You are here:  Home  >  Bloggers  >  Chris Trotter  >  Current Article

The Kiwi Doctrine: Upholding and Restoring Human Rights In The South Pacific

By   /  September 6, 2018  /  22 Comments

TDB recommends Voyager - Unlimited internet @home as fast as you can get

The New Zealand Government has repeatedly offered to take at least 150 of the refugees marooned on Nauru. The Australians have brushed aside all such offers with sneering contempt. After all, what can the Kiwis do about it? What can the Kiwis do about it? Nothing. What could the Kiwis do about it with a radically re-configured and re-equipped NZDF? Plenty.

    Print       Email

WHEN THE LEFT-WING Fijian government of Timoci Bavadra was overthrown in May of 1987, I was outraged. At an executive meeting of the Labour Party’s Otago Regional Council, I asked my MP, Michael Cullen, what he and his government colleagues intended to do about this blatant attack on democracy in the South Pacific – New Zealand’s supposed “backyard”. Cullen was bemused. “What do you think we should do?”, he demanded. “Do our armed forces not have the capacity to intervene?”, I inquired. “What’s this? The ‘Trotter Doctrine’?”, Cullen chortled. The idea that New Zealand could intervene unilaterally in the South Pacific was dismissed as fanciful.

Interestingly, I was not the only member of the Labour Party who considered military intervention in Fiji an appropriate response to Sitiveni Rabuka’scoup d’etat. New Zealand’s prime minister, David Lange, had requested action from the NZ Armed Forces in response to the seizure of an Air New Zealand passenger plane, only to be informed by his departmental advisers that prime ministers lacked the requisite authority to order troops into action unilaterally. It was also made clear to Lange that the NZ Defence Force, as then constituted, would struggle to defeat the Fijian military in a full-on stoush.

That a democratically-elected, multi-ethnic, Labour-led coalition government could be overthrown in the name of reactionary indigeneity, while the Labour governments of New Zealand and Australia sat on their hands, struck a great many democratic socialists in the labour movements of both countries as outrageous. At a more personal level, the revelation that New Zealand’s armed forces could only respond to crises in the South Pacific by becoming an appendage to some much larger military operation struck me as appalling.

The genteel resistance encountered by Lange, coupled with the absurd configuration of New Zealand’s armed forces, confirmed what I had long suspected. This country operates on the assumption that it will not be permitted to act independently of its “friends” – Australia and the United States – and its armed forces have been organised and equipped in accordance with that assumption.

It gets worse. When the Labour-Alliance Government (1999-2002) determined to make New Zealand less dependent on its friends militarily, announced a radical re-configuration of the NZ Defence Force, there followed a series of disastrous equipment purchases which, to a cynical pair of eyes, looked suspiciously like sabotage. As if the “top-brass” were determined to de-rail and/or delay any and every reform which might render New Zealand capable of projecting its military power independently.

The election of the John Key-led National Government in 2008 locked-in the ill-effects of this military incapacity by starving the NZ Defence Force of the funding necessary to raise it above “appendage” status. When required, New Zealand can offer a very limited menu of services to the armed forces of Australia and the United States – but practically nothing else. In foreign affairs and defence terms, this leaves New Zealanders absolutely dependent upon the kindness of, if not strangers, then, at least, a couple of often quite disreputable “friends”.

Nowhere is that disreputability more in evidence than on the tiny island of Nauru. The Australians have deliberately subverted Nauruan democracy in order to facilitate their appalling “Pacific Solution” to the “problem” of seaborne refugees seeking asylum in the Lucky Country. New Zealand has had no option but to stand by helplessly while these friendless men, women and children have been subjected to treatment which is in clear breach of international law and Australia’s own undertakings. The New Zealand Government has repeatedly offered to take at least 150 of the refugees marooned on Nauru. The Australians have brushed aside all such offers with sneering contempt. After all, what can the Kiwis do about it?

What can the Kiwis do about it? Nothing. What could the Kiwis do about it with a radically re-configured and re-equipped NZDF? Plenty.

