Wider Defence Cooperation Promoted
The majority on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, in the final Defence Beyond 2000 report proposes greater emphasis on expanding closer defence cooperation with other military forces within its own region, in addition to the close defence relationship with Australia.
Noting New Zealand’s “very narrow range of alliance relationships,” they said they supported a multilateral approach to provide greater manoeuvring room to protect and advance our long-term national interests rather than being “locked into a rigid alliance.”
The South Pacific and South East Asia recognised that Australia and New Zealand had distinctly separate identities but to the rest of the world we were seen as a geographical entity. Australians had to some extent different national identity, economic interests, strategic priorities, social perspectives and political aspirations to us. The majority saw good reasons for not regarding the geographical entity as also being the strategic entity.
There were differences: Australia maintained a closer military relationship with the United States and took a different approach to New Zealand on visits of nuclear powered or armed naval vessels. Australians were more concerned about the proximity of Asia and the Indian Ocean while they did not have the same relationship with Polynesia that we did. It saw its military strength as underpinning its position as a regional power. New Zealand could not do that.
“Nonetheless, New Zealand and Australia continue to have a common interest in maintaining their long-standing relationship,” said the majority. “It would be of grave concern to either country if hostile forces were to occupy the other or control the Tasman Sea.”
The report noted that French forces in the Pacific were remarkably evenly matched in size and equipment to New Zealand’s and called for a closer relationship with them and with the Fijian forces. Malaysia and Singapore remained important to New Zealand and closer defence relationships should be built with them.
The majority also proposed wider Army exercising and training with potential peacekeeping partners such as Ireland, Malaysia and Fiji. It also suggested further discussions on developing the Navy’s interoperability with the United Sates Coast Guard operating around American Samoa as one way of overcoming its operational isolation because of objections to New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation.