Key: Foreign Affairs & Defence Seminar
John Key MP National Party Leader
30 November 2006
Opening Remarks: Foreign Affairs & Defence Seminar Caucus Room, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
I welcome you all to this seminar on Defence and Foreign policy, and I welcome the fact that the National Party is holding this seminar.
One of the first questions I was asked when I was elected leader of the National Party was whether I saw scope for major changes in our international relationships.
I said no.
Relationships between nations should, as far as possible, be unaffected by the swings and roundabouts of domestic politics.
My first message to Helen Clark in this respect is that I want to work with her Government to foster New Zealand's interests abroad, and to advance the relationships with other nations that are so important to a small nation, so dependent upon international trade.
I hope that the Labour Party will return the compliment when a National-led Government is in office.
There will, of course, always be changes of emphasis and style.
But you can be assured that a Government led by me will always base its foreign policy decisions on what is best for New Zealanders.
And changing circumstances will always dictate a need for fresh thinking and new ideas.
In my first address as leader of the National Party on Tuesday I said that I am committed to having policies that work - not policies that might work, or might have worked 20 years ago.
Policies that work are clearly required in relation to defence and foreign policy.
I know this afternoon's proceedings will focus primarily on two areas: security issues for New Zealand and the region, and this country's role in the Pacific.
With close to two years to run until the next election, I want to see us invest in doing the hard work that will make us an effective government.
The time for formal policy announcements is further down the track. 2
The time for serious discussion, debate and consultation is now.
But there are three things that I want to signal at this early stage of the policy process.
The first is that we are committed to having defence goals and strategies that are owned by New Zealanders, not foisted upon them by their government.
We stand out in this country for a lack of public engagement in the formulation of defence policies. We have not had a Defence White Paper since 1997.
Nations like Australia, Canada, and the UK, do things very differently, using a White Paper process to engage the public in setting defence goals and strategies.
A government that I lead would adopt such an approach.
The second point I make today, is that you do not require a doctorate in defence strategy to work out that New Zealand's security interests align very closely with those of our nearest neighbour Australia.
Our interests are not identical, but they are obviously so similar as to be the overriding feature of our security environment.
I welcome the fact that Australia's leading expert in this area, Professor Hugh White, is the keynote speaker in these proceedings.
Inter-operability between New Zealand and Australian forces will be a key objective for the next government and I am pleased that our policy development framework is being structured accordingly.
Thirdly, it is clear that New Zealand's wider role in the Pacific is going assume an even greater significance in the years ahead.
We have a special relationship with the Pacific as a consequence of the huge Pasifika influence in our society and the reality of our geography.
A nation that is home to 230,000 people of Pacific Island heritage has some significant responsibilities but also some significant opportunities to provide a leadership role.
New Zealand will need to play a special role as the small nations of the Pacific face very considerable challenges in the time ahead. I am totally committed to ensuring that my colleagues and I invest in building the relationships that will allow us to fulfil our responsibilities in this respect.
Finally, may I just say a few words about our relationship with the United States.
For much of its history the National Party has seen the ANZUS alliance as the lynchpin of its defence policy.
I have made no secret of my view that New Zealand's nuclear free legislation should stay, and, as a consequence, that an ANZUS based relationship is not the way forward between New Zealand and the United States.
But I also think it would be fair to say that I have a very much more positive view of the United States and its role in world affairs, than most ministers in the Clark Government.
There is no doubt in my mind that there is scope for very considerable improvement in the New Zealand/US relationship, without in any way threatening our capacity to run an independent foreign policy. Improving that relationship will be a priority for the Government I intend to lead.