Robson-On-Politics - Tuesday 21 November 2006
Robson-On-Politics - Tuesday 21 November 2006
NZ, Vietnam to develop defence relationship
New Zealand and Viet Nam will next year hold formal bilateral defence talks and a visit to Aotearoa is planned by Vice Defence Minister Nguyen Huy Hieu, no doubt a senior official in the Communist Party of Viet Nam.
It is incredible, when you think about it.
Today, New Zealand discusses how to work together with Viet Nam on regional economic and defence issues, whereas in the 1960s a National Party Government was lined up behind the U.S. government in a campaign of war against Viet Nam which led to over two million civilian deaths.
I wonder which strategy - peace and trade, as we have today, or war and sanctions, as we had under National - is more likely to, over time, encourage the development of an open, democratic and pluralistic society in Viet Nam?
I don't think there is any doubt that as Viet Namese living standards rise, precisely because it is these days integrated into the international community through commerce and diplomacy, so the indigenous democracy and trade union movements will strengthen. And as the democrats rise in confidence, we should openly support them because there are no international borders between democrats.
Standing side by side with democrats in Tonga
There are some people that say we shouldn't stand on the side of democrats overseas in their struggle against tyranny.
These are the people who in the 1980s would have said, like the National Party did at the time, that it is "none of our business" if the South African regime's apartheid policies were causing untold suffering for its captive people.
Occassionally you hear the same sort of sentiment expressed when it comes to our Pacific region in 2006. New Zealand, we are told, should be "even-handed" in any conflict between the King of Tonga, for example, and the democracy movement of his suffering subjects.
I think that this kind of reasoning is wrong on just about every level that you can think of.
It is wrong because it a racist assumption that pretends that Tongan people's desire for democracy is somehow less strongly felt than New Zealanders' demand for democracy.
It is wrong as a foreign policy security stance, as well, because any foreign policy that is dependent on cooperation with overseas dicatorships is an inherently unstable basis on which to build our foreign policy because everywhere around the world the demand for democracy is rising - as populations become more urbanised, more educated and more tuned-in to what is happening elsewhere in the world via new technologies like the Internet.
United outlines frustrations with Crown's less-than 100% stake in Air NZ
United Future says it is very frustrating that Air New Zealand, which is not fully owned by the Crown, can't be micromanaged a little better in order to better safeguard the interests of consumers and taxpayers and, well, the national interest.
The problem with the Government owning 86%, and not 100% of Air NZ, is that the sharemarket- listed Air NZ thinks about one thing and one thing only: Making a profit for all its shareholders.
United Future's S.O.E. policy - reduce Crown stakes now!
So far, so understandable.
Except, of course, the United Future Party's Election 2008 policy is to do an Air New Zealand on the key strategic electricity State Owned Enterprises.
United Future says that it will demand that any government it joins initially sell down the Crown's shareholdings in Meridian, Mighty River Power and Genesis.
The moment those energy companies have tradeable shares, of course, is the moment the companies' direction will be dictated by the rules and regulations that govern listed companies.
As always, United Future's Air New Zealand policy is from left-field, its position on every other S.O.E. comes from right-field, and the resulting shambles is called driving in the middle of the road.
United said no to Kyoto last year, demands Climate Change summit this year
It is a bit like the way the party's position on an issue can change depending on the time of day or week.
Last year, United Future campaigned ahead of the election with a hardline commitment to pull New Zealand out of its international obligations to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions: "The best course the Government should follow now," United said campaigning for votes, "would be to accept United Future's sensible policies of repudiating the Kyoto Protocol."
This week the party is demanding the government do more to ensure New Zealand plays its part in international efforts to save the planet.
What does this kind of 100% flip-flopping tell you about this party's philosophy and commitment to stand up for what is right? Let me know: matt.robson[at]progressive.org.nz.