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Analysis by Geoffrey Miller

Political Roundup: Does New Zealand need to up its game with World Cup host Qatar? 

As the FIFA World Cup gets underway in Qatar, it is worth looking at the state of New Zealand’s wider relationship with the host nation.

While New Zealand often likes to think of itself as a small country, it comfortably outranks Qatar in both size and population.

In terms of area, Qatar is just over twice the size of the greater Auckland region. And the Gulf state’s population – at just under 3 million – makes New Zealand’s own 5 million figure seem generous.

But as the World Cup shows, size is no obstacle to Doha’s ambitions.

By some estimates, Qatar has spent over $US200 billion ($NZ325 billion) in preparation for hosting the tournament. This includes seven new stadiums – at a total cost of over $US6 billion – with the remainder being spent on building related infrastructure, such as a new metro system, airport, roads and hotels.

Of course, there have been widespread criticisms of Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, particularly in relation to the country’s human rights record. An investigation by The Guardian in 2021 found over 6,500 migrant workers from South Asian countries such as India and Pakistan had died while working in Qatar since the country won its bid to host the World Cup in 2010.

In response, the Qatari government did not dispute the figure and said that ‘every lost life is a tragedy’ – but it also argued that only a minority of the recorded deaths were related to construction projects.

Like most other countries in the Middle East, Qatar also languishes well behind New Zealand when it comes to political rights and civil liberties. Freedom House, a US-based think tank, places Qatar near the bottom of its 2022 global rankings, with a status of ‘not free’ and a total score of just 25 out of 100. By comparison, New Zealand is one of the freest countries on earth, in fourth place and with a near-perfect score of 99 out of 100.

In its report, Freedom House notes Qatar’s monarchy and ban on political parties – and says the majority of the country’s residents are ‘noncitizens with no political rights, few civil liberties, and limited access to economic opportunity’.

Still, despite a slow pace of reform and criticism that the World Cup hosting amounts to ‘sportswashing’, the spotlight on Qatar has probably led it to implement more reforms than it would have done otherwise. And Qatar’s Freedom House ranking is still considerably better than many of New Zealand’s other trading partners, including its biggest export market, China.

Qatar began implementing labour reforms in 2017. These have included the introduction of a minimum wage for all workers, a rarity in the Middle East, and other changes to employment laws to provide more rights for the migrant workers that make up most of Qatar’s population.

Even Amnesty International – which is otherwise critical of the pace and scale of Qatar’s reforms – says the country has made ‘important strides’ and ‘noticeable improvements’. Some of this can be put down to cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which opened a dedicated office in Doha in 2018. A recent ILO survey of workers in Qatar found that 86 per cent of respondents thought the reforms had benefited them.

Of course, there is plenty of room and opportunity for Doha to do more.

After all, Qatar is the fourth-richest country in the world when measured on a per capita, purchasing power parity (PPP) basis. At $US93,000, the country’s average annual income is more than double New Zealand’s $US46,000, according to figures from the World Bank.

Qatar’s wealth has been built on enormous deposits of natural gas – the third largest globally, after Russia and Iran – along with the world’s 13th largest oil reserves. The war in Ukraine – and the desire from Europe and others to replace supplies of Russian energy – has seen Qatar become even more influential in 2022.

Joe Biden upgraded Qatar to the status of a ‘major non-NATO ally’ of the United States earlier in the year (the same status held by Australia), while a parade of European leaders have visited Doha in recent months.

In media, Qatar has created an outsized niche for itself by funding Al Jazeera, a TV network with a wide reach in both Arabic and English. Many New Zealanders have headed to Qatar to work for Al Jazeera’s English-language channel, which launched a decade after the original Arabic format began in 1996.

The network has not been without its detractors.

In 2017, a Saudi Arabia-led grouping of fellow Arab countries included the complete shutdown of Al Jazeera as one of 13 demands that Qatar would have to meet for an unprecedented blockade of the country to be lifted. The move was driven by perceptions by Saudi Arabia and its allies that Al Jazeera was interfering in their internal affairs and promoting Islamist movements, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood.

