Simon Power Speech To Institute Of Intl. Affairs
SIMON POWER NATIONAL DEFENCE SPOKESPERSON MP FOR RANGITIKEI
SPEECH TO THE NEW ZEALAND INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS (PALMERSTON NORTH BRANCH), MASSEY UNIVERSITY, PALMERSTON NORTH
FRIDAY 16 MAY 2003
These are my first observations as National's Defence spokesperson since taking over the portfolio 12 weeks ago. These are my personal views: they do not represent Party Policy and have not been approved by Caucus - they are my views alone.
My views, like many of my generation, are internationalist.
It is time to start opening doors. Opening doors and opening our minds to the facts.
The strategies that New Zealand pursues in its defence and foreign policy must be bilateral, regional and increasingly global in order to advance our national interest.
The world we live in is not the same as it was fifty or even 15 years ago. The cold war is over. The USSR no longer exists. Russia is no longer a foe. Now more than ever, defence policy is an instrument of foreign policy and is derived from it.
US surface ships no longer carry nuclear weapons and no US surface ships, other than aircraft carriers, are nuclear powered. Those US Navy aircraft carriers that are nuclear powered could not physically enter our harbours.
These are the facts. It's time we accepted responsibility and faced reality.
For the first time in over 100 years the New Zealand Government failed to support our traditional allies when our support was called upon and called for. While the 'Coalition of the Willing' fought to remove a tyrannical despot from power, we were fighting at home to contain the damage caused by this Government's isolationist stance and their foreign policy faux pas'.
It is not good enough to stand back and say, "Isn't terror a shame". Frankly, I'd rather be with Australia, the US and the UK than a "Franco/German/Russia linkup with good links through to the Chinese" as the Prime Minister recently put it.
Let me assure you that unlike the Prime Minister, I'm certainly not in the business of second-guessing what Al Gore would have done had he been elected President.
If we hope to carry on as a first world country - with all the benefits and technological advances that such status brings, - New Zealand must be both responsible and responsive. We must be prepared to shoulder that responsibility. We must also be prepared to adapt our defence and foreign policies to accommodate the new world order.
The toppling of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War was a moral victory for the West. But the defeat of the common foe, the Soviet Union, certainly didn't signify an end to the need for strategic defence relationships.
Rather it signalled a shake-up of relationships and new and often unexpected alliances. Bonds created and sustained by a shared purpose. The merging of common goals. Alliances often based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.
Over the last three years we have seen three major groupings of nations emerge. The Anglo-American group, the Continental European group and the East Asian group. It seems likely that an Indian sub-continental group may also evolve in the next two decades.
The importance of these groupings is that they are not exclusively based on security. They are relationships that represent shared interests including investment, education, dialogue, trade and in some cases geographical proximity.
Within each of these groupings there are those nations who are tightly bound and those on the periphery. While those who are tightly bound share obligations, they also share benefits. Whereas countries on the periphery are in danger of becoming marginalised - of dropping off the radar.
The war in Iraq clearly demonstrated what can, does and will happen. The United States, Britain and Australia were at the centre of the coalition. The scale of their respective commitment was irrelevant. Canada, New Zealand and Ireland were not involved. We should support the US because they were right; not as part of a trade-off. But the argument is about more than just a higher level of commitment, it is about reliability of commitment and not just switching policy and commitment depending on who is in government.
The September 11 attacks on the United States changed the world as we knew it.
They showed the extraordinary vulnerability of western cities to terrorism. They changed our perception of war and added a new and horrifying dimension. September 11 also changed the way that America conducts itself, both domestically and in the international arena.
Similarly, the October 2002 attack in Bali affected Australians and New Zealanders. The defence initiatives and foreign policy strategies of Australia responded; New Zealand didn't.
Terrorism has always been a global issue but these acts of terrorism were not just attacks on America and Americans or Australia and Australians - they were devastating and unprovoked attacks against the free and democratic world and our way of life.
For many western countries, it was also the first time an entire generation had ever witnessed death and destruction on such an horrific scale. It changed attitudes to defence strategy.
September 11 was a defining event that changed the international environment and without a doubt changed the way that the Iraq crisis was handled. New Zealand got it wrong. The Labour Government underestimated the strength of the US's resolve and how they would respond to Iraq in a post September 11 climate.
NEW WORLD ORDER
It is essential that we promote economic and political freedom overseas. It is irresponsible to continue to ignore growing security threats. Whether they are ideological, systemic or political, it is these threats that will continue to challenge New Zealand's responsiveness and sense of responsibility.
