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Peace and freedom – Metiria Turei

5 November 2014

Peace and freedom – Metiria Turei

Mr Speaker

The Green Party stands for peace and freedom.

Peace is the best weapon we have in achieving personal security. It is a simple fact that New Zealanders are safest in a peaceful world.

And our democracy is only as strong as our personal freedoms. When personal freedoms are eroded our democracy is weakened.

Today, John Key has eroded both our quest for peace at home and abroad, and eroded New Zealanders personal freedoms.

By offering support the US led war with ISIS we are part of a strategy that reduces the prospects of enduring peace in the Middle East; and in the process we are also being told that we have to give up freedoms here at home too.

That is a lose lose strategy.

We believe that reduced international and national security, the erosion of civil liberties in New Zealand, and the introduction of the politics of fear into our national debate is much too high a price to pay for involvement in the US led efforts against ISIS.

The Green Party stands for an entirely different approach.

We believe there is a better alternative.

Rather than yet again pursuing the tried and failed approach of military incursion in the Middle East, resulting in increased radicalism and surges in terrorist activity, we should instead lead efforts that result in genuine peace and security.

This is the test we would apply to our Government’s actions – does our course of action lead to peace abroad, greater security at home, and does our course of action strengthen or weaken personal liberties?

It is our view that the approach set out by John Key today takes us further from peace and weakens our democracy.

We stand for peace overseas that delivers freedom at home.

Independent foreign policy

New Zealand has a rightfully proud record of trying to do the right thing in the world.

The value of our independent and principled foreign policy was recently highlighted with trust placed in us by those countries who supported our UN Security Council bid.

When needed, and when right, we have not been afraid to roll up our sleeves and work with others to achieve lasting peace in the world. Sometimes this has meant dying alongside others.

But ever since the war in Vietnam, we’ve learned to question our involvement in the wars our traditional allies have entered into around the globe.

We have been better off for this approach.

The ten-year war that followed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 we wisely stayed out of. It was the right thing to do.

That war ended inconclusively, at great cost to both the US and Iraq, and played a big part, perversely, in the rise of ISIS.

Opposition to war with ISIS

Supporting war, either directly with boots on the ground, or through other actions, is one of the most important decisions we, as a nation, can ever make.

It is our view that through our intelligence gathering activities and support for the US led efforts, that New Zealand is part of the American war effort.

What John Key has set out is our clear support for those fighting the war with ISIS.

Today I am announcing that the Green Party does not support any form of military engagement with the war effort. This includes training support for the Iraqi army.

Regardless of how the Government seeks to frame it, the reality is that any military assistance is a contribution to the war effort.

It is our view that the war effort will not result in peace, it is a strategy without an end point and has a low chance of success.

It is a myth that Western intervention can destroy ISIS.

A war will not solve what is, at its heart, sectarianism in Iraq.

Ten years of war waged by America could not solve the tensions that divide Sunni and Shia Iraqis or divide extremists from the moderates. How will this time be different?

Even an intensive, decades-long American ground effort — something that is politically not on the table — might only make the problem worse. ISIS's presence in Iraq and Syria is fundamentally a political problem, not a military one.

Doug Ollivant, the National Security Adviser for Iraq from 2005 to 2009 told Vox Media, “I take the somewhat modest position that the action of six million Iraqis may be more important than those of 30,000 American troops and one very talented general.”

The world can defeat ISIS, and build a lasting peace. We in the Greens are committed to this outcome, but there are better ways to achieve it than through Western military intervention.

The Green Party strongly supports a commitment to additional humanitarian aid in the region and a commitment to find an enduring political solution to the war in the Middle East, especially now that we are in a key position to do so on the Security Council.

By contributing humanitarian aid, New Zealand can demonstrate that our primary concern is for the needs of the victims, especially children.

By contributing our independent foreign diplomacy at the UN, New Zealand can demonstrate our commitment to collective peace and security — the only real long term solution to the horror of war and terrorism.

If New Zealand wants to make a difference on the Security Council, by going in clean, we'll be more credible advocates for finding a political solution in the Middle East.

Building peace here at home

Any military deployment in the Middle East will undermine our peace and security here at home.

While this is not a compelling reason to avoid engaging in conflict around the world where it is just and the outcome will be lasting, this US-led war against ISIS does not justify those costs we will bear here at home.

Rather than eroding our civil liberties, now is the time to strengthen our tolerant and free society.

Rather than shutting down, now is the time to open up.

Let’s look at what enlightened leaders are doing to reduce the risks posed by foreign fighters, rather than relying on the failed policies of the Abbot Government in Australia.

Joining the US-led war in the Middle East is already increasing the climate of fear back here at home.

We see it in the Prime Ministers speech today and in his recent statements.

Fear pervades the drip feeding of allegations that rise suspicions about our neighbours and others who share our community.

Fear is the tried and true playbook of those who seek to build artificial walls between us.

We reject becoming a nation of fear.

Fear is the breeding ground for intolerance, violence, and the slow, sure erosion of our own hard-fought for rights, freedoms, and duties to one another.

Today, John Key announced the erosion of a few more of our rights: $7 million of new funding for our secret services, increased scope for the state to cancel our passports and, most problematically, the expansion of video surveillance by the SIS without the need for a prior warrant.

The continual encroachment of the surveillance state here at home is part and parcel of our commitment to the war on terror abroad.

War abroad and spying here at home are two sides of the same coin.

Our Police already have extensive and sufficient powers to pre-empt an investigation into a crime being planned here in Aotearoa New Zealand. We have no clear evidence for a case for more.

We will not stand by and watch New Zealand become another paranoid society — one where our secret services have even greater powers to spy on us, one where our freedoms are progressively withdrawn, and one where spending on security becomes a higher priority than spending on alleviating child poverty.


Mr Speaker

Today I speak on behalf of a truly independent foreign policy that works for peace as the best form of security.

A foreign policy that aligns foreign and domestic interests.

I speak on behalf of our personal freedoms. I put them on a pedestal, only to be eroded in the most extreme of circumstances.

And I speak on behalf of those New Zealanders who believe in alternatives to war and fear; those who aspire to peace and freedom.

We can build a better world, but it will require a better approach than the one outlined by the Prime Minister today.

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