Friday 3 July 2015

Who Makes New Zealand’s Foreign Policy?

Lessons Learned? Professor Jane Kelsey addresses the 50th Otago Foreign Policy School on New Zealand and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The most important lesson to take home from the school was that if the people stop making their own foreign policy, then somebody else will make it for them.
IF IT WAS A SCHOOL, what did we learn? Flying back to Auckland, after three frigid days in Dunedin, that’s what I wanted to know. Were any of us any wiser about the past, present and future of New Zealand foreign policy? Well, yes and no. There’d been presentations that contained material which many attendees were surprised to learn. Like New Zealand’s proud record of support for the Palestinian cause at the United Nations. I had no idea we’d been willing to defy the USA and Israel quite so often. For the most part, however, the University of Otago’s Foreign Policy School wasn’t so much about learning new things as it was about reaffirming old things.
Fifty years ago the idea that New Zealanders deserved a chance to be schooled in the theory and practice of foreign policy was both new and vaguely subversive. The conduct of diplomacy and the formulation of foreign policy has for centuries been more or less the exclusive preserve of the executive branch of government. That the Department of University Extension was proposing to subject this elite process to academic exposition and debate would have struck many as not merely unorthodox but even a little risky.
University Extension had, itself, grown out of the movement for the democratisation of higher education, represented in the 1930s by the Workers’ Educational Association. Now, in 1966, barely twelve months after a very reluctant Keith Holyoake had agreed to join the USA and Australia in South Vietnam, the Department’s Arnold Entwisle was proposing to induct ordinary citizens into the mysteries and complexities of foreign policy. No wonder the Department of External Affairs felt it advisable to “enrol” a staff member or two in Mr Entwisle’s “school”.
And so the battle lines were drawn. On the one hand, the democratisers: determined to encourage public questioning of, and participation in, the formation of New Zealand foreign policy. On the other, the professionals: elite defenders of the Crown’s prerogatives and uncompromising protectors of her secrets. Over the 50 years of the Foreign Policy School’s existence, these two fundamental and contradictory impulses have vied with one another for supremacy. There have been times when it seemed that the annual two-day colloquia were convened for no better purpose than to explain the ways of MFAT’s gods to ordinary men. Through half-a-century, however, the impulse towards democratisation and public participation has maintained a critical presence.
So much so, that the professionals are now quite happy to cite the achievements of the popular movements inspired by this country’s foreign policy choices as evidence of New Zealand’s “independent” national temperament. That the campaigns against New Zealand’s participation in the Vietnam War; her relationship with Apartheid South Africa; and her reliance on nuclear “deterrence” and the ANZUS alliance for her national security, were all regarded with deep suspicion (if not outright hostility) by the “professionals” of those Cold War years has, conveniently, been forgotten.
But, as Professor Kevin Clements, Chair of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago (and a long time attendee of the Foreign Policy School) told us on Sunday morning: “there is no national identity outside the people”. The New Zealand character, he said, had been “born out of movements” and “shaped by struggle”.
If we’re regarded as egalitarian, it’s only because the struggles of our labour movement made us so. And if we’re “nuclear free”, it’s only because the grass-roots Nuclear-Free New Zealand movement’s astonishing reach and intensity made it impossible for the fourth Labour government to be anything else.
Over its 50 years, the Foreign Policy School has played its part in educating and inspiring many of the key participants in the dramatic foreign policy shifts of New Zealand’s post-war history. As it contemplates its next 50 years, however, misgivings must multiply. The foreign policy upheavals of the post-war era were, pre-eminently, the achievement of the Baby-Boom Generation. But as the Boomers’ hair whitens, their places in the front ranks of social change are not being filled by a new generation of idealistic activists.
Indeed, after 50 years of struggle, it’s the professionals who now seem to have the edge over the democratisers. Maybe that’s the lesson to take home: that if the people stop making their own foreign policy, then somebody else will make it for them.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 3 July 2015.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Only a side issue, but I think it's more accurate to say we USED to be egalitarian – actually probably more accurate to say we used to FEEL egalitarian. As Bruce Jesson showed we've always been run by a small coterie of the moneyed. However, I think 60 odd years ago, when my dad was trying to get used to calling the boss by his first name instead of Sir, there was a lot more mingling of the middle-class and the lower classes. Keith Sinclair ascribed it to the rugby club. Might be a certain amount of truth in that.

Charles E said...