The rift – which began in June 2017 and was not lifted until early 2021 – saw Qatar almost completely isolated by some of its closest neighbours, which as well as Saudi Arabia (which shares an 87-kilometre border with Qatar) also included Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Consequences included the expulsion of Qatari citizens living in the four countries and the suspension of freight and passenger traffic by road, sea and air. This cut off many of Qatar’s food supplies that had previously come across the border from other Gulf countries. It also made life difficult for Qatar Airways, which was banned from operating to the blockading countries and even from using their airspace.

Qatar managed to survive the blockade in part by finding new trade and air routes through Turkey and Iran, but also by emphasising self-reliance. A homegrown dairy industry – focused on producing the fresh milk that was previously imported from Saudi Arabia – was one of the main outcomes of this strategy.

This focus on local production and self-sufficiency has remained even after the lifting of the blockade. Baladna – a state-supported dairy company that translates to ‘our country’ – has even expanded internationally, signing deals to expand into dairy production in Ukraine (before the war with Russia began) and Malaysia.

While this might concern New Zealand – given that dairy as one of its major exports to the Gulf region – Qatar’s wealth means that it will continue to have strong demand for imported goods, particularly premium products.

But a look at New Zealand’s trade with Qatar reveals a different picture to its Gulf neighbours.

New Zealand’s annual exports to Qatar have remained static at around the $NZ45 million mark since at least 2015. This makes Qatar only New Zealand’s 71st biggest export market – a stark contrast with other Gulf states such as the UAE, which holds 18th place and imports nearly $NZ1b of New Zealand goods and services each year.

Given the low level of trade, it might seem unsurprising that New Zealand has no embassy in Qatar. Still, there is an inevitable chicken-and-egg dilemma – without a dedicated diplomatic mission in Doha, Wellington has limited ability to smooth the way for New Zealand exporters to expand into its growing market.

New Zealand currently serves Qatar from its embassy in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, a situation that is not ideal given that the UAE is one of Qatar’s chief rivals.

Doha’s aspirations to become a new Dubai seem clear: visa-free travel for 80 nationalities was introduced in 2017, in preparation for the World Cup, while the Qatar Grand Prix will become an annual fixture from 2023.

Opening an embassy in Qatar could also help New Zealand to finally secure a free trade deal with the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc. An agreement was signed in principle in 2009, but has remained unratified ever since. In turn, a deal would also boost New Zealand exports to bigger Gulf markets such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

To this end, New Zealand might take some lessons from Australia, which opened an embassy in Doha in 2016 and now counts Qatar as its second-largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa region.

No recent New Zealand Prime Minister has ever visited Qatar.

But the World Cup shows how Qatar is becoming a global player.

Doha probably needs to occupy more space on Wellington’s radar

Further reading on Foreign Affairs

Thomas Manch (Stuff): As diplomacy takes the heat out of crises, Ardern’s Southeast Asia trip provides both a lesson and a warning
Claire Trevett (Herald): What went on in PM Jacinda Ardern’s meeting with China’s Xi Jinping (paywalled)
Katie Scotcher (RNZ): Poland missile crisis dominates amid summits in Asia
Claire Trevett (Herald): PM Jacinda Ardern says IMF recession warning to Apec leaders a ’cause for concern’; leaders condemn Ukraine war
University of Otago (Newsroom): After APEC, where to on China?
Claire Trevett (Herald): PM Jacinda Ardern meets China’s President Xi Jinping: asks for Xi to use influence in ‘testing times’
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says meeting with China’s Xi Jinping was ‘constructive’
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Ardern tells China’s Xi the international rules are being ‘tested’
Amelia Wade (Newshub): Why Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern isn’t chalking up meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping as a win
Tess McClure (Guardian): Jacinda Ardern raises Taiwan with Xi Jinping at Apec meeting
RNZ: APEC summit: Frank exchange of views important, Jacinda Ardern tells China’s President Xi Jinping
RNZ: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ‘takes heart’ in common ground of world leaders as APEC ends
Herald Editorial: PM Ardern glad-handing on the world stage (paywalled)
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Five issues on the agenda when Jacinda Ardern meets Xi Jingping, and what won’t be
Tess McClure (Guardian): Ardern says she must be able to raise concerns in Xi Jinping meeting without ‘retaliatory acts’
Amelia Wade (Newshub): Jacinda Ardern prepares for meeting with Xi Jinping as Chinese President sends warning to world
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Ardern meets with Kamala Harris and allies, as North Korea fires suspected intercontinental missile
Claire Trevett (Herald): Heat, wardrobe malfunctions and security: Behind the scenes of PM Jacinda Ardern’s trip to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand (paywalled)
Giles Dexter (RNZ): Kiwis’ rights in Australia: No mention of 501 policy from minister in ‘family’ lecture
RNZ: Myanmar dictatorship: The New Zealand response
Sam Sachdeva (Newsroom): Australia wants NZ support on cyber attacks, foreign interference