Imagine a highly-trained ready-reaction force combining elements of the army, navy and air-force and specifically trained and equipped to project New Zealand power both tactically and strategically. Such a force would be capable of securing airfields and harbours anywhere in the South Pacific. Deploying a combination of special forces and regular infantry units, the likes of Sitiveni Rabuka could be stopped in their tracks and ousted democratic governments restored to power in a matter of days.

In the case of Nauru, the ready-reaction force would be able to place the authoritarian regime under house arrest, disarm and detain its police force and Aussie jailers (just like Barbara Dreaver) and take the desperate refugees on board the air-force’s new C-130J Hercules transports. The detainees would be safe in New Zealand before the Aussies could even rub the sleep out of their eyes and demand to know “What the hell is going on!”

Wellington’s insouciant answer to Canberra would be that New Zealand was merely fulfilling its moral obligation to uphold international law. Over howls of Aussie rage, the government could then go on to quietly explain that this was the first – but hopefully not the last – demonstration of “The Kiwi Doctrine”.

Want to support this work? Donate today
Follow us on Twitter & Facebook
    Print       Email


  1. Zack Brando says:

    Send in the military.

  2. ubermench says:

    New Zealand the Israel of the South Pacific

    • Sam Sam says:

      Mowing the lawn is a political and military philosophy invented by academic Norman Finkelstein to describe the IDFs aggression against Palestinians and has become central to Israeli policy, suggesting that ruling through fear of force rather than force itself. With weapons such as Air Superiority successive Israelis have been able to rise to power through the use of force and destruction of infrastructure, water, building ect, just to maintain a below nutritional diet. These similes of fear can be found everywhere in Israel and Palestine from the rubble to the boys who lack the skills for occupation, Israel has been unsuccessful in keeping Palestinians inline through fear. Even air strikes have the opposite effect causing locals and regions to rally behind Palestine cause.

      The Kiwi doctrine if tooled correctly could leave key infrastructure intact while winning hearts and minds so plenty of feel good PR. And probably some 5x Embraer KC390 and 3xAirbus A400 rather than C130s, to save on the sanctions. Europe being in a trade war with the U.S does have benefits.

  3. Keepcalmcarryon says:

    Tongue in cheek or just a bit mad, you decide. I did.

  4. Rickoshay says:

    yeah naa bro, bad road to go down, whos gonna be the judge of what another country says and does, 5 eyes? the U.N.? if you havnt noticed they are appendages of the American Empire.
    Maybe you think our gutless excuses of politicians are secret humanitarians? if you didnt notice they are sycophants of the Big players in the world, an about as Independent as a Tapeworm.
    Anyone in the country can tell you that America can take this country with a phone call, an a check.
    Best start yer own private army, i suggest a Go Fund me account for “Trotters Red Terror”

    • LOLBAGZ says:

      ha ha great post. Independent Worm Saloon is a great album

    • Sam Sam says:

      New Zealanders on the whole are a sheltered bread. They do not understand the true horrors of this world. Everything is so new to them and so offensive that breast milking mothers in public causes big hairy males discomfort. Sad really.

  5. LOLBAGZ says:

    lol you let go of the sanity rail

    • Sam Sam says:

      Did you drop something. Lolz

    • The Sanity Rail? Would that be the one that keeps the US perched on an ever-increasing pile of bodies in Afghanistan and Iraq? Or is it the rail that the Aussies cling to when attempting to defend driving children to suicide by imprisoning them on a tropical island and then pointedly advising them that, like the guests of the Hotel California, they can check-out any time they like – but they can never leave?

      A little country that was willing to do more than talk about human rights might just be able to shame some bigger countries into following its lead.

  6. David G. says:

    Acting independently from our allies… Heracy! I suspect years of playing the younger brother for cold war partners Australia and the USA has meant that very few senior officers in NZ would contemplate an overseas ‘hot’ deployment without the logistical backing and supporting firepower of those nations- ready to haul us out of any military mess. The real issue I think is not the deployment but how do you do the extraction, once you commit a military force and hopefully job gets done, you need to figure out the exit strategy.
    I suspect the lack of Fiji action inthe 80’s coup may have also had something to do with this… send in the military and you create a power vaccum when you leave. The alternative is to hand over power to a reliable, stable military or civil police which takes time and is fraught with potential security issues as we have seen most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. That said, we should have a staunch approach to pacific issues and also be prepared to protect our economic zone independently and with force if required.