There you go again, as bad as a one-eyed Cantabrian backing the Highlanders tonight because he can’t stand Wellington, that windy hole filled with over paid Labour voting soccer fans …..

Go you marvellous Southerners! Not an All Black in that pack …..Wow, what a team.

Your erudite essay still boils down to the same message as before: If it's a left wing policy it's the people who made it, or democracy. If it's a right wing one, it's an unrepresentative elite imposing it under the evil influence of foreign (US) power. I would call that special status pleading. Orwellian though isn’t it, this idea of left good, right bad? He was a conservative of course ….

Sure, the Ministry elite are not elected and should not be allowed to run the agenda, against the will of the people but neither are the usual suspects like Kelsey elected, who try to impose their political views on us in the guise of being well informed, wise academics.

The policies of not playing sport with SA; banning everything nuclear and not participating in the American Vietnam War eventually won the day I agree. But don’t pretend they were popular in the sense that the people rose up and demanded them. A loud and angry minority did, and they were largely right, often for the wrong reason I beileve. They were listened to and that is democracy at work. They led opinion. Same. But exactly the same democracy applies to the policies you do not like which the elected government implements now.

Another example: what percentage of voters elected Lange who decided to take us out of ANZUS effectively? Compared to what percentage of voters gave us Key who may well sign TPP? Would it be something like 43% in FPP against 48% in a third term of MMP? Let’s have your Google research results GS, instead of my mere opinion.

A further example applies here in CHCH. The elected government of NZ sacked the Canterbury Regional Council, eventually, as it was dysfunctional. Those from the left who don’t like its policies since say that was undemocratic, which sounds like a good point. Unless you consider that more people in Canterbury voted for the government, to govern, than for that Council, by a huge margin. These people may be the quieter type, not given to angry demos, not sharing your world view. But they are real, good people, with opinions and the vote thank heavens. Just as well since you probably regard them as the 1%, the elite. All 48% of them.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

1. You've already said you never read my links Charles so why should I bother putting them up?
2. If you going to ask for my Google search results, you probably better tell me what subject I'm researching right?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Now that I've got a bit more time:
Charles I have no idea what you want from me. Apart from you seem to be intent on pointless points scoring. Only in your own mind though (and possibly jigsaw's) are the points gained. It seems to be a sore point with you that I offer evidence for my opinions. I could give you complete unsubstantiated opinions like "no, a hell of a lot more people voted for the Canterbury regional Council than the national government." Or "no, 100% of people voted for David Lange." But that would be stupid. Would you want me to do that? Because if we going to pluck figures out of the air, mine are just as valid as yours.
I notice you actually give some figures here. Did you indeed pluck them out of the air? Or did you do some research? And in your research did you possibly use Google? If the answers are yes and yes to those last two then isn't that a good thing? I could give you references from academic databases if you prefer, but you may or may not have access to them. But just say the word and I will.
One thing that worries me a little is that you can grow to dislike someone so much over such a trivial thing as a dispute on the Internet that you can't resist these stupid digs. On such a basis I suspect were Jews persecuted in the 1930s. And no, I don't give a fuck about Godwin's law.

Charles E said...

Hell's teeth GS, it may have been a small dig but you respond by throwing the whole spade!
Sorry to touch a nerve and I apologise.
So getting back to opinion, what is yours (without references off the net) on my proposition that it is rather unbalanced to praise democracy as the winner only when it elects or elicits left of centre gummits or policies?
Like today in Greece. Chris says it's a victory for democracy, which it is (I like referenda, as long as they do not substitute for wise leadership). But what if France & Germany voted tomorrow to expel them from the Euro and blacklist them from financial markets? Would that be undemocratic? Not that I suggest that should happen.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Hells teeth yourself Charles, it may well have been a little dig but it happens every fucking time. And then you and jigsaw get upset when I respond. I mean you were at the stage where you weren't going to reply to any of my posts right?

Anyway, I'm not sure how you judge democracy in the EU. I doubt if they'd be holding a referendum on the subject of Grexit. It'd just be a decision of the wealthier governments if at all it is possible. But I think the consequences of expelling Greece from the euro would probably be marginally better than the consequences of staying in the euro. I don't think "financial markets" are so exclusive and so small that you can blacklist someone from them anyway. All sorts of people outside the US and Europe have money to lend, and might want political influence. Look what happened when we try to run the affairs of small island nations. There are places they can turn to.