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Goff Speech: New Zealand – Our Place in the World

New Zealand – Our Place in the World and Our Defence Policy

New Zealand Defence Force Command and Staff College, Trentham

Thank you for the invitation to speak today. I am pleased to have the opportunity again to address the Command and Staff College. I want to offer my view on how New Zealand sees its place in the world and the role of our defence policy and defence force in meeting the government’s objectives.

Let me first of all set the scene by outlining the underlying basis of New Zealand’s international policy.

New Zealand is a small country.

We do not pose a threat to any other nation. Our influence comes not from our ability to impose our will on other countries, but from working with others and persuading them of the merits of our arguments.

Our strategic importance is largely a product of our location. We are, as former New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange once quipped, a dagger pointing at the heart of Antarctica.

But notwithstanding our relatively isolated geographic position and size, we have never been isolationist or reluctant to play our part in contributing to security. Indeed, New Zealand is proud of the role it has played historically in international affairs.

We are a sovereign country, closely connected to others, but voicing an independent view. We reflect our own view of the world.

We promote the role of multilateral institutions. The United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the International Court of Justice and international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are in our view important vehicles for countries to collectively determine our future.

They are the vehicles for the rules-based system that we believe should govern conduct between nations.

We are a liberal democracy. We follow and promote a commitment to democratic procedures, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

We are prepared to commit human and financial resources to being a good international citizen. Our peace-keeping deployments, development assistance and disarmament initiatives are example of that commitment.

Disarmament and non-proliferation, for example, have long been key elements of New Zealand's international policy agenda which we have looked to further through the multilateral system.

We are active in the United Nations, particularly in forums such as the Conference on Disarmament and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in other organisations such as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons and the four export control regimes.

As part of the G8 Global Partnership, for example, we are making a contribution to the destruction of stockpiled Russian chemical weapons and to shutting down the last Russian plutonium producing nuclear reactor.

We are taking part in practical exercises and discussions under the Proliferation Security Initiative aimed at preventing the transfer of WMD related material.

We strongly promoted the New Agenda Coalition’s nuclear disarmament resolution, winning support for example from 14 NATO states. We will continue to promote resolutions on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and on a Southern Hemisphere free of Nuclear Weapons.

We have supported an Arms Trade Treaty as a means of increasing controls on conventional weapons, preventing arms sales to countries where there are conflicts or human rights issues.

We will also continue to work for the development of legally binding standards in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons focused on banning particularly inhuman conventional weapons and on mitigating the effects of conflict on civilian populations. We continue to actively support the Ottawa Convention banning the use of anti-personnel landmines and legal controls on the use of cluster munitions.

A competent and effective defence force is an important component alongside diplomacy in achieving New Zealand’s objective of a stable, secure and prosperous world.

The New Zealand Defence Force has progressed enormously since 1999. At that time, much of its equipment was outdated and reaching the end of its life. And we had capabilities that were not matched to the new post-Cold War security environment.

In 2002, the Government approved the Defence Long-Term Development Plan and committed $3 billion over ten years to update and replace a range of obsolescent equipment. Since the release of the LTDP, Defence has progressed 27 major re-equipment projects.

There has been significant investment in “hardening” the combat capabilities of the Army. At the same time we have made the Army more mobile and more capable of delivering more firepower.

The new Light Armoured Vehicles are state of the art. They provide safe transport for significant numbers of personnel in high-risk situations. The recently acquired Pinzgauer Light and Special Operation Vehicles have already proved their worth in difficult conditions in Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands.

Under Project Protector, there has been major investment in the surveillance and support capabilities of the Navy. Two new Offshore and four new Inshore Patrol Vessels will come into service over the next year and will significantly enhance New Zealand’s maritime resource and border protection capabilities. The Offshore Patrol Vessels, which are helicopter capable, will also have an important maritime counter-terrorism role.

The Navy’s new Multi-Role Vessel, due to be commissioned in January, will be able to transport a fully equipped infantry company directly into an area of operations. It will also have important patrol and disaster relief capabilities.

The Air Force has also been restructured to focus resources on and strengthen the areas where it makes the greatest contribution.

We have committed over $350 million to the upgrade of the P-3 Orions mission and communications systems. The project represents a significant advance in the aircraft’s maritime and overland surveillance capabilities – capabilities which are in high demand internationally.

