The International Outlook for New Zealand - Speech

Published: Wed 7 Nov 2001 04:09 PM
Wellington Chamber of Commerce Hotel Inter-Continental, Wellington Wednesday 7 November 2001
The International Outlook for New Zealand
As National's new leader, my priority is to explain to you and to all New Zealanders how the National Party can best serve our country at this time.
What can New Zealanders look for from us?
Well, National's new focus is on the long-term. We won't pretend that major challenges, which face New Zealand, can be dealt with overnight or by pat answers manufactured for the media.
We will also be consistent with our core values. Something the Clark Government is not.
You see we welcome Helen Clark's shift to a strong stance on free trade, and to recognise the benefits to New Zealand of a close relationship with the United States.
National has always been the party of New Zealand's engagement with the world.
Her recognition of this is all the more remarkable given the history of Helen Clark, Labour and the Alliance. They have been anti-US for a long, long time.
Their instincts are isolationist. This non-aligned nationalist view of New Zealand was forged in the 1970s and in the 1980s, at the time of the ANZUS crisis. People of this ilk have been concerned that New Zealand will be recolonised by the US, the UK and Australia.
These issues have become a lot more serious with New Zealand's commitment to the war on terror. We are now at war alongside these countries, for reasons Clark appears uncomfortable explaining.
All the explanation New Zealanders have heard from her are a few sound-bites from Shanghai.
But will we know if New Zealand troops are fighting in Afghanistan? If there are casualties, will we be able to honour our dead?
The commentators are treating this as if Clark's fight for the centre ground of politics is all that matters, and the fight for freedom just a prop in the play.
What are the objectives of the war? To track down Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice? Or is it to replace the Taleban regime? Are these the objectives of the New Zealand government? And if so, does the government share the concerns of the US military command that both are difficult to achieve?
Remember, we are talking about New Zealand troops - their friends, relatives and parents deserve to know what they are fighting for even if even if the government can't explain.
Last week Helen Clark tried to make out that military action, and by implication civilian casualties, will soon be over. I hope she is right, but I suspect it's another glib sound bite.
In fact, it looks increasingly likely that tracking Osama Bin Laden and replacing the Taleban regime may now need a long and difficult, land war. Clark's comments indicate her government may not be committed to an extended military action beyond the bombing campaign.
Probably a majority of her own MPs do not support our participation in an American-led war to replace a government in Afghanistan. This is just the kind of US foreign policy that prominent Labour Ministers have opposed most of their adult lives since Vietnam.
And unlike the Gulf War, the War against Terror won't be short and decisive. There is a big job to maintain public support for our troops in Afghanistan and for further military measures. It will be even harder now that the Government itself is divided over the issue. Those divisions deepen as civilian casualties rise and the refugee crisis unfolds.
Helen Clark has been too anxious to prove her credentials as a firm leader. She has left her supporters behind, and in time, they will force her to revise her position.
The campaign in Afghanistan will test our resolve. Helen Clark needs to do more to explain how New Zealand's national interest is being served in the wintry mountains of Afghanistan.
The risk here is that New Zealand repeats our history of being unreliable.
Even an old cold warrior like Henry Kissinger could write that:
"Peace is indivisible. The United States cannot pursue a policy of selective reliability. We cannot abandon friends in one part of the world without jeopardising the security of friends elsewhere."
To the eyes of our western friends and allies, New Zealand has seemed selectively reliable.
We have moved from dependence on Britain to independence. On the way to this independence, we have come to be regarded as unreliable, particularly by Australia and the United States.
Prolonged participation in the war against the Taleban is another test of our reliability.
The current levels of support for the war in Afghanistan are fragile, because they are based on our reaction to the attacks in New York. In six months time, that memory will have faded and support for the war and for tough anti-terrorism measures, will only hold up if there is a clearly articulated national interest at stake.
On present form, Helen Clark will change the policy once the polls change.
The signs aren't good.
The Prime Minister recently likened the bombing of Afghanistan to the bombing of Berlin in World War Two, as if they are justified for the same reasons.
It disturbs me that the person who speaks for us internationally did not, and maybe still does not, see the obvious difference. The bombing of Afghanistan is not meant to kill civilians, though it could. The Allied bombing 60 years ago admitted no such distinction.
The difference is that the will and means to discriminate are in evidence now.
The Government MPs are understandably confused by what Clark has said. Just a few weeks ago, she declared that we live "in a benign strategic environment" and that the "United States would not expect to defend us."
Now she is solemnly intoning the necessity of war to honour our obligations to our allies!
Commentators say she has been more concerned with focus groups - the public's desire to see New Zealand react with the United States to the terrorist attacks. Now, she needs to explain the war itself - what it's trying to achieve, how and why we can contribute to these objectives.
This is the first time for a long time we have committed troops directly to war. This is combat - not peacekeeping. These events call for a rethink of our defence policy. Clark's policy was based on three pillars: asserting our independence from our traditional allies, our prime relationship with the United Nations and peacekeeping as the principle function of the armed forces.
The world has changed. Our primary relationship is with the US, not the UN. We are called on now for interdependence, not independence, for combat rather than peacekeeping. A Defence Policy based on peacekeeping won't work for combat.
A Defence Policy based on independence won't work for the new type of coalition of which we are now a part.
A Defence Policy based around the United Nations won't work for the US, her friends and allies.
I believe New Zealanders are willing to foot the bill for our fair share of the burden of security.
Take those words from our national anthem "make her praises heard afar". What we can bring to our relations with other countries is this instinct. The conscience and good will of people who do live apart from other nations, and yet do know a lot about how different people can live together.