We must align ourselves creatively with other countries. Oceans, in my view, do not separate us from our responsibilities, rather they link them.
It would be both timely, and indeed in our best interests, to focus on strengthening our relationship with Australia. Now.
Australian security concerns must inform our own defence strategy. Because, simply, each country forms the other's flank. This function of geography cannot be ignored, nor should it be.
We also share an ambitious programme of economic integration and our inter-governmental structures and people-to-people links are unique. Australia is an important partner for us in the South Pacific region and beyond.
Australia quickly committed to an active role in the "Coalition of the Willing". Their commitment was decisive, their support unconditional. Alliances count most when the hard choices and decisions have to be made.
The difficulty of war and the reluctance of all countries to enter into it mean that allies will be remembered, respected and rewarded. Australia did not lose a single soldier in the conflict. What they gained is immeasurable. We only have to cast our minds back a couple of weeks and recall the outstanding reception and hospitality accorded Australian Prime Minister John Howard on his recent visits to the United States and the United Kingdom.
Indecision, opting out from mutual obligations, and a reluctance to commit in a time of crisis, are the surest ways to wreck an alliance. Following polls and not leading from a position of principle is not sustainable long term and is not leadership. We have compromised the fundamental nature of the relationship we want with the United States.
Australia's relationship with the United States has gone from strength to strength. They are where we'd like to be - where we should be.
There is a lesson to be learned. We must meet our defence responsibilities and security obligations if we hope to progress the relationship further.
Disarmament is the key issue that led to this year's war in Iraq. The United States in particular made it clear to Iraq that any attempt by them to secretly possess or develop weapons of mass destruction would lead to war. It did.
I believe in our stance on nuclear disarmament. So do our allies. But our stance on disarmament is not the problem.
The 1986 New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act, was a world first at the time it was enacted. Twenty years on and I'm convinced that it's time to look at the issue again in the 21st Century.
Is our nuclear free stance still relevant or appropriate? Is it in fact even true?
In 1992 the Special Committee on Nuclear Propulsion, chaired by The Right Honourable Sir Edward Somers, presented its report entitled "The Safety of Nuclear Powered Ships". It concluded that "The likelihood of any damaging emission or discharge of radioactive material from nuclear powered vessels if in New Zealand ports is so remote that it cannot give rise to any rational apprehension". (REF: The Safety of Nuclear Powered Ships (SNPS), p173)
It's time to have another look at the Somers' Report including its terms of reference and its findings. A review is timely.
It seems that the presence in New Zealand of nuclear powered vessels representing the US and the Royal navies would be safe. The operational record of these vessels speaks for itself. There has never been an accident to a propulsion reactor involving a significant release of radiation. It is a fact that at current rates of administration, patients in Auckland being treated for hyperthyroidism with Iodine-131 release more than twice as much radioactivity into local waters each day, than the entire US nuclear fleet and its support facilities release annually to all harbours and coastal waters around the world. (REF: SNPS, p69)
According to a Radiation Dose Scale provided in the Report of the Special Committee on Nuclear Propulsion, the average annual exposure to radiation for US nuclear fleet personnel is 0.6 mSv. (millisievert)
This is compared to the average annual dose to New Zealanders from medical applications of radiation and dental x-rays at 0.4 mSv; the typical dose received by a passenger on a return flight between Auckland and London at 0.5mSv; while annual exposure for aircraft crew on commercial Trans-Atlantic flights averages 9.0 mSv. (REF: SNPS, p135)
Our clean and green image would not be damaged if nuclear propelled vessels were to visit our ports. There is no evidence to support the proposition that nuclear propelled vessels cause environmental degradation. Nor is there anything to suggest that our clean green image was tarnished as a result of previous visits by nuclear propelled vessels. Fear of risk is certainly not a reason for such a policy. Other political reasons may provide a reason for that policy. Fear of risk is not one of those.
New Zealand is not in reality a "nuclear free" country. The New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act specifically prohibits the acquisition, stationing or testing of nuclear explosive devices in New Zealand and forbids entry into the internal waters of New Zealand by nuclear powered ships. However it does not prohibit any other activities involving the exploitation of nuclear technology.
In fact nuclear technology is used extensively throughout New Zealand. Its practice is recognised and controlled by the Radiation Protection Act 1965 and the Radiation Protection Regulations. Nuclear techniques are frequently employed in modern medicine, including x-ray procedures, the use of radioactive isotopes in diagnosis and treatment, and radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer.