The conversion to a combination passenger/freight configuration of the Boeing 757 transport aircraft will provide critical strategic lift for the NZDF.

And the life-extension of the C-130 Hercules will enhance our ability to respond to military needs natural disasters at home and in the region. Together both projects represent more that $400 million in government expenditure.

I recently signed the contract for the S770 million purchase of eight NH90 Medium Utility Helicopters from NH Industries. The NH90 will significantly improve the tactical lift capabilities of the Air Force and greatly enhance our ability to work with international partners. We are currently opening tenders for a further six training and light utility helicopters.

In investing in these areas the decision was made not to continue with our air combat force. This was the area which we had least utilised post World War Two. While one of the most expensive areas of equipment, we had limited ability to make the ongoing investment necessary to retain a state of the art air combat wing.

Having the right equipment is of course only one side of the equation – we also require the right people, infrastructure, and efficient management systems.

Last year, the Government committed itself to a further 10 year $4.6 billion programme, which focuses on building personnel levels, bringing new and upgraded equipment into service, and strengthening defence planning and governance.

The re-building and re-alignment of the New Zealand Defence Force since 1999 has been driven by a hard, objective assessment of our strategic environment. Resources have been prioritised to those areas where we can make a real contribution to regional and global security.

As perceptions of security change, military forces are being re-aligned internationally. Military forces are extending their focus from their traditional tasks to include non-military security threats.

We do not face a conventional military threat. New Zealand and its interests today are more likely to be threatened by terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, trans-national crime, natural disasters, a global pandemic, and the consequences of state fragility in the region and beyond.

The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and since then the Bali, Madrid, and London bombings, along with the Boxing Day Tsunami and instability in the Middle East, help shape a security environment that is complex and changing.

September 11 was a watershed in demonstrating both the willingness and ability of an international terrorist group to engage in mass murder to promote their cause. It indicated that groups, such as Al Qaeda have no bottom line – a frightening proposition should they gain access to weapons of mass destruction.

Because of the need to confront terrorism directly New Zealand has been a strong supporter of taking action against those who engage in terrorist acts to achieve their objectives. We have contributed air and naval support in the Gulf. Our special forces have completed three rotations in Afghanistan.

We currently have around 120 defence force personnel in Afghanistan operating a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan. We also have police there providing training and NZAid staff managing our development assistance.

Counter-terrorism has been pursued as a whole of government exercise. We contribute through the sharing of intelligence. We have strengthened legislation cracking down on terrorist organisations and we have funded and strengthened border control and transport security.

We have worked multilaterally, regionally and bilaterally to enhance counter-terrorist cooperation. We also believe that concerted and ongoing efforts are needed to address the conditions that foster terrorism.

New Zealand has focused on promoting stability and security in our immediate neighbourhood of the Pacific.

Issues of internal conflict, weapons proliferation, the spread of infectious diseases, illegal resource extraction, transnational crime - including people smuggling, drugs trafficking, and money laundering pose a real threat that transcends borders.

There remains a sense of vulnerability, particularly in Melanesia, to a range of cumulative pressures, including population growth, governance failures, fragile economies and communal tensions.

Response to these issues requires more than simply the contribution of peace-keeping and security forces. External defence force and police can help stabilise a volatile situation which is often an essential first step.

But peace-building and the establishment of sustainable self-governance is a much longer term and complex process. It requires establishing the institutions of governance, providing sustainable livelihoods and development and establishing a culture of acceptance and expectation of proper exercise of authority, peaceful resolution of conflict and the ability to change governments constitutionally through the ballot box.

Peacekeeping requires, both regionally and internationally, a new balance between what UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calls hard and soft responses. And it requires leadership from those with the expertise and capacity to exert influence or manage change.

The Bougainville peace process provided clear evidence of the importance of the careful application of external influence working with local factions in conflict resolution.

More recently, in Solomon Islands our servicemen and women have played an important part in pulling that country back from the brink of civil war and anarchy.

The Regional Assistance Mission in the Solomon Islands, was an example of regional cooperation and measured intervention in fragile states.

It sits very closely with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's concept of transformational diplomacy, building and supporting democratic, governed states that can respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.

