Ever since Winston Peter’s gave his speech “Pacific Partnerships” in Georgetown Washington in December 2018 , Fran O’Sullivan has been determined to position that speech as a significant and unapproved “wedge” between PM Ardern and Winston Peters.
A closer look reveals there is no substance to this claim and it all boils down to nothing but sour cream from those with vested interests in China and the National Party.
Despite PM Ardern reassuring the Press that she was across all of the principles within Winston’s speech and despite her reminding the Press that no Prime Minister approves every speech, given there are hundreds made by MPs every week, Fran refuses to put down her fake wedge theory.
Fran wrote in the NZ Herald on 20th February 2019 :
“Who’s piloting New Zealand’s relationship with its largest trading partner — China? Jacinda Ardern or Winston Peters?
That question has been bubbling away since Peters’ pivotal December speech in Washington where the foreign minister “unashamedly” sought to “enlist greater US support in the region (Pacific)” — one which had become “more contested and its security ever more fragile”.”
In reality that question is only bubbling away amongst those who have an interest in creating an unsubstantiated wedge issue in the Coalition.
The more neutral and realistic Press have listened to PM Ardern and realised that the Pacific Reset policy was approved by Cabinet in late February 2018.
Winston’s speech in Washington was hardly “pivotal”, given he had broadly said the same things in Australia at the Lowry Institute back in early March 2018 AFTER Cabinet approved the policy.
Later on in late 2018 Australia vastly increased it’s aid to the South West Pacific region, along with New Zealand after National had reduced New Zealand’s contribution to try and make a surplus for it’s own self serving political reasons.
Fran omitted that the context of Winston’s speech included cabinet oversight about the Pacific Reset and the previous speeches already made by Winston which PM Ardern had also been across.
Was Fran unaware that American protectionism meant the US were questioning the reciprocal contributions of nations concerning foreign aid?
Had she missed the fact Trump had cut $US285 Million in spending at the UN and threatened to cut off aid to any nation that voted against the capital of Israel being shifted to Jerusalem?
“Let them vote against us,” the US President said. “We’ll save a lot. We don’t care.”
Hello Fran? Are we reaching?
Should New Zealand “unashamedly” continue to request aid from the USA to our region in these conditions?
Fran seemed to think it was radical and out of line with PM Ardern for Winston to suggest such things.
Fran may not have agreed with Winston that a nuclear armed North Korea is one threat that has the potential to undermine security in our region?
But that is part of the context of his speech to the Americans.
Fran seemed unable to read the context nor recall that there is nothing new about New Zealand standing up for international law.
In April 2016, Prime Minister John Key downplayed warnings in Chinese state-run media not to raise the South China Seas.
Key was told to shut up if he wanted progress on trade, saying New Zealand’s position had not changed and he took such messages with “a grain of salt.”
“I take it all with a grain of salt. There are many opinions out there but New Zealand’s position on the South China Seas hasn’t changed. We can’t ignore the situation in the South China Sea but nor will we have any surprises for the Chinese leadership.” – said John Key.
That was okay with Fran.
But what was not okay for Fran was the notion that Winston agreed 100% with Key, and that Winston repeated New Zealand’s consistent position on this matter to the USA.
This was significant and pivotal all of a sudden according to Fran?
“The relationship between China and New Zealand is going through a period of adjustment. The coalition Government has made forthright statements of where it stands on key issues like human rights, the South China seas, cyber-hacking and national security.” – wrote Fran.
Whilst Fran may welcome the same old postures she is making shit up about “new-found directness”.
National’s Murray McCully said in a speech about China and it’s activities in the South China Seas …”“If the … decision goes against China, as many predict, then Beijing can’t say it is surprised if New Zealand joins calls for it to follow the ruling.”
That was very direct.
An international tribunal in the Hague ruled in July 2016 that China had no historic title over the waters and had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights there. That decision infuriated Beijing, which dismissed the court’s authority.
John Key and Murray McCully both called upon China to respect the ruling.
China responded that New Zealand was an outsider and not connected to the issues and to stay out of the matter and just focus upon trade.
But National were being direct and forthright.
National’s Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee directly honed in on the issue of China’s building of artificial islands in the territory, including new airstrips, which has rattled nerves around the region.
“A particular cause of … heightened tension has been the reclamation and construction activity and deployment of military assets in disputed areas,” he said.
Which brings us back to Fran’s view that suddenly there is something “pivotal” and “new” and “forthright” about restating these same principles to the Americans in Washington in December 2018.
What was “out of line” with our previous position?
PM Ardern’s speech at the UN also upheld multilateralism and a rules based order at the UN in 2018 :
“And that is why the challenge I wish to issue today is this – together, we must rebuild and recommit to multilateralism.
We must redouble our efforts to work as a global community.
We must rediscover our shared belief in the value, rather than the harm, of connectedness. We must demonstrate that collective international action not only works, but that it is in all of our best interests.”
This is exactly what Winston’s speech aimed at the USA in December 2018 was about in the South West Pacific.
But Fran is determined to create a wedge issue here – something new and pivotal and unapproved – along with other players focused upon Winston.
Fran’s may as well ask who was piloting the relationships between any of our international partners between any past Foreign Minister or Prime Minister?
There is nothing “newly forthright”, “pivotal”, nor unapproved about the principles in Winston’s speeches.
Fran also implied Winston is a “run away cowboy” by writing about PM Ardern’s confirmation that David Parker has been invited to take part in Beijing’s second Belt and Road conference in April.
“This is an area which has been quite unclear since Peters’ comments to the Lowy Institute last year where he suggested that the Government did not need to follow its predecessor’s commitments.” – wrote Fran.
That’s a scurrilous implication made by Fran and it should be pointed out that she does not reference any particular line in Winston’s speech to the Lowry Institute but leaves this hanging in order to conflate matters wrongly in the minds of her readers.
Winston’s actual speech to the Lowry institute focused upon renewing stronger commitments to foreign aid to the Pacific and said nothing about the China Belt and Road initiative.
“New Zealand directs 60% of its development spending to the Pacific. This ratio is becoming more important. But New Zealand’s aid spending has declined in comparative terms over the past nine years. As a proportion of Gross National Income, it declined from 0.30% in 2008 to 0.25% in 2016. And if it’s not arrested, it will fall below 0.21% by 2021. For a nation that prides itself on being a responsible international citizen, that is simply not good enough. This is why New Zealand must, over the term of this government, reverse this recent decline by expanding the size of our official development assistance programme to help our Pacific neighbours improve their resilience” – said Winston.
In addition Fran knew well at the time of writing her wedge based sour cream nonsense that the MOU signed by National with China about the One Belt and Road initiative had no details attached to it, and China is coming back to New Zealand to clarify what those details are.
Fran finished off her fake wedge article by stating :
“But until she ( Jacinda ) gains a commitment from Peters to not go off piste with more unapproved statements, the question of who is really piloting the China relationship will not entirely go away.”
The question of when Fran will stop feeding fake wedge issues into the New Zealand/China public discourse will not entirely go away until Fran is called to account.
Fran should be challenged by media to justify her “out of line” and deliberately untrue fake wedge building commentary.
There is no justification nor substance to her claims, just self interest at the expense of New Zealand.
Fran is a member of the New Zealand China council and has all her fingers in the sour cream.
Gerard Otto is an activist and a writer.