Newsroom Pro's 8 things: NZ's blind spot on Russia; Contempt of court vs freedom of speech; The dragon in the room

In this morning's email we look into how Ardern has attempted to cover the blind spot over Russia opened up by Winston Peters.

1. Ardern's Russian blind spot

Just before the Easter holiday started, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had to acknowledge the consistent blind spot that her coalition partner Winston Peters has opened up in her foreign policy covering Russia.

The number of back-tracks and clarifications is beginning to mount.

Ardern announced late on Thursday that after days of refusing to join its allies in taking action against Russia, New Zealand had finally decided to ban spies expelled elsewhere from travelling to New Zealand.

Facing accusations of being soft and becoming isolated on Russia, Ardern moved to take some concrete action in solidarity with New Zealand's allies. Ardern announced that New Zealand would impose travel restrictions on individuals expelled by other countries after a recent nerve agent attack in Britain.

Concerns about New Zealand's stance have grown after Peters refused earlier this month to accept that Russia had been involved in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, despite internationally accredited reports to that affect. Peters has also advocated further trade negotiations with Russia, forcing his Prime Minister to say any talks were suspended indefinitely because of the nerve agent attack.

See Thomas Coughlan's full report here.

2. Rod Oram: Fonterra's farmers dispirited

Rod Oram spoke to Fonterra's farmers last week after they challenged directors and management about their big losses in China.

He found a sombre and dispirited mood .

See his full column here. He wrote it after speaking to farmers after many of the 13 meetings held since the interim result where $433 million of losses were revealed at Beingmate.

3. The dragon in the room

One of the great things about Auckland and Victoria University being two of our foundation supporters is the often fantastic insights and analyses we get to republish on Newsroom.

This one from American strategic studies and international relations experts at a conference on New Zealand-United States relations is a great example.

It reports on the widely diverging views about the rise of China between America and New Zealand.

Dr Amy Searight, Senior Adviser and Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC, said New Zealanders were surprised by how harshly American conference participants viewed China “and how hawkish and pessimistic [we were] about China’s trajectory and the importance of addressing that issue head on”.

New Zealanders were much more positive, but had not seen the sharp change in mood in Washington about China's commitment to open markets and a rules-based global scene. The change had begun well before Trump, Searight said.

Her comments are well worth a read, if only to get a sense of how out of step New Zealand thinking now is with American thinking on this. And it's not all about Trump. It's mostly about President Xi Jingping.

4. Freedom of speech vs integrity of justice?

Newsroom likes to go off-piste and cover areas that others aren't, especially if they're deep in the policy details that actually matter in the long run to a lot of people.

Our laws around contempt of court and freedom of speech are just such an area.

So I wanted to highlight an excellent piece done by Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw on Chris Finlayson's private member's bill to toughen up the laws around contempt of court.

The bill would introduce heavy fines for jurors and strengthen protection for judges against defamatory comments. But could it infringe on the public’s right to free speech, Shane asks. See his full article published first here on Pro.

5. Briefly in the global political economy...

Tit for tat - China imposed tariffs on 128 products imported from the United States yesterday in retaliation for America's various new tariffs aimed at China. The tariffs were tougher than expected and included a 25 percent tariff on pork imports. (New York Times).

Tat for tit - US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil a list of advanced technology Chinese imports targeted for U.S. tariffs later this week to punish Beijing over technology transfer policies, Reuters reported.

Down for the year - US stocks fell another 2.4 percent overnight on investor fears about trade wars and as technology stocks fell further on a range of regulatory and brand concerns. Amazon and Tesla fell sharply. US stocks have now given up all of their gains made earlier in 2018. (Reuters)

End of an era - Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died overnight at the age of 81 after being in and out of hospital for a year. (New York Times)

6. Coming up...

Parliament resumes this week for the second-to-last week of a four-week sitting block. Here is the schedule for the year.

The Parliamentary caucuses are due to hold their weekly meetings later this morning. Parliament resumes at 2pm today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to hold her weekly post-cabinet news conference at 4 pm.

RNZ chairman Richard Griffin and CEO Paul Thompson are scheduled to re-appear in front of the Economic Development, Science and Innovation select committee on Thursday to correct the record on Carol Hirschfeld's meeting with Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran. The full select committee schedule is here.

7. One fun thing...

MightyGodKing found a history of Google mottos...

"1999: Don't Be Evil
2003: Try Your Hardest To Not Be Evil
2008: Make A Reasonable Effort To Avoid Being Evil
2013: What Is Evil, Really, When You Get Down To It, I Mean Really
2018: just a series of high-pitched giggles"

8. This morning's political links

These are available in the morning subscriber email