Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

Dunne Speaks: Phew, the Russians are not coming

Dunne Speaks: Phew, the Russians are not coming


Are we seeing a subtle act of international defiance from the New Zealand Government, or just another example of its naiveté? According to the Prime Minister, there are no Russian spies operating in New Zealand at present, so therefore there is no need for us to do like other countries and expel Russian intelligence operatives, in the wake of the poisoning of Russian dissidents in Britain.

At face value, the Prime Minister's statement is reassuring. No-one likes the notion of other countries' spies lurking around in our backyards. She seems to be implying that New Zealand is now so insignificant on the world stage that it does not arouse the attention of the Russian intelligence services. So we can all sleep safe in our beds. But face value is not a reliable measure here. Given New Zealand's role in the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, it beggars belief that British and United States intelligence agents are not active in this country, and conversely that New Zealand intelligence agents are not similarly active in other countries. And, in return, it equally beggars belief that agents of countries the Five Eyes partners are likely to be interested in, notably Russia and China, are not active in New Zealand. So, is there something more to what the Prime Minister has been saying?

There have long been suspicions about the depth of Labour's commitment to New Zealand's participation in international intelligence sharing arrangements. In the case of the Greens, however, there is no such doubt - they are implacably opposed to New Zealand's involvement in such agreements. So, is the Prime Minister playing a long game here? In the short term, her blanket denial that Russian intelligence agents are active in New Zealand means there is no need for New Zealand to follow suit with other countries and expel such personnel. But, in the longer sense, could our complete reluctance to even consider such a possibility actually be a calculated snub to our intelligence partners and an early signal that New Zealand is not going to be as co-operative a member of arrangements like the Five Eyes, as it has been? In such a context, last week's initial reluctance to appear too critical of Russia takes on a more significant light. Is New Zealand using the current tension over Russia as a way to flex its small international muscles, and signify that from now it is going to be a little more independent member of the international club, although still paying its subscriptions?

Helen Clark's 2003 decision that New Zealand would not join the "Coalition of the Willing" to invade Iraq was not only correct, but was nonetheless a gentle shot across the bows of Britain and the United States, that although New Zealand was basically sympathetic to the Western cause, it was also an independent nation that would make its own decisions, and would not just be dragged automatically into conflicts like this. Maybe the present Prime Minister is using the Russian intelligence argument to make afresh the same point to the United States and Britain today.

Of course, it may just be that the Prime Minister is absolutely correct and merely stating the obvious when she says there are no Russian intelligence agents operating here. Nevertheless, such a blunt public commentary on another country's diplomatic arrangements is a little unusual. On that basis, though, presumably we can now look forward to the Prime Minister's similar frank public assessments in the weeks to come about the level and numbers of intelligence agents deployed here by the likes of the United States, Britain, and China, and perhaps even how many of, and where, our SIS and GCSB agents are operating overseas.

Of course, all of this is quite unlikely, no matter any urgings by the Greens, which leaves the question still begging - why was the Prime Minister so specific? Deliberate planning, or just more of the loose lips her Government is becoming so well known for? You be the judge.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines


HiveMind: Fair Enough? How Should New Zealanders Be Taxed? - Have Your Say

Scoop and PEP invite you to share your issues, ideas and perspectives on the NZ tax system with other New Zealanders using Scoop’s HiveMind tool. This Tax HiveMind is intended to complement and feed into the review being run by the Government-appointed Tax Working Group (TWG), which is looking at the fairness, balance and structure of the tax system with a 10-year time horizon.

We at Scoop and PEP believe that an issue as important as the fairness of the tax regime should be open for discussion, debate and dialogue. Unfortunately, a written submission process just doesn’t encourage the kind of public exchange we think is necessary in a well-functioning democracy. More>>

 

Gordon Campbell: On Thompson + Clark & Russia’s World Cup

Daily, the coalition government keeps running into examples of the toxic legacy left behind by National – and just as regularly, even the simple fixes are proving stubbornly difficult to enact. Take the case of the security firm Thompson + Clark ... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The GCSB’s Security Hang-Up With Russia

So our GCSB has chimed in, alongside its British, Australian and US allies, with warnings about a “fresh wave” of Russian cyber attacks, although the warning has been curiously framed. More>>

ALSO:

PM's Europe Trip: CHOGM & Bilateral Meetings

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in urope for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and meetings with counterparts in Paris and Berlin. More>>

ALSO:

Hit And Run: AG Gives Approval For Inquiry

Attorney-General David Parker has today announced a Government Inquiry will be held into Operation Burnham and related events. The operation undertaken in Tirgiran Valley, Afghanistan, ... More>>

ALSO:

Addressing Climate Change: No New Offshore Exploration Permits

The Coalition Government is taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. More>>

ALSO:

Road Safety Summit: Actions To Improve Identified

The Local Government Road Safety Summit held last week identified actions that will lead to lasting changes to road safety in New Zealand, says Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

Featured InfoPages