis last week.
From reality TV to current affairs programming, the objectivity of the narrative tone, moral nuance, or comically manipulative background music has changed little.
In front of a video screen covered in Chinese and Kiwi flags and shipping crates, Steinfort exposes startling truths about the divergent paths Australia and New Zealand have apparently taken in their foreign policy and trade relations with China.
It was essentially a “dollars for decency” affair.
The New Zealand government had, by failing to sign a Five Eyes intelligence statement last year condemning China’s human rights abuses – and allegedly “silent” on its military expansionism, sacrificed morality to maintain a lucrative business partnership.
As a reward, the New Zealand economy is ‘flying high’ for the time being, says Steinfort – somehow ignoring the fact that the New Zealand Treasury expects the government to run a budget deficit for the next six. years during Covid’s economic recovery.
A telltale sign of the innuendos that would occur over the next 30 minutes was a quickly cut excerpt from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking about the principled trade sacrifice his country was making with China juxtaposed directly with a take of Jacinda Ardern speaking te reo .
It’s a not-too-subtle mockery of Ardern’s awakened credentials and his international fame as a progressive leader.
In contrast, Steinfort said that “Australia is paying a high price for storming high morals” by publicly defending China over human rights and the persecution of the Uighur Muslim minority.
The respective wine industry of each country is at the center of this sacrifice.
China confirmed in March this year that it would impose tariffs of up to 200 percent on Australian wine exports.
The owner of Babich’s wines in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, David Babich, told Steinfort he would take a step forward with any Chinese wine merchants and markets that have abandoned Australian vineyards since the tariffs.
“New Zealand is a big farm that sells produce to the world, so nobody is trying to wrinkle their feathers. It would be very damaging for New Zealand,” Babich said.
The Kiwi winemaker said the New Zealand government had no choice but a “soft and gentle approach” in its relationship with China and the accompanying trade talks.
Babich says 90% of his income comes from exports and that he knew a kiwi winemaker whose business relied on 80% of his income from exclusively Chinese exports.
Then traveling to the Tahbilk winery just outside Melbourne, Steinfort foreshadows: “China was the goose that laid the golden egg for Australian winemakers.”
The head of the Tahbilk cellar, Alister Purbrick, has a very contrasting attitude towards his competitor in the Babich kiwifruit market.
Despite the loss of its “largest and most profitable” export market in China, which accounts for 25 percent of its revenues, Purbrick says he is satisfied with the Morrison government’s public criticism of China.
“I think the government made the right choice,” Purbrick says.
“Profits come and go and there are always challenges in running a business, but your core beliefs are here to stay. It is who you are culturally.
“I expect our government to call it moral and ethical.”
It seems Purbrick only recently learned of China’s human rights abuses – and for the past five years when his business exploded into Chinese export sales, he had no idea how much that income were ethically compromised.
I’m sure Purbrick’s own integrity means that if these 200% tariffs are on the line. 100 are removed from Australian wine exports to China when the five-year tariff period is over, it will continue to avoid sales in Chinese markets in principle.
The 60 Minutes team then turns to Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who makes some of the article’s most thoughtful and balanced comments.
Davis says “New Zealand erred in judgment” by failing to sign a Five Eyes intelligence statement against China last year.
He’s one of the few people in the room to speak in terms of diplomacy and appearances rather than in terms of rigid moral dilemmas.
Davis notes that “China thinks of diplomacy in 19th century terms” and the hope that smaller countries will simply accept larger ones. China uses “wolf warrior diplomats,” says Davis, who are characterized by confrontational rhetoric and courtesan controversy.
The highlight of the piece 60 Minutes, however, is Steinfort’s interaction with Jacinda Ardern in a media pack from the Beehive foyer.
Standing outside Wellington’s Beehive building, he criticizes both New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Trade Minister Damien O’Connor for allegedly refusing interview requests for weeks.
Then the game with Ardern begins, but not before a mocking clip of the Prime Minister walking the halls of Parliament to loud, grand classical music.
Still, when it comes to the Ardern v Steinfort showdown, there aren’t many.
“Welcome,” Ardern said to Steinfort with a beaming smile. “You can see in the smiles of the melee that everyone is very happy to have you here.”
No direct response from Steinfort in real time, but rather a voiceover from him saying, “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s charm quickly turned into retribution when she figured out why we were in town.”
Then returning to the face to face, Steinfort said, “We want to tell you about China. There have been criticisms that your nation has been gentle towards China. Do you sometimes have to bite your tongue knowing the sensitivities of China. regime in Beijing? “
A stern “no” in response from Ardern.
Pressed for elaboration, Ardern proposes: “I reject the premise of the question. The idea that we are doing anything other than firmly defending our views and our values and our independent foreign policy – I completely reject the idea that we went to quote ‘soft, tender’. “
Filtered through the 60 Minutes track Kiwis Might Fly is a familiar face of radio personality Mike Hosking, who is billed as the “voice of the people”.
Asked if he thinks New Zealand is just pragmatic with China, Hosking answers “exactly”.
“And what’s wrong with that? Trading is all about pragmatism,” Hosking says.
“You don’t want to be on a collision course with a country that I think we all agree wants to be a superpower… they want to rule the world. But that’s what it is. , in the period that follows you either go on and do business with them and merge at that level or you get angry and pick a fight and who is going to win this fight? I don’t think it will be Australia. And it certainly won’t be New Zealand. “
The play ends with a very profound message from Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on images of the statue of “lone soldier” Anzac which is erected at war memorials in the county.
“I don’t think democracy should be negotiable. I think it’s an essential part of our society and our way of life, because once we lose it, we never get it back, ”Davis suggests.
But whatever the real thinking within the Ardern cabinet about their relationship with China, I would risk thinking that none of them would have looked for a bottle of Australian shiraz to soothe the nerves to fall asleep last night. thanks to the article 60 Minutes of Steinfort.