PEENI HENARE VISITS UKRAINE
RNZ: Peeni Henare pays respects to war victims during Ukraine visit
Lisette Reymer (Newshub): Ukraine invasion: Defence Minister Peeni Henare takes secret trip to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian counterpart
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Peeni Henare becomes first NZ minister to visit Ukraine since conflict
Mei Heron (1News): Inside the covert operation to get a Govt minister into Ukraine
Mei Heron (1News): Defence Minister Peeni Henare visits Ukraine, meets counterpart
Anna Whyte (Stuff): Defence Minister’s visit to Ukraine: Why it matters
Jessica Mutch McKay (1News): Kiwi Ukrainians call on Govt to help loved ones fleeing war

Other items of interest and importance today

NZ FIRST
Audrey Young (Herald): ‘No one gets to lie to me twice’ – Winston Peters reveals the party he won’t work with (paywalled)
Anna Whyte (1News): Winston Peters won’t work with Labour: ‘I’m focused on one party’s outcome and that’s NZ First’
Molly Swift (Newshub): NZ First leader Winston Peters rules out coalition with Labour
Andrew Kirton (Herald): National needs to woo or rule out NZ First liaison (paywalled)
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Winston throws political chessboard over – all 2023 election bets are off
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Winston rules out LabourWinston rules out Labour

NATIONAL
Andrea Vance (Stuff): Who is the real Christopher Luxon, and can voters warm to him?
Damien Grant (Stuff): I am tired of Christopher Luxon acting as if he was some jovial everyman
Heather du Plessis-Allan (Herald): Why flip-flop Luxon is making voters nervous (paywalled)
Damien Venuto (Herald): One year in – Can Christoper Luxon beat Jacinda Ardern?
Mike Munro (Stuff): National stuck in ‘oppose’ gear
Victor Billot (Newsroom): Another Ode for .. Baron Luxon
David Farrar: Nats on Twitter

PARLIAMENT
Luke Malpass (Stuff): This election is shaping up as a battle for the soul of New Zealand
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Labour goes on the offensive (paywalled)
Jonathan Milne (Newsroom): Auditor-General calls for wide-reaching review of failing public accountability
Chris Trotter: If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Matthew Hooton (Patreon): Why more politicians will stop bothering with the NZ media (paywalled)
Henry Cooke: How to be a politics tragic – The week
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Latest Poll shows the Right’s celebration they have already won 2023 is smug hubris
Mike Williams (Hawkes Bay Today): Polls put the two sides of politics neck and neck
Newshub: Grant Robertson addresses LGBT+ issues, if he wants to be leader with UK magazine
Peter Wilson (RNZ): Week in Politics: National gets tough on young offenders, but policy faces strong opposition
Stuff political reporters: Points of Order: Donuts, Bill English’s leftovers and celebrations for Toa Samoa
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Beehive Diaries: Happy ending to Beehive Kiwifruit drama (paywalled)
RNZ: Political editors panel: Jane Patterson, and Luke Malpass speak to Corin Dan and Māni Dunlop on Youth crime, Covid-19 and global politics (audio)
1News Q+A: Hamilton West by-election hopefuls say they’re tough on crime
Piers Fuller (Stuff): Nicola Willis confirmed as Ōhāriu candidate for National

