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Time To Revive ANZUS

Monday 30th Apr 2001 Richard Prebble Speech -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

It is timely that we debate New Zealand's defence policies. The defence of citizens’ security is the first duty of government.

The Labour/Alliance government, without meaningful public debate, and without any attempt to achieve consensus, is radically changing New Zealand's defence policies. If the government's defence assessments are wrong, and I believe they are, the consequences could be catastrophic.

For 50 years successive governments have had the concept of collective security as a cornerstone of our defence and foreign affairs. The system of collective security relies on the reasonable assurance that if New Zealand's security is ever threatened militarily strong allies will come to our defence.

Successive governments have concluded that New Zealand was too small and too lacking in resources to achieve security on its own. Collective defence is also based on the notion that New Zealand's security interests are far wider than our own territory.

New Zealand has an interest in the security of Australia and of South Pacific states. New Zealand, as a parliamentary democracy, has consistently opposed dictatorships, from fascists to communists.

We have allied ourselves with like-minded nations, principally Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

If Australia is attacked, then that is a threat to our security. It is this world view that Labour rejects. Helen Clark states boldly that there are no threats to New Zealand's security interests.

As Australian ministers look out on the same world and see significant security threats, one must assume that a Labour-led government would not respond to an attack on Australia, that a Labour-led government does not align New Zealand with the world's other parliamentary democracies and that we are being led to non-aligned neutrality.

Such a foreign policy view leads to the most radical change in our defence forces. The army is being transformed into a peacekeeping force. The navy is being reduced to a coastguard function and the airforce's role is reduced to one of transport.

While Labour campaigned on the populist stance of reducing the cost of defence during the election, this go-it-alone defence policy will cost more. The cost won't just be in money, it will also be in lives. Trying to be the world's peacekeeper is very dangerous.

ACT rejects Labour's defence and foreign policy as being ideological rather than practical. The policy fails at every level. Isolationism will not give us security because New Zealand's security interests are far wider than our shores. Let me demonstrate the folly of Labour's policy.

New Zealand is in the middle of Oceania. The Tokelauans who are in the tropics are New Zealanders, as are the Cook Islanders and the Nuieans.

New Zealand's Ross Dependency reaches the South Pole. Our exclusive economic zone is the world's 4th largest.

For an island nation, a navy has to be a priority. To cover our vast oceans we need an airforce.

In geographic terms the government priorities make no sense at all. The government's downgrading of the ANZAC alliance has no popular support. Most New Zealanders have a regional view of security.

Similarly while our peacekeepers enjoy public support, peacekeeping does not. The projects New Zealand has got involved in carry very significant risks that the public has not been warned about.

Casualties, which are inevitable if peacekeeping continues at present levels, will see public support for peacekeeping disappear.

One risk of peacekeeping is the difficulty in disengaging. New Zealand is still involved in peacekeeping projects first agreed to 20 years ago.

There is still no plan on how to disengage from East Timor. The Australians had to relieve us from the Bougainville commitment.

While New Zealand, as a supporter of the United Nations, should undertake some peacekeeping, today we are hopelessly over-extended and our defence personnel more at risk than any time since the Vietnam war.

The strategy is militarily flawed. The New Zealand army will not be able to maintain its combat and defence capabilities as a peacekeeping force.

Without surveillance capability New Zealand will not be able to protect the huge ocean mass we administer from military threats, illegal fishing, refugees, drugs, diseases, pests and other threats.

Even with additional funding and extra personnel, New Zealand's defence forces are just too small for the tasks. New Zealand needs collective security.

Collective security with Australia alone is not a viable strategy. Australia, which sees itself as too small to be able to meet defence threats alone, looks to the United States. A New Zealand defence force that cannot operate with the United States is not an asset to Australia, but a liability.

National's attempt in the 1990s to have an ANZAC defence arrangement but not an ANZUS arrangement was fundamentally flawed and resulted in a steady decline in defence capability.

Money alone cannot resolve the problem. The fact is that ANZAC frigates are simply not affordable. New Zealand has in the past could afford a four frigate navy by purchasing good quality second-hand ships from the United Kingdom.

Similar good quality Perry class frigates are an option from the USA. Four Perry class frigates, with armaments for the price of two unarmed ANZAC frigates. To do that we need to resolve the ANZUS breach.

It is a very easy task. The United States navy has no nuclear weapons on its ships. A simple resolution of the New Zealand Parliament acknowledging what the world acknowledges - that the United States navy ships are free of nuclear weapons - would resolve our row.

A restoring of our allied relationships with the USA and rejoining ANZUS would enable New Zealand to put together a coherent defence policy.

The benefits would be significant. A sharing of intelligence would enable us to know why Australia has a very different world view. We would have access to a modern surveillance system. We would have the ability to purchase at favourable prices and to receive training in modern defence equipment.

Collective security also gives us more defence for the dollar.

As an ANZAC and ANZUS ally New Zealand could put together a viable defence force for about 1.6% of GDP. As a member of just an ANZAC regional defence arrangement New Zealand would need to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.

Labour’s ‘go-it-alone’ defence policy requires at least 3% of GDP. Both National and Labour’s policies result in a seriously deficient defence force.

Now is the time to implement ACT's defence policies. Modern defence preparedness takes very long lead times. If we rejoined ANZUS today, it would take 10 years to restore our defence capacity. If Labour gets another term, it will take 20 years.

Helen Clark, in Canberra on the eve of ANZAC Day, boasted to Australians that New Zealand per capita lost twice as many men in World War One and Two. That was not a record to boast about.

Military historians are in agreement that New Zealand's relatively high war dead is attributable to the lack of defence preparedness before both wars.

Australia, in contrast, has always taken defence more seriously. We have paid for our politicians short-sightedness in the blood of our young men.

I fear that Helen Clark is repeating that folly and we will pay again for it in future casualties.

Ends


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