And yet, as we have seen recently, the progress made in Solomon Islands has been tentative and remains fragile.

A key challenge is how we can ensure that our short-term peacekeeping intervention is translated into a longer-term process of peace building. In many cases a complete societal shift may be required. How this can be achieved and to what extent outside countries can influence constructive outcomes remains an open question.

Our commitment of a battalion-sized force for three years to East Timor was the most substantial military deployment by New Zealand for some time. Our and the international effort to bring peace and self-determination to East Timor was massive.

Yet just a few years after independence, defence forces from Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia and police from Portugal, have again had to intervene to prevent the widespread breakdown of law and order and stability.

New Zealand is working with regional partners through its military and police presence, and a carefully focussed ODA programme, once more to try to achieve a durable peace and effective political system. Whether we can also change the political culture to realise this is the greater challenge.
Beyond the Pacific, we have a longstanding defence relationship with Singapore and Malaysia through the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

New Zealand is active in general security dialogues that take place in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shangri-La Dialogue. We hope that they can contribute to peace and security through confidence building, preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution. APEC, and the new East Asia Summit are other paths through which we pursue these objectives.

New Zealand provides personnel to the UN Command in Korea. We continue to have concerns about the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea and the threat of nuclearisation of the region.

The latest threat by North Korea to begin testing of nuclear weapons will further raise tensions in the region. Far from contributing to the security of North Korea, it risks further destabilisation and isolation of North Korea and provoking a regional nuclear arms race. New Zealand utterly opposes any move by North Korea in this direction.

Cross-straits tensions between Taiwan and China remain a potential catalyst for conflict if Taiwan declares its independence from China. New Zealand has pressed China to pursue its reunification goals peacefully and through dialogue and has pressed Taiwan not to take unnecessarily provocative actions.

The tension between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and terrorism, combined with the possession by each country of nuclear weapons, poses a threat in South Asia.

Further afield, the Middle East's potent mix of religion, ethnic rivalry, economic inequalities, and globally vital energy resources is ensuring the region remains pivotal for international security.

Iraq's prospects remain uncertain. Regime change, the removal of Saddam Hussein, was the easy task. As New Zealand feared it would, it has proven much harder to establish stability and a sustainable governance arrangement under which Iraq's diverse component groups could live together. Today, the country is mired by sectarian conflict, insurgency, and criminal elements.

We seem as far away as ever from the objective of a stable and representative Iraqi government which can draw Sunni, Shia and Kurds into an accepted political process.

The situation in Iraq, the recent conflict in Lebanon, and the ongoing failure to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians all provide an environment conducive to continuing recruitment into and support for Islamic terrorism.

The removal of the Taleban government in Afghanistan by UN mandated international action following its hosting of Al Queda terrorists has seen significant changes in that country.

New Zealand's ongoing contribution of its Provincial Reconstruction Team, its periodic deployment of SAS forces and other smaller deployments in Afghanistan acknowledge our continuing support for international security and development efforts there.

Much progress has been made. After 20 years of civil war, the first democratic elections of a President and a Parliament were successfully conducted and a new constitution adopted. Some 60,00 combatants have been disarmed and around 35,000 National Army and 55,000 Police have been trained to a basic level.

However much also remains to be done in Afghanistan. Violence from Taleban and al Qaeda insurgents has increased and warlordism and a growing trade in opium continue to destabilise Afghanistan and present major problems.

Ultimately stability depends on the Afghan government being able to make real improvements in living standards and conditions, and that in turn relies on there being a secure environment. International military forces seeking to defeat insurgents have to avoid the trap of collateral damage to people and property alienating the wider population. The international community also faces the task of meeting expectations that its intervention will in a practical sense make people's lives better.

In conclusion, I have sought today to set out New Zealand's goals in international and defence policy. I have outlined steps that have been taken to ensure that the defence force can play an effective role in achieving our objectives.

And I have outlined current security threats in our local neighbourhood and beyond and some of the areas in which New Zealand has deployed its forces alongside others to respond to them.

In so doing, I have drawn attention to some of the difficulties the international community inevitably faces in seeking to secure peace and stability, and the patience, skill, and long term commitment that successful peace building requires.

Best wishes for the conclusion of your course. Thank you once again for the opportunity to speak with you and I would welcome any questions.


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