HATE SPEECH REFORMS
Marc Daalder (Newsroom): Capitulation on hate speech the worst of all worlds
Molly Swift (Newshub): Hate speech laws: Government proposes one change to Human Rights Act after years of divisive debate
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Labour’s religious hate speech law will only empower Scientology
Marc Daalder (Newsroom): NZ’s hate speech laws explained
Marc Daalder (Newsroom): Hate speech reforms drastically watered down
PIers Fuller (Stuff): Human Rights Act amendment to protect religious communities ‘very disappointing’, says Commission
Mark Quinlivan (Newshub): Hate speech laws: National, ACT still won’t support Government’s diluted proposals
1News: Govt waters down hate speech reforms, National unconvinced

BOOT CAMPS, JUSTICE, CORRECTIONS
Russell Palmer (RNZ): Boot camps a ‘cliche’, says former National minister Chester Borrows
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): National candidate says military academies stop just 15 per cent from reoffending
1News: Chances military camps ‘fix’ youth offending ‘close to zero’ – expert
Herald Editorial: National’s youth crime policy is something old as something new (paywalled)
Mark Quinlivan (Newshub): National MP Erica Stanford ‘really proud’ of youth crime policy, despite earlier saying ankle bracelet idea ‘breaks my heart’
Paula Bennett (Herald): National’s youth offender military academies welcomed to tackle teen crime (paywalled)
Katie Ham (Stuff): Luxon calls Labour Party’s crime policies ‘kumbaya and a lot of mush’
Jamie Ensor (Newshub): Jacinda Ardern slaps down National’s boot camp policy, is confused by Christopher Luxon’s ‘reprogrammed’ remark
Vaughan Davis (Spinoff): Boot camp is a privilege, not a punishment
Steve Braunias (Herald): The Secret Western of Christopher Luxon (paywalled)
Andrew Gunn (Stuff): ‘No consequences. They believe they can get away with whatever they want.’
Thomas Coughlan (Newshub): Treasury unhappy with rushed gang law’s lack of human rights consideration
Alex Penk: Is the Supreme Court’s decision on tikanga an outlier or a harbinger?
Jono Galuszka (Stuff): Justice experts discuss how to bring balance to the court process
No Right Turn: More police racism

HOUSING
Jenna Lynch (Newshub): Exclusive: Longest stay in emergency housing stretches over three years, with more than 1000 staying over a year
Newshub: ‘Absolutely unacceptable’ Kiwis languishing in emergency housing for years – Patrick Gower
Felix Desmarais (Local Democracy Reporting): Experts pitch solutions to Rotorua’s housing crisis
Melanie Carroll (Stuff): Government may extend healthy homes deadline for all landlords
Michael Neilson (Herald): Government considering Healthy Homes extension for all landlords
Geraden Cann (Stuff): King of property hangs up his hat
Janet Wilson (Stuff): The trifecta of housing troubles won’t be solved by this proposal

INEQUALITY, COST OF LIVING
Max Rashbrooke (Stuff): The half-hour trip that robs some Kiwis of 10 years
Carmen Hall (Herald): KiwiSaver hardship withdrawals rise as more middle- to high-wage earners struggle to live on income (paywalled)
Sonya Bateson (Rotorua Daily Post): Grocery shopping is grim. No wonder so many families are doing it hard (paywalled)
Aimee Shaw (Stuff): The changing face of philanthropy: Giving time, not money