  7. Peter Bradley says:

    This political obsession with refugees on Nauru feels like an attempt to distract the world and ourselves from our unbelievably low intake of global refugees – 750 per year. In the last year Australia has taken in 24,000 (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/10/australia-takes-the-most-refugees-since-start-of-humanitarian-program). While Jacinda is flying off to visit a handful of poorly treated migrants in Nauru Australia will be admitting thousands of refugees and providing them a fresh start. That NZers seem incapable of seeing the oozing hypocracy in critising Australia while doing close to nothing ourselves is astonishing frankly.
    BTW – I do not condone what Australia is doing in Nauru I just think the NZ government is following a path which will result in no change to the lives of anyone so as to avoid actually having to take in more refugees. And I think they are doing that deliberately as political cover.

  8. Jays says:

    You have lost the plot Chris.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Forced detention camps makes the region unstable. It’s crazy thinking the status quo can continue. Offering to take refugees when every one knows won’t be accepted is just stupid policy and makes New Zealand look weak, and makes NZDF weak. Just weak.

  9. David Stone says:

    I’d be a bit worried about looking like a tiny replica of the USA if we used our armed forces to force our smaller neighbours to behave as we think they should. The idea of either copying or automatically co-operating with America’s interventions is horrible. We are a small nation and if China , Russia or America come to that , decided to invade us and take over the country there;s not much we could do about it. I don’t think that should force us to join in all US adventures of regime change and asset stripping all over the world. We should mind our own business. So should the USA. If they left the rest of the world to sort itself out in it’s own way and it’s own time, and showed an example of a successful democracy they would do far more good in the world than they do acting as the world’s police force.
    D J S

    • Tom Gardner says:

      I agree. Chris Trotter taking the Geo W Bush approach to stamping authority on smaller nations? — “Mission accomplished!” I initially thought satire, but reading to the end, I do slightly wonder if he may have been serious.

      And besides, we do not need 100 or so damaged men to attempt to look after — in this instance, I applaud Winston, who points to the needs of the much larger number of our own. Looking at comments on Stuff — OK, its own particular demographic — Winston does seem to have a clear majority in his favour on this one.

    • Exkiwiforces says:

      So with your thinking, that I and many others of INTERFET shouldn’t been deployed to East Timor in 99 then and we shouldn’t be involved with West Papua either?

      • David Stone says:

        It’s my understanding that the NZDF acquitted themselves in exemplary fashion in East Timor as they have in other operations. Being part of a UN mandated peacekeeping operation is pretty hard to argue with. And I don’t while the UN remains independent.
        D J S

        • Sam Sam says:

          For the one or two that don’t just rage comment and not finish reading the blog I just want to say that I like The UN the same as The Green Party in many respects. I do not respect the obvious pacifist nature and hubris of the Greens, particularly of the UN. Forgetting how to war gets people killed. Aspects of Greens defence policy reflect that and I do not respect those aspects. Remove the need to control military outputs then I like the Greens. They’re one of the most intricately explained parties around and was powerful both with and with out an electorate seat. They do have one of my favourite economic development pathways except for the full craft beer. Never go full craft beer.

  10. Michael says:

    Chris, so you would put the young men and women of the NZDF in harm’s way to virtue signal? This is not what the NZDF is for and is at odds with current doctrine. The Chiefs of the three services would be well within their rights to refuse this operational order. Would you ruin our Australian relationship for illegal immigrants/country shoppers? These people are not refugees Chris, they are trying to jump the queue. They have been given a chance to settle elsewhere but most want Australia or are holding out to go to the US. I note you forget that the Australian’s set this system up to stop the drownings at sea that cost over 1000 people their lives.

You might also like...

Increase in demand for cage-free eggs set to continue – SAFE

Read More →