The biggest threat to NZ is not terrorism, it’s poverty

By   /   November 30, 2016  /   18 Comments

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The government recently announced an extra $20 billion in military spending over the next 15 years. When the greatest threat to our sovereignty comes not from war and terrorism, but from unaffordable housing, health and education, how can we justify this?

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The government recently announced an extra $20 billion in military spending over the next 15 years. When the greatest threat to our sovereignty comes not from war and terrorism, but from unaffordable housing, health and education, how can we justify this?

Military spending hasn’t changed much over the last 15 years, but the government has announced an extra $20 billion for upgrades to frigates, aircraft, cyber security, and maybe its light armoured vehicles, which will approximately double military spending for the next 15 years.

Why do we need this? Because America needs New Zealand and Australia to support its ‘Pivot’ strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. The defence white paper doesn’t actually give a breakdown of costs, but focuses more on drumming up paranoia about ISIL and cyberterrorism. Signed by our venerable prime minister, it promises to “protect our national security interests” and warns that “Recent terror attacks are a tragic testament to the fact that terrorism remains an enduring global problem.” And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by our apparent geographical isolation, because “Physical distance bears little relevance to the threats associated with terrorism and cyberspace that New Zealand… is facing.” Nor does he forget to tug on our heartstrings by repeatedly mentioning earthquake relief. He doesn’t mention the fact that his own government has badly neglected Christchurch in terms of properly funding the rebuild. Nor does he mention that this and previous New Zealand governments helped create the terrorists in the first place by supporting the US in its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

It’s a pretty outdated idea that it should be the military’s job to provide search-and-rescue and disaster relief services. The reason they do is to justify their own existence while they’re sitting around waiting for a war. We’d be better off funding civilian-run disaster relief units, minus the expensive weapons systems.

I was told while protesting the international weapons conference (sponsored by Lockheed Martin) on Auckland’s waterfront a couple of weeks ago that it was the military that won us our right to protest. No it bloody well wasn’t. Our protesting is what won us our right to protest, and it’s all that ever will.

New Zealand does not face any real military threats, and ‘terrorist’ threats are equally unlikely, unless we keep sucking up to State Terrorist Number One and helping to create the international tensions that led to the current wars, terrorist attacks and refugee crisis in the first place. Ramping up our military spending and kissing US arse is what will make us a target. It’s well established that if you carry a gun you’re more likely to get shot. The same goes for the international arms race.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves, I’m saying we should stop making ourselves a target, bow out of the escalating tensions and be seen as non-threatening and neutral. The only people who benefit from this perpetual war are the multinational weapons manufacturers. Let’s not fool ourselves: if New Zealand was under threat from a foreign military force, those countries with whom we are currently allied would either come to our aid or not, depending on if it was in their interests to do so at the time, regardless of established alliances.

Admittedly, the increase in military spending is only a small part of the problem, at roughly 1% of GDP. A larger problem is the fact that this National government is very good at convincing everyone that they have sired a rockstar economy, all the while widening the economic gap and avoiding talking about any concrete policies. Vague hints about maybe allowing YOU to pay less TAX (because those are the two words that seem to win elections) do not policy make. Where’s the opposition?

Housing, health, and education are all suffering as a result of successive government budgets. We are told we are in surplus. Oh cool, let’s spend it on tax cuts and military. Meanwhile healthcare is underfunded – by $248 million below what is needed for the 2016/17 budget year, according to the CTU. We allow our children’s future to be scuttled from day one, by not ensuring our kids are supported in their learning. The Labour Party estimated in 2012 it would cost up to $19 million a year to ensure every child in deciles 1 to 3 had one good meal a day. $19 million! Nope, can’t afford it.

Once those kids reach university age, it’s no less grim. The Victoria University Students Association claimed last year that there had been a $1 billion drop in real terms in tertiary spending from 2009 to 2015. This included cuts of $19 million in just one year (2014-15) to student allowances.

Yet the lack of strong opposition to the extra military spending is also alarming. The defence industry insists we face an imminent threat of attacks, throwing around words like ‘ISIL’ and ‘terrorist’ and ‘cyberthreat’ to make us paranoid and acquiescent. That in itself is the real terrorism.

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About the author

Sian Robertson

Contributor

Siân Robertson is a student of linguistics and languages at Auckland University and an organiser for the NZ Palestine Solidarity Network. An activist globally and locally, she has been actively involved in the Mana Movement. She was deputy editor of the carbuyers' Dog & Lemon Guide for several years. She is also an enthusiastic amateur footballer and a mother.

18 Comments

  1. Castro says:

    Rather than poverty, the biggest threat is actually INEQUALITY, compounded further by ethnic, linguistic and even national divisions… exacerbated by a level of migration not seen in the UK or even the USA.

  2. dave says:

    “The biggest threat to NZ is not terrorism, it’s poverty” Yep, and the world is flat.