It seems there is no longer any valid scientific reason why the New Zealand Government cannot invite a United States Navy or Royal Navy ship to visit New Zealand. During the Cold war both the US Navy and the Royal Navy had a policy whereby they would "neither confirm nor deny" whether or not their ships were carrying nuclear weapons. Now that the USSR is no longer in existence or indeed a foe, the Governments of both navies have stated that under normal peacetime operations their surface ships do not carry nuclear weapons. Quite simply, denying access doesn't seem to make sense anymore. I simply ask for the same common sense that was applied during the GM debate: rationality over emotion.
FOREIGN POLICY & TRADE
New Zealand is an island nation that is entirely dependent on trade for prosperity and success.
The world's economies are now more integrated than ever before.
The strength of our leadership, our defence strategy and our trade and foreign relations are all crucial in determining whether we gain or lose from globalisation. We can't afford to lose.
Globalisation brings opportunities but it also tests a country's relationships, its institutions and its leadership.
New Zealand is on the cusp. We can embrace globalisation, focus on building relationships and enjoy a positive and prosperous future. Or we can carry on pursuing this Labour Government's agenda of the past few years. Building barriers not bridges. Losing friends, not strengthening friendships.
The ever changing world we live in demands that we adopt a cohesive and strategic response that will benefit New Zealand and all New Zealanders.
We must form alliances with other countries in order to advance our national interest. In particular we must maintain and form strategic defence relationships.
Now, more than ever before, our own security and our future economic prosperity depend on it.
I acknowledge that the National Government did not allow defence spending to keep pace in the 1990s but we never ever contemplated a removal of capability - something the Labour Government has managed to achieve in little more than three years.
National will do everything we can to rebuild our reputation and our relationships with our traditional allies. Any effective defence strategy must be based on cooperation not isolationism. We must not - we will not - be entirely dependent on other countries for our defence combat capability. We will work with them: not rely solely on them.
It is essential that our defence policy is structured around our obligation as responsible members of the international community and not based upon the simplistic notion that there is no threat to our national security.
It is too easy to produce shopping lists of defence equipment like those contained in the Defence Long Term Development Plan without putting this first into a strategic regional and international paradigm. Good defence policy comes first.
In the past New Zealand's combat forces have earned respect for their small but effective contribution to the pool of international and regional combat capabilities. We have always demonstrated a willingness to share the burden of both the cost and the risk in maintaining these capabilities. But courage is no substitute for good policy and appropriate equipment for that policy.
I will push to see National progressively restore defence spending to a credible level in order to provide a long term funding base that enables us to secure and maintain a defence force that is professionally competent and technically sound.
THE UNITED NATIONS
The United Nations may be considered an excellent forum for small countries to have their voice heard on an equal playing field with the large powerful ones. New Zealand may even have some sentimental attachment to the organisation because of our founder member status. Our own Prime Minister may have her sights set on succeeding to the top job sometime in the future. But in reality - how effective is the current status of the United Nations in today's world?
The United Nations represents 191 nations, nearly every country in the world. But its inability to secure a consensus based and successful conclusion to the Iraqi crisis surely raises questions about its credibility and its capacity to make decisions about armed intervention.
It made the threat of a second resolution and waited while France held the right to veto over it from start to finish.
I agree that it is important to remember the critical role that the UN plays in other areas including human rights, refugee issues, environmental concerns, poverty issues and disease education, management and control.
However, if it does not continue to successfully evolve - if it does not adapt to the changing world it represents in order to meet the expectations of its member states, then is it destined to become a forum that is only concerned with development and humanitarian issues?
The United Nations is only as good as the level of commitment its member states have towards it. When member states are lacklustre in their commitment or fail to agree on a course of action, then it's very difficult for the UN to achieve anything.
The imperfections in the United Nations system became more and more apparent as the crisis in Iraq escalated. The Iraq war represented the failure of international consensus. The UN Security Council failed to enforce its own resolutions, which required Iraq to disarm in order to restore peace and security to the region. Is the Security Council equipped to deal with a weak multilateral world system as exists today?
In this new post-September 11 / Post Iraq world, perhaps we need to take a fresh look at the United Nations. Maybe what is required is an objective reappraisal exploring its relevance, its strengths, its shortcomings and its future.
Defence and the relationships, strategic initiatives and policies it encompasses matter. I have strong views and a clear vision of where we should be and how we are going to get there.
Defence is also an issue that is close to the hearts of the people in Rangitikei. Our electorate has a greater military presence and the region more military personnel than any other region in New Zealand.
It's time to make it right. It's time to face the facts. We must be responsible and at the same time shoulder responsibility. It's time to start opening doors and opening our minds.