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Foreign Affairs is a Maori Affairs Issue

Te Karere Ipurangi
Maori News Online

30th May 2000

Foreign Affairs is a Maori Affairs Issue
by Ross Nepia Himona

Few politicians and commentators have even begun to grasp the future political effects of the browning of Aotearoa New Zealand, including the major changes it will bring about in our foreign policy stance.

Few of them seem to realise, let alone acknowledge, that Aotearoa New Zealand is becoming browner, and that this will bring about massive changes in political attitudes.

Immediately after the last elections Helen Clark stated that the National Party did not appreciate the importance of the Maori vote, and that Labour were the more likely beneficiaries of an increasing Maori vote. The National Party seems to have since woken up to that, but is totally confused about how to gain some of that vote. Perhaps both those parties will be redundant in a Maori and Polynesian Aotearoa.

Being an increasingly Maori and Polynesian nation will not be about voting for Labour or the Alliance and their policies, in even greater numbers. It will be about reframing policies and institutions and systems and political parties within a Maori and Polynesian cultural setting. Parliament itself will be required to make massive changes in the way it operates, from adversarial and confrontational to cooperative and collaborative.

In an aside in his Sunday Star*Times column on 21st May, Michael Laws showed that he at least is well aware of the trend, writing that, "Given that the ethnic (and political) future of this country is decidedly brown ...". He continued the theme on 28 May. Laws seems to be one of the few commentators who appreciates what is happening.

For all her policy acumen Helen Clark has shown little evidence that Labour has fully realised the future effects of this demographic trend.

In our international relationships a browner citizenry will require of its political representatives the presentation of a different face and cultural understanding to the world than that which has prevailed for over a century. It will be a face which understands and is sympathetic to Asian and Polynesian cultures.

For the increasingly brown population of Aotearoa New Zealand will want to forge closer ties and solidarity with the Asian and Pacific nations in our region.

Aotearoa New Zealand will no longer be so closely tied by defence or economic alliances to the worldwide white hegemony, represented today by the iron triangle of the IMF, WTO and World Bank, dominated by the USA and the European Union.

This will all be in stark contrast to the meddling and sanctimonious approach of the present Minister of Foreign Affairs. Stark contrast to the loud knee jerk responses that Labour politicians have long been prone too, displaying to the whole of the non-white world their narrow Eurocentric world view. In stark contrast to a Minister of Health heading off to Cyprus on the other side of the world, intent on telling the Turks where to get off.

And it will be in stark contrast to the self appointed role of this small mainly white country, assuming that it has a right to pronounce on what should and should not be happening in non-white countries.

There is what the Government calls "instability" throughout the region, in Terengganu, Mindanao, Aceh, North Sumatra, Kalimantan, Maluku, Sulawesi, Timor, West Papua, Bougainville, Solomons, Kanaky and Fiji. The Government seems to view all of them as situations that need to be fixed, stabilised, and returned to old realities, or new versions of old realities.

The present widespread political unrest in the region needs however to be understood as a turning point, one of the visible indicators of a transition to a new geo-political reality. It will be a reality in which continued attempts by Australia and New Zealand to impose their Anglo-European values and systems on the region will no longer be tolerated.

It will be a reality in which both China and India will play large roles. It will be a reality in which we must learn to live in harmony with the Muslim world to our near north.

In this new reality Aotearoa New Zealand will no longer be able to cling to the coat-tails of whatever white super-power imposes itself over the region; first Britain, then the USA, now the IMF.

In the new regional order Aotearoa New Zealand will no longer be able to play good guy to Australia's bad guy, yet all the while promoting exactly the same agendas. That unsubtle strategy is now totally transparent, and has had its day, especially since the extraordinarily provocative outburst of invective after the Fijian coup, from both Australia and New Zealand.

And that bully-boy diplomacy, inflicted on this region by Australia and New Zealand, will certainly not be tolerated.

Phil Goff's pronouncements on Indonesia and Fiji this year show that he is totally unaware of the future reality. He is unaware that the new reality will not be crafted according to his and his government's Anglo-European values and ideology. A Minister of Foreign Affairs needs to have highly developed geopolitical instincts, and a deep sympathetic understanding of non-white cultures, including fluency in an Asian or Polynesian language.

Why language? Simply because in the near future it will not be possible to live and have influence in this region without sympathetically engaging with it, at the personal and cultural levels. Interestingly, the best current example is Britain, now learning to engage personally and culturally with the rest of Europe. Another is California, where they are being forced by demography to engage with Hispanic America at a personal level.

An effective foreign policy requires also that our Government takes a long-term view based on future reality, and sets in place international relationships that will be of lasting quality. The present Anglo-European values-based approach to foreign affairs will not create those lasting quality relationships for this browning nation in a brown region.

It's time for the Government to wake up, and take a long hard look at its foreign affairs policy. And it's time too for the Maori MPs to become more assertive in the framing of that policy, for Foreign Affairs is a Maori Affairs issue.


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