ECONOMY
Brian Easton (Pundit): Are we in a stagflation?
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Borrowers warned to brace for more bad news from the Reserve Bank
Liam Dann (Herald): Preview: Reserve Bank set to deliver biggest hike in OCR history (paywalled)
Anan Zaki (RNZ): Reserve Bank tipped to hike official cash rate to 4.25 percent in its fight against inflation
David Hargreaves (Interest): The last Reserve Bank Official Cash Rate review for three months. And it’s a crucial one
Gareth Vaughan (Interest): Should the Reserve Bank lift the OCR by 75 basis points on Wednesday it’ll be the biggest one-off increase to date
Mark Lister (Herald): In defence of the Reserve Bank (paywalled)
Brent Edwards (NBR): Managing a just transition to a zero carbon economy (paywalled)
Fergus McDonald (NBR): Economic outlook: the fixed income view (paywalled)
Terry Baucher (Interest): Te wiki o te tāke; Complexity trips up the tax system

EMPLOYMENT
Sasha Borissenko (Herald): The rise of industrial action (paywalled)
Daniel Smith (Stuff): Are we set for second golden age for unions? Claims ‘perfect storm’ brewing
Imogen Wells (Newshub): Labour’s centrepiece 2020 election policy labelled failure by National as new data revealed
Gill Bonnett (RNZ): Plumbers, but not cardiologists: The curious case of the immigration green list
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Meet the bar owner who’s signed up for a Fair Pay Agreement for hospo workers
RNZ: Jobs for Nature scheme ‘pivotal’ in keeping skilled people in West Coast
RNZ: Some secondary school principals opt to accept $6000 pay offer rejected by others

BUSINESS
Liam Dann (Herald): Why are corporates so woke these days? (paywalled)
Mike Hosking (Newstalk ZB): Has the Commerce Commission achieved anything?
Jonathan Milne (Newsroom): Govt offers ultimatum to Ruapehu life pass holders: pay up or shut down
Adam Hollingworth (Newshub): Ruapehu ski fields given proposal to help them wipe debt, but there’s a catch
NBR: Ruapehu Life Pass Holders asked to pay up to keep ski-fields open (paywalled)
Andrew Bevin (Newsroom): Peace, love and profits – what the new cannabis industry has lost

HEALTH
Lana Hart (Stuff): Policies, not pliers, required for New Zealand’s dental rot
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Free dental is a vote winner – Grant will give property owners a reason to smile but the bleeding gums poor can go rot?
Steven Walton (Stuff): Christchurch water fluoridation decision delayed until next year
Ian Powell: Planned care taskforce report: something to weep over?
Susana Suisuiki (RNZ): Action plan launched to tackle poor health outcomes among Pasifika in NZ
Ripu Bhatia (Stuff): High smoking rates for Māori men, Pasifika women draw concern
Will Trafford (Whakaata Māori): Māori Health Authority cash injection prioritises quick wins
Rachel Thomas (Stuff): ‘It’s soul destroying’: GPs launch desperate campaign to save family doctors
RNZ: GPs write open letter to Health Minister seeking urgent fix for family doctor services
RNZ: Short-staffing likely to lead to long waits at Christchurch emergency department
Anna Askerud (The Conversation): Healthcare for New Zealanders with multiple chronic conditions needs ‘radical rethinking’ – here’s what should happen
Siouxsie Wiles (Spinoff): Is New Zealand an outlier on second boosters?
Hannah Martin (Stuff): My Vaccine Passes to be discontinued in December
Molly Swfit (Newshub): Manawatū District Council reintroduces COVID-19 measures amid rising cases
RNZ: New test reveals Covid-19 history
Tom Peters: Third COVID wave worsens in New Zealand