Our own history is more full of this than we realise. Colonial and civil wars, world wars, constitutional debate and settlements of reparation with Maori, as well as inclusion of a Polynesian and then Asian population.
We are a haven from these tensions between States, yet we have incorporated them within our own small nation.
Our touchstone should be confidence in our capacity for the tasks of modern international relations - defining common interests across diverse entities, resolving differences, practical humanitarian instinct, and yes, a resolve to fight in combat for what we believe.
National's defence policy is based on interdependence, on carrying a torch for our own distinctive nationhood and carrying our share of the collective burden of security. Helen Clark has designed a defence policy according to a defunct worldview.
We must start with a clear view of New Zealand and of New Zealand's place in the world.
Critical to that is our long-term relationship with Australia.
Australians certainly do regard us as unreliable. In a few weeks, the Skyhawk squadron will be disbanded just at a time when Australia's own capacity is stretched by commitments to the Afghan War and Timor.
As they send their fighters and frigates north, ours have been covering the gaps in Australia. But the F16 deal was canned, and now we cannot carry our share of the burden.
We are the only developed nation that has made the assumption the airspace our Air Force is to operate in, from here to Papua New Guinea, will always be benign.
Let me spell out some of National's intentions.
First, we are committed to a strong, close, economic and defence relationship with Australia. New Zealand's security depends to a large degree on Australia's security.
Second, New Zealand must have access to air-strike capability and interoperability with our closest ally so we can play our regional role in ensuring global security, particularly with our partners in the Five Power Defence Arrangements, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, and increasingly with the US.
Third, New Zealand should facilitate new regional institutions to strengthen the bonds between the South Pacific nations. These could extend to a regional Court of Justice like those that exist in the Caribbean and Central America.
Right now, Helen Clark is ad libbing and we will lose our way in the absence of a new definition of our interests.
Here is an example:
Our available frigate is heading to help the Australians because of the Afghan War, and because they are patrolling their northern coast to stop the boat people.
Remember Clark said earlier this year we had no strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. But in effect, the New Zealand Government is supporting Australia's policy on illegal immigration.
The Coalition partners would certainly oppose her support of John Howard's policy on the boat people, as they increasingly and openly oppose our involvement in Afghanistan, and strong stance on free trade.
So the Government is working with Australia, with no coherent view about why they are doing so.
These issues are not minor. They are just unexamined, brushed over by a Government focused more on coalition unity than national interests.
At present, New Zealand has an Army battalion on East Timor on the frontier with the most populous Muslim country in the world. A few months ago, that nation-in-waiting was in danger of becoming a wasteland on a frontline between the Western and Muslim world that is much closer to Wellington than Kabul is to New York.
I hope the Government has a more coherent interaction with Australia to deal with the real risks to the troops.
Terror has been globalised. An event in New York creates insecurity here.
What response does this change in the world require of us? It is a question that comes on top of the debate about globalised economics and technology, like GE. We won't get coherent answers to either of these questions from the Left. Already Helen Clark's Government is cracking under the pressure.
The Left in New Zealand shows no capacity to interpret the role of our nation in this fast changing world.
Globalisation is not new. But what is new is the pace and scope of global change and interaction on security as well as economics. And what is revolutionary is how interdependent the world is becoming.
We do not want here a smothering global culture or a bland or repressive uniformity.
Nor will we have it. James Belich tells us New Zealand has not shown itself to be particularly adept at accommodating immigrant cultures. He focuses on how we have had to move beyond our historic relationship with Britain, and that leaving behind the previous New Zealand obsession with being a 'Better Britain' involves developing a more flexible and tolerant national character, one that acknowledges also the growing significance of Maori, Polynesian and Asian culture in New Zealand.
New Zealand will experience greater cultural diversity as global influences mix with our own unique demographics.
Because the Left has demonstrated its inability to grapple with these issues, at home and abroad, the political part of this national task falls to the National Party to redefine our international interest, and to shape our hybrid future.
Over the past 30-40 years, New Zealand has been trying to manage a transition between two phases of globalisation. New Zealand was the product of 19th century British globalisation. We felt as snug as a bug within it, even when it became obvious that it had become archaic and dysfunctional.
The fall of Singapore in 1941, the Suez fiasco in 1956, Britain's entry to the EU, all marked successive stages of HMS Empire foundering. We have defined our role in the world by asserting our independence, at times defiantly. Now our own history and international events dictate that we move on. Our opportunity for re-engagement with the world lies with the new phases of globalisation, emanating primarily from the US.
The mark of this new phase is interdependence.
National stands for a strong economy and a secure community.
This Government has bypassed the opportunity with respect to the economy when it refused to pick up on any momentum or any significant ideas produced by the Knowledge Wave Conference. With respect to security, the Government has been caught with a defunct defence policy and its own internal contradictions over globalised threats to security.
We are one of a few countries who have committed troops to the Afghanistan war.
What matters more than the political tactics at home is the action on the battlefield where New Zealand blood will be spilt. Our nation deserves a better explanation why.
I doubt we'll get it. Helen Clark's Government lacks unity and resolve. It is reactive, and trapped by its past, so New Zealand will, again, fail to take the opportunity to define a new role.
I say our nation's interest in the war in Afghanistan only makes sense in a future where New Zealand is interdependent with others. We have sufficient insight into our own history and we have sufficient belief in our own capacities to give our own shape to our role in the world, as a reliable partner abroad, with a strong economy and a secure community at home.
Thank you.

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