This from the ACT Party…
TIME FOR 2 PER CENT
Free Press frets about the state of freedom and democracy around the world, we hate to go on about it, but the problem is getting worse. Horrible as the Ukraine situation is, it’s the Pacific we should be worried about.
So far the Pacific Reset, turning our foreign policy towards our own backyard, has resulted in a Chinese naval base 2,000 kilometres off the coast of Australia. We are going to need to do more and at this point the Australians are leading the way.
The speed of response to the Ukraine situation shows how loose the ANZAC alliance has become. It’s one thing to have independent foreign policy, but did we lag the Aussies in responding to Ukraine because we have a different view, or because we weren’t ready?
Here’s a clue. In the lead up to ANZAC day, Free Press sold poppies with a veteran who flew the Hercules aircraft that went to Europe two months after the invasion. He collected it from the Manufacturer in the U.S. and flew it back to New Zealand, in 1965. He is in great shape, current Air Force personnel tell us the planes need more maintenance than he does.
Fonterra, a cooperative that processes and markets dairy products, showed greater moral clarity and took faster action than the Government of New Zealand. We can’t afford to be asleep behind the Aussies in the Pacific, but we are.
Australia has got its defence spending up to 2 per cent of its (substantially larger) GDP, while New Zealand lags at 1.5. In practical terms, that means Australia is upgrading its 20 year old ANZAC frigates. They won’t be ANZAC frigates this time, but an Australian class.
New Zealand has had no air combat wing since 2001, despite claiming an Exclusive Economic Zone of over 4 million kilometres by drawing a circle around every outlying island we could find. Australia, meanwhile, is buying dozens of the latest fifth generation F-35 stealth fighters.
That is not to mention Australia’s AUKUS pact with Britain and America to build nuclear submarines or the Quad arrangement that aligns Australia with India, Japan and America in an Indo-Pacific alliance.
Altogether the concept of an ANZAC force in the South Pacific is becoming impractical but it would be the best deal for New Zealand. Australia’s GDP is exactly six times New Zealand’s. The best hope for dealing with common threats is an interoperable ANZAC force that is funded six parts by Australia and one part New Zealand.
That would mean, if Australia is buying a dozen frigates, New Zealand should put in for another two. If they have six squadrons of F-35s, New Zealand should be putting in for one. That would be a proportional response to defending the region. There may be some capabilities, such as nuclear submarines, that are always beyond New Zealand’s reach, but that is all the more reason to do the things that we can do.
There are two alternatives. The hope is that Australia judges it has to defend New Zealand regardless of our own efforts, and we are able to successfully free ride. The alternative is that they note there’s already now a Chinese naval base 2000 km off their coast, that the priority is to defend Australia.
The right thing to do is to avoid forcing that choice on them. We should recognise that Helen Clark’s ‘benign strategic environment’ has gone, and the dark side of human nature never left us. The Aussies are at least five years ahead of us in realising this sad reality. A good start would be telling them we want in for an interoperable ANZAC defence force, then putting our money where our mouth is.
If we are serious about an Independent Foreign Policy, we have to accept it is going to cost us a lot more.
I believe that the climate crisis means we need a vastly larger military to cope with civil disasters and if we are attempting to distance ourselves from China and America, we need to make a decision to dramatically lift what we spend on the military for purely defensive capacity.
How would we go about defending the realm of NZ and all our economic exclusive zone?
Currently we spend 1.5% of GDP on our entire military, to defend the full realm of NZ and pursue an independent foreign policy, I argue we need to push that up to 3%.
Note – NZ should only build up its military to defend our full territory (NZ islands, EEZ, Ross Dependency, Tokelau, Cook Islands and Niue). Any upgrade of our military is for purely defensive purposes, not for military adventure or invasions.
We can’t pull away from America and China and pretend there is no cost to being Independent.
With the climate crisis looming, we need that debate now.
We also have the geopolitics of it.
With China building a forward military base that could cut America off…
A Chinese politics specialist has called the deal between the Solomon Islands and China a “game-changer” saying New Zealand could be cut-off US military support.
…the real danger here is the Chinese Fishing Militia that will use it as a base to raid deep into fisheries.
We need to protect our fisheries.
ACT’s 2% does nothing.
If you are going to recognise the problem, the solution has to be legitimate.
I maintain we must have an independent foreign policy and that our stance must be friend to all, enemy to none, but we will urgently need to protect what is ours and acknowledge how the climate crisis will demand more civil emergency infrastructure and assets.
We need a complete review of our defence force and massive increase in spending.
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