Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 01 December 2006 - 01 December 2006

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

New Leadership/New Line-up

The generational shift within the National Party leadership scarcely took New Zealanders by surprise early this week. But there are several features of the transition that were most unusual. And all of them point to a new level of discipline and professionalism within.

Announcing his retirement last week, Don Brash became the first National Party leader since Sir Keith Holyoake, to leave office without being the victim of a coup. As noted in this column last week, a testament to the character and selfless motivations of the man.

The uncontested election of both John Key and Bill English as leader and deputy respectively was unusual. And the announcement of a shadow Cabinet today that is free of clear winners and losers, a sign that there is a single minded focus on defeating the Labour Party.

There is an old adage that if a political party wants the public to trust it to run the country, then first it must demonstrate that it can competently run its own affairs. On the evidence of the past week, that message has struck home within the National Party. And the public reaction to date suggests the message has not been lost on them either.


Threats of an impeding coup in Fiji represent a massive step backward for the small nation state. Outright lawlessness on the part of the Fiji military would have to carry consequences. And those consequences would hurt. Most particularly they would hurt innocent people who least deserve it.

The threats from Commodore Bainimarama and co are doubly tragic because they come at a time when genuine progress was being made in healing traditional divisions, and at a time when the nation confronts serious economic challenges.

There have been signs of genuine cohesion between key players in the multi-party Cabinet, and signs of growing optimism amongst the Fiji public that the Government might just be able to make things work.

They need to. Fiji, along with other smaller Pacific states, suffers serious economic difficulties - most particularly a growing balance of payments problem. A coup would place the country’s two largest sources of foreign exchange at serious risk. The tourism industry, already hit hard by recent instability, would be hit even harder. But the sanctions that would inevitably follow would deal a death-blow to the largest net foreign exchange earner: remittances from Fijians employed abroad.

The Fijian military would be the largest loser if the United Nations, as it would be required to do, declared servicemen supplied by an illegal Fijian regime to be unacceptable for peacekeeping and similar duties around the world. And who knows what other travel sanctions would be imposed on Fijians seeking work abroad, stemming the flow of funds back home.

Wider Pacific Challenge

Current tensions in Fiji, the Solomons, Timor Leste and Tonga deliver a blunt message to those who have guided foreign policy in the Pacific over recent decades: it just hasn’t worked. Australia, New Zealand and agencies like the United Nations, have some serious re-thinking to do.

Across the Tasman, problems in the Pacific have assumed a much higher profile amongst the concerns of bureaucrats and politicians alike. Between New Zealand and Australia we commit substantial resources into our Pacific neighborhood. The time has come for a top to bottom review of our policies for the Pacific.


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