  3. Mike in Auckland says:

    This is a very naive view of the world and of the situation New Zealand faces. The biggest threat to New Zealand is actually the dire consequences of climate change, being faced with the fall out from what happens on the rest of the planet, like massive refugee movements, and they will eventually make it over the seas, even to here. It is climate change and droughts and also floods in different parts of our own country, and what a sea level rise will mean to our lifestyle and economy, and what it costs in damages.

    As for defence, we are living in lala land here, thinking nobody will ever cast their eyes on these shores and the land, that some may consider under utilised, that is in agricultural and other terms.

    We have some massively over populated countries, whose populations, once the fossil fuel era ends, cannot sustain themselves, no matter what. Are we seriously ignoring that millions from Indonesia, from India or the Philippines and elsewhere may not try to come and settle here, and destroy the last remnants of the environment that so far the Anglo Saxon colonisers have not yet wiped out?

    Gosh, I read with disbelief at times, what some put together, living in a different kind of world, all in their minds, it seems. Sorry, I cannot agree with this post. Defence is needed, not the expensive crap the government sells us, every able NZer will need to learn to use a gun of sorts, and other weaponry, as the way the world is going, we will be easy prey for anyone out there, unless we defend the shores, land and sea. That has NOTHING to do with ISIS, they are already facing extinction, their ideology and murderous madness that is.

    • Castro says:

      I agree 100% that patriotic New Zealanders (colonisers can fuck off, just quietly) need to arm themselves and prepare to for the coming chaos. It boggles the mind and to my mind is high treason on the part of both National and Labour governments that we are selling residency and citizenship on the last lifeboat so cheaply.

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        Immigration is big business, it keeps many here afford their fake life styles, that is the truth, sell the life boat and pretend you do not need it, that is NZ Inc.

        • Castro says:

          Indeed. Laying a serious foundation for civil war: genius. Because it hasn’t happened yet, it would be foolish in the extreme to say or think that it won’t. We may yet be able to become the Cuba of the South Pacific. The greater the proportion of colonists becomes, and the wider the poverty gap becomes, the greater chance of some serious civil unrest. A few external shocks outside of the government’s control (war, climate chaos, economic downturn) could easily push the situation towards civil war and revolution, and “NO” [sic] Zealand is sleepwalking straight into it, with John Key as the pied piper…

    • douglas robertson says:

      I AGREE climate change is the biggest threat facing nz and the world but i think you are naive if you think somehow arming ourselves will protect us from it

  4. Mike in Auckland says:

    Yes, there is poverty, relative poverty in NZ, I accept that, but when the poorest are not desperate enough to even stage a fight on the streets, it surely cannot be quite as bad.

    I hate WINZ, had enough to deal with them, but there is still the basic minimum provided, even under this rotten government. Problem is many do not know their entitlements and need to inform themselves and perhaps see an advocate, to get their basics.

    The system is rotten too, it is unfair, but at least nobody here needs to face the same predicament some in other places on this planet face, like serious starvation and living in tents and worse.

    All is good in addressing the injustices, but I think this comparison to defence spending, which would only maintain the moderate defence forces this country has so far, that will not get much traction with the majority of NZers.

    Another attack line and angle is needed, but the under-resourced and talent lacking left is at present struggling to get any attention, I fear.

    • Andrea says:

      Mike in Auckland –
      I offer that the label ‘left’ has become a serious barrier to creative thinking and making connections that can generate beneficial change. It seems to have lost any power it ever had. Time for a change, perhaps?

      However, revolution is lethal and pointless because the same sort of people end up ‘on top’. Something else. A shared mindshift without any ‘right’ or ‘left’ tainting the change.

      (BTW – “nobody here needs to face the same predicament some in other places on this planet face, like serious starvation and living in tents”… Too many people here are living with malnutrition and too many are indeed living in tents, cars, garages and squats. It’s easier to face than the terror-raising experience of a visit to WINZ – as you know. Any competition on the race to the bottom doesn’t seem healthy, somehow.)

      • Mike in Auckland says:

        [Comment deleted. WINZ reference inappropriate, Mike. Please do not repeat. – ScarletMod]

      • Castro says:

        Revolution is most definitely lethal. Pointless? Arguably everything is pointless. Everything is cyclical. The question is, why do revolutions happen? You could google “valley of transition” as regards why people finally choose to resort to violence, and then perhaps consider the serious nightmare we are stumbling blindly into… the finish line of the race to the bottom is indeed revolution and civil war…

    • Castro says:

      There are more than enough people here prepared to use violence on the streets; all it will take is a spark and a leader…. imagine a revolutionary army’s ranks swelling by the tens of thousands if it declares free citizenship to any foreigners here following its inevitable victory….. it boggles the mind…

  5. Helena says:

    WE are the VALUE behind money. Nothing else but our signature creates money. We need a revolution involving how we value ourselves. We need to break our chains. This video explains what I mean:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phHx29_Ijhs
    WE ARE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!
    WE HAVE TO TAKE BACK OUR SOVEREIGNTY.

  6. dave says:

    The biggest threat to N.Z. is probably a natural disaster, ironically a well equipped defense force is quite handy, as recent events have proven.