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Australian Defence College Visit

Australian Defence College Visit

Thursday 14 Aug 2003 Ken Shirley Speeches -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

Speech to the Australian Defence College Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies Visit, Australian High Commission, Thursday 14th August 2003

A core principle of the ACT Party, which I represent, is that individuals have rights and responsibilities and it is the role of the State to protect those rights and not assume the responsibilities.

We believe that successive governments in New Zealand have intruded into individual's lives to an excessive degree assuming responsibilities and restricting freedoms.

In general, we believe in smaller government and reject big state solutions.

One of the core responsibilities of the state is to provide defence for its citizens against illegal force whether external or internal.

Paradoxically in New Zealand successive governments have expanded their influence across a wide range of social and commercial activities and yet have failed to adequately perform the core responsibility of defence.

Successive governments have not provided adequate strategic frameworks and direction or resources for our armed forces. This is a responsibility of democratically elected governments and should never be left to the Admirals, Generals and Air Vice Marshals.

In the absence of a clear directional strategy New Zealand has tended to indulge in - excuse the pun - naval gazing. We have indulged ourselves with hardware purchase debates and endless structural reviews when the lack of a clear vision and direction has meant that those debates occur in a vacuum.

We should always remember the importance of function before form.

Greater Austranesia can no longer be considered a strategically benign part of the globe.

We live in a time of transition as the former tensions of the Cold War have been displaced by new tensions between those who accept the new predominant world order underpinned by modern democratic inter-dependent market states and those who reject market economies and modern democracy.

The modern battlefield is not characterised by army against army and state against state but rather stateless ideological groups perpetrating sabotage and terror.

We see growing tensions throughout the South Pacific with many Island nations experiencing painful and uncertain transitions towards democracy and open market economies. We know that unstable states are havens for terrorists and criminals.

Tonga is a good example of conflicting cultures and ideologies. A European medieval monarchy has been grafted onto the worst aspects of Polynesian tribal society based on nepotism and chieftainship, which is underpinned by religious fervour, and fundamentalism based on Victorian morals implanted by missionaries 200 years ago.

The governance of Tonga is the antithesis of classical liberalism.

The monarch is absolute; the individual has few rights; there is widespread graft and corruption and the masses are exploited to sustain the privileges of the noble class.

There are serious and mounting tensions in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and Fiji with political stalemates existing in Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru and Niue.

The inherent internal tensions of Indonesia are massive as that country continues to struggle with the transition to open democracy.

New Zealand is not without tensions with a growing division in our society based on the challenge to Crown sovereignty.

Over the last 20 years we have been reinventing tribalism as a means of addressing indigenous peoples claims but the incompatibility of collective tribalism with a modern market economy based on individual property rights is problematic and condemns this pathway to failure.

The Pacific Forum meeting in Auckland this week has long been considered as a low-key annual gabfest. This is changing fast and the significance of the Forum is growing.

The Biketawa Declaration authorises Pacific Forum members to act against member countries that breach accepted standards of governance, human rights, democratic processes and law.

The failure of democratic processes in Fiji and the lawlessness of the Solomon Islands are two examples underpinning the need for such a Declaration.

Formalising co-operation and mutual support is of importance in our region but balance and subtlety will be critical.

Some regard many Island nations as non-viable but crass, overt hegemony from a major player will inevitably be counterproductive - Australia beware.

I deeply regret New Zealand's alienation from the ANZUS alliance. Our continued ban on nuclear propelled ships visits is foolish.

It was implemented as a gesture of chest thumping bravado as a statement against the Cold War arms race.

The legislation should have been confined to nuclear weapons and there was never any reason to ban nuclear propulsion.

Senior US officials have this week advised us that the global war against terror is our region is impeded by New Zealand's denial of access for US nuclear propelled warships.

In 1992 a major review of nuclear ship propulsion was undertaken which concluded that any risk to the natural environment or public safety is insignificant.

This Report pointed out that patients at Auckland Hospital release twice as much radiation into the environment every day as does the entire US naval fleet and its support services on a global basis in a year.

I have a Private Members Bill before the Parliament seeking the repeal of this nonsensical ban on nuclear propelled ships.

I have copies of my Bill here for members on the Strategic Studies Course.

I trust you have all enjoyed your visit to New Zealand and widened your appreciation of New Zealand's potential role within our region.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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