ENVIRONMENT
Olivia Wannan (Stuff): Rich countries agree to fund for climate clean-up costs
Rod Oram (Newshub): ‘Developing’ China won’t pay into climate loss fund
RNZ: COP27: ‘There are clearly moves afoot to try and water down decisions’
1News: Slow progress in talks at COP27 – James Shaw
Rachael Nath (RNZ): Cop27 finale: Leaders debate climate damage funding for Pacific nations
Rachael Nath (RNZ): COP27: Pacific nations join alliance dedicated to ditching fossil fuels
Marc Daalder (Newsroom): Farming groups want methane targets halved
Richard Dawkins (Stuff): Agricultural emissions plan ‘unscientific and destructive’
Angus Kebbell (Interest): The National Party backs the He Waka Eke Noa proposal
Robin Martin (RNZ): New Plymouth mayor convinced controversial chemical plant contaminated
Jill Herron (Newsroom): Hybrid tree wrongly sold as ‘sterile’ highlights potential wildings solution

RMA
Glenn McConnell (Stuff): The RMA reforms propose a new Treaty rights monitor – what else do they mean for Māori?
Brendon Harre (Interest): The high cost of unreasonable planning restrictions

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THREE WATERS
James Halpin (Stuff): ‘Truckloads’ of cash swept Wayne Brown to power, say Auckland mayoral losers
Todd Niall (Stuff): More councillors will earn more under Auckland mayor Wayne Brown’s regime
Thomas Cranmer: Government ducks Bill of Rights assessment on Three Waters bill
Bruce Cotterill (Herald): Three Waters – where is the outrage? (paywalled)
Brendon McMahon (Local Democracy Reporting): Critical flood infrastructure: Who pays, West Coast councillors ask
Steven Walton (Stuff): Infighting among Environment Canterbury councillors after claim of block-voting
Chris Schulz (Spinoff): Auckland spends $4m cleaning up graffiti every year. Is it a waste of money?

GAMBLING
Steve Kilgallon (Stuff): Pokie reforms ‘pretty pathetic’, says son of man who gambled away life savings
Nick Truebridge (Newshub): Counselling services, gaming sector put pressure on Government to review Gambling Act
Stephen Forbes (Local Democracy Reporting): Auckland councillor says changes to gaming machine regulations fall short
Jack Tame (Herald): Gambling reforms miss the biggest problem with pokies
Felix Walton (RNZ): Enforcement will be key as casino rules tightened – support service
1News: Government cracks down on pokies to reduce gambling harm

TRANSPORT
Piers Fuller (Stuff): Suspended Wellington buses ‘incredibly unfair’ on people with no alternatives, city missioner says
Georgina Campbell (Herald): 181 and counting: More buses axed on Wellington’s busted network
RNZ: Wellington bus driver shortage: Another 114 services suspended
Leonard Powell (RNZ): Bus drivers have ‘good pay rate now’ and paid for training, new Auckland recruits say
David Farrar: Do we need a $1.2 billion ticketing system?
John Roughan (Herald): Another bridge would be a visual disaster (paywalled)
David Farrar: Govt’s own survey shows net opposition to lowering speed limits

EDUCATION
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Traci Liddall (Spinoff): The truth about school principals and student attendance
Gianina Schwanecke (Stuff): Holidays not the truancy problem, onus must be on irresponsible parents, Luxon says
Martn Bradbury (Waatea News): The silver bullet for truancy – feed the kids, don’t blame the parents
David Farrar: The attendance crisis
Karen Rutherford (Newshub): Government U-turns on closing school successful in reducing youth crime after being contacted by Newshub
Federico Magrin (Stuff): Ministry of Education proposal to disestablish resource teacher of Māori positions slammed as a potential treaty breach
Shaneel Lal (Herald): Ministry of Education must end anti-queer practices at Bethlehem College (paywalled)

OTHER
Shane Jones (Herald): Courts trump iwi co-governance and election will scuttle this Government waka (paywalled)
Phil Pennington (RNZ): Historian wants inquiry into limits on Archives NZ’s services
Charlie Mitchell (Stuff): Welcome to the hyper-ageing nation that is New Zealand
Will Trafford (Whakaata Māori): Māori population of NZ up 2 per cent; overall growth flatlines
Tom Kitchin (RNZ): Debate sparks up on controversial sale of Eastland Network
Colin Peacock (RNZ): Media wrestle with ‘sportswashing’ Qatar’s World Cup

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