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John MacDonald: We don't need to be the bull in the china shop

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Feb 2024, 12:57PM
Photo / File
Photo / File

John MacDonald: We don't need to be the bull in the china shop

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 1 Feb 2024, 12:57PM

Is it just me or has the Government gone all gung-ho on it since the holidays? 

Because it seems to me that our approach to defence has been turned on its head almost overnight. 

Last week, we had the announcement that New Zealand is sending six military personnel to help with airstrikes against the Houthi militia in Yemen and the Red Sea. 

And today, we’ve got Defence Minister Judith Collins over in Australia, meeting with her counterpart over there - and one of the things they’re going to be talking about is New Zealand joining the non-nuclear part of the AUKUS military alliance. 

This is the alliance involving Australia, the UK and the US. The big nuclear submarine buy-up is part of that, which will mean Australia’s military will have nuclear capability - just like the US and the UK. 

And a big motivator for AUKUS is China’s involvement in the Pacific region. Splashing the cash around and buying a presence in, and influence over, Pacific countries. Which has put the wind up the United States, and so it’s rallying the troops - so to speak - with the AUKUS arrangement.  

Judith Collins was dancing on a diplomatic pin on the radio this morning, when Mike asked whether this is all about China. She said something along the lines of China being a friend and how she hopes it remains a friend of New Zealand - but then she made it sound like a friend who could go off any minute. 

So not a BFF. Not your bestie. A friend who you’re not always a hundred percent sure of. And so that’s why she wants to have a chat on the side with our other mates, Australia.  

But, because we’re not into nuclear weapons, there’s this secondary part of AUKUS where you can sign-up, turn a bit of a blind eye to the nuclear stuff and feel like you’re doing your bit. Stepping up. 

Which has been the line trotted out by the Government multiple times over the past week in relation to the Red Sea deployment. And Judith Collins was at it again this morning when she spoke to Mike from Australia, saying it was critical for supply chain purposes and keeping costs down. 

But not once before the election, did I hear any politician from whatever party you want to name saying that one of the things they were going to do to deal with the cost-of-living crisis was send our defence personnel overseas to sort out supply chain issues. 

Winston Peters and David Seymour did say they were keen on AUKUS pre-election. Christopher Luxon wasn’t quite so gung-ho - but he didn’t rule it out, either.  

Which is why we’ve now got Crusher Collins over in Australia today talking about signing us up to AUKUS Pillar 2 - the non-nuclear bit. Foreign Minister Winston Peters is over there too today. 

Now from what I’ve seen, the non-nuclear part of AUKUS involves things like sharing advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence; quantum computing; cyber, undersea capabilities; hypersonic weapons; information-sharing and electronic warfare. 

If you go to the Defence Force website, here’s what it says itself about what it does: “Our equipment and expertise supports people and communities in need at home, across our region and around the world”. 

Doesn’t sound like there’s too much hypersonic weapons or electronic warfare involved in that, does it? 

I’m not saying that the New Zealand Defence Force can’t change. I’m not saying that, in an ever-changing world, we shouldn’t have our eyes closed to any emerging threats. And, of course, technology is going to be a huge part of that. 

What I am saying, is we should have our eyes open and not get sucked-in to this “doing our bit” malarkey. Because we can just as effectively “do our bit” by sticking to the knitting that our defence force has been doing in recent times. 

Peacekeeping. Disaster relief. That’s what the New Zealand military is all about. In fact, that’s all the New Zealand defence force is capable of. And I’m fine with that. Perfectly fine. 

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