Review: Australian 60 Minutes’ successful work on Jacinda Ardern’s government moving closer to China

The promotional video accused New Zealand of having close relations with China. Video / Network New


The transition went smoothly last night on Australian TV as the latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice played at the supposed 60 Minutes exhibit on New Zealand “Closing to Beijing” for its billions. trading dollars.

The last scene on Celebrity Apprentice was of British billionaire business mogul Lord Alan Sugar delivering a pompous sermon to a petulant little guy who had already finished second in Australian Idol, who then quickly ran away.

A minute later at 8:30 p.m., we had 60 Minutes reporter Tom Steinfort watching the barrel delivering the opening monologue for his segment titled Kiwis Might Fly – the promo of which had caused a slight hype and a lot of sneer. among the Kiwis last week.

From reality TV to news programming, there has been little change in the objectivity of the narrative tone, moral nuances, or comically manipulative background music.

In front of a video screen covered in Chinese and kiwi flags and shipping crates, Steinfort conveys alarming 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 apparently ‘flying high’ at the moment, 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 innuendoes that would occur over the next 30 minutes was a quick cut from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking about his country’s principled trade sacrifice his country was making with China, juxtaposed directly to a take from 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 moral ground” by publicly speaking out against China over human rights and the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Australian journalist Tom Steinfort has joined the media fray in Parliament to ask questions of Jacinda Ardern.
Australian journalist Tom Steinfort has joined the media fray in Parliament to ask questions of Jacinda Ardern.

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% on Australian wine exports.

The owner of Babich Wines in Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay, David Babich, told Steinfort he would “live up to” all the 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 no one is trying to ruffle the 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, gentle approach” to its relationship with China and the trade negotiations that would accompany it.

Babich says 90 percent of his income comes from exports and that he knew of a kiwi winemaker whose business relied on 80 percent of his income coming exclusively from Chinese exports.

On his way to the Tahbilk winery just outside Melbourne, Steinfort prefaces: “China was the goose that laid the golden eggs for Australian winegrowers.

The head of the Tahbilk cellar, Alister Purbrick, has a very contrasting attitude with his competitor in the kiwifruit market, Babich.

Despite the loss of its “largest and most profitable” export market in China, accounting for 25% of its revenues, Purbrick says he is satisfied with the Morrison government’s public criticism of China.

“I think the government made the right decision,” Purbrick said.

“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 learned about human rights abuses in China recently – and the previous five years, when his company increased its Chinese export sales, he had no idea how much that income. were ethically compromised.

I am sure Purbrick’s own integrity means that if that 200% tariff is removed from Australian wine exports to China at the end of the five-year tariff period, it will continue in principle to avoid sales to China. Chinese markets.

The 60-minute team then chats with Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, who makes some of the article’s most thoughtful and balanced comments.

Davis says “New Zealand made an error in judgment” in failing to sign a Five Eyes intelligence statement opposing 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 that it expects smaller countries to simply acquiesce to larger ones. China uses “wolf warrior diplomats,” says Davis, who is characterized by confrontational rhetoric and courtly controversy.

The highlight of the 60-minute piece, however, is Steinfort’s interaction with Jacinda Ardern in a Beehive foyer media pack.

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 haughty and grandiose 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 by the smiles in the fray 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 a rebuke when she understood 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 sensibilities 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 strongly 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 minute piece Kiwis Might Fly is a familiar face of radio personality Mike Hosking, who is billed as the “voice of the people”.

When asked if he thought New Zealand was just pragmatic with China, Hosking replied “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 after that you either go on and do business with them and merge at that level or you get all 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 Anzac “lone soldier” 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 offers.

But whatever the real thinking inside the Ardern cabinet about their relationship with China, I would hazard a guess that neither of them would have taken a bottle of Australian shiraz to ease their nerves from sleeping last night thanks. to Steinfort’s 60-minute article.

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