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PM changes defence relations with Australia - Nats

Clark dramatically changes defence relations with Australia

Helen Clark has flagged a major change to the basis of the country’s most vital defence relationship without knowing the full consequences, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

Ms Clark confirmed in Parliament today that “a brief Cabinet discussion” was the sole background to her U-turn on New Zealand-Australian defence relationship.

“ANZAC means a lot to New Zealanders who’ve fought and served in peacekeeping forces together. But Ms Clark has abandoned the long-held view of New Zealand and Australia a single strategic entity,” Mrs Shipley said.

The Australian newspaper has drawn some alarming conclusions from the Prime Minister’s comments which, as the newspaper noted, have serious consequences for wider Australia-New Zealand relations.

Helen Clark has effectively transformed, if not ended, the long Australian-New Zealand alliance.
In a radical departure from previous prime ministers, she has ended the idea of Australia and New Zealand as a single strategic entity.

The newspaper urged Australian Prime Minister John Howard to tell Ms Clark that the “irresponsibility” of the Clark doctrine would have a cost, which could include removing the benefits that New Zealand businesses enjoy under CER.

Mrs Shipley said that despite asking Ms Clark in the House today, she was still waiting to find out what had changed since the recent meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff and his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer when they re-affirmed the notion of a single strategic entity.

“Ms Clark seems to be trying to squirm out of her comments, but the truth is that successive Governments on both sides of the Tasman have endorsed the concept.

“It was recently underlined in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefing papers to her own Government, which noted that the defence alliance ‘encompasses a single strategic entity and is based on a century-long history of close co-operation in conflict and peacekeeping alike.’

“If she really believes what she said, Helen Clark will effectively be delivering John Howard a ‘Dear John’ letter to tell him that years of defence co-operation are over.

“Either she was deliberately selling New Zealand short, or she was inventing foreign policy on the hoof.

“New Zealanders are entitled to know that the Government has fully considered whether there will be any flow-on effects in areas such as CER.

“I call on the Prime Minister to give an assurance that full advice has been taken prior to taking any action that could have unforeseen and serious consequences,” Mrs Shipley said.

ENDS

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