Feb 11, 2008

Winston Misleads University Students

In preparation of the next of our "What Has Winston Peters Achieved?" series, we have been studying Winston's office website. We were particularly keen to find a copy of Winston's speech to the opening of the New Zealand office of Thales on 3 September, but this is not listed (no doubt someone was concerned about the potential legal implictaions of NZ's Foreign Minister accusing a US corporation of overthrowing the Allende regime). However, the hunt was not in vain. There is a facsinating speech (which we suspect will be removed fast - so read quickly) delivered at 10am on 19 July to students at Auckland University entitled The Role of The Foreign Minister. The speech is worth a read because of all the nasty things it says about the New Zealand media. But what really jumped out was the following:

There is a myth that the Foreign Minister appoints diplomats and decides who gets the sought-after overseas postings.

This is not so. It is the Governor General who formally appoints Heads of Mission, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs who assigns officers to service overseas

This is a blatant lie. Winston Peters gets consulted on all Head of Mission appointments (except perhaps those that the PM choses to make) by Simon Murdoch or some other senior MFAT officer (Deputy Secretary Peter Hamilton most usually - if Murdoch isn't around). He, and his predecessors, can and do say no. And he, and sometimes his predecessors, have made their own appointment. Who has appointed Brian Donnelly to the job in the Cook Islands?? It sure wasn't the Governor General and it certainly wasn't a nomination that came up through the MFAT system. Sure the warrant of office, or whatever it is Heads of Mission get, are signed by the Queen or Governor-General, but the nod comes from Winston.

The speech also reminds us helpfully that the Foreign Minister has a special constitutional status. Remember this when Winston tries to say he was not part of the Government later on in the year:

...the role of Foreign Minister is that it holds a special status in international law.

According to Article 7 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, only Heads of States, Heads of Government, and Ministers for Foreign Affairs are considered to represent their States in matters such as the conclusion of treaties.

New Zealand’s treaty practice is therefore built on the Minister of Foreign Affairs undertaking certain functions.

These are mostly related to the signing of documents and treaties; decisions by the Executive to enter into treaties; engagement in the Parliamentary treaty examination process, and the implementation of legislation required to give effect to international treaties of national significance.

Some examples are the Antarctica Act 1960; Consular Privileges and Immunities Act 1971; Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act 1968; Geneva Conventions Act 1958; New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987, and various United Nations Sanctions Regulations.