Friday 23 April 2021

The Kangaroo Encounters The Taniwha.

Uncomfortable: Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, along with the rest of the Five Eyes Partners, were shocked to hear New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, tell the New Zealand-China Council: “It’s a matter that we have raised with Five Eyes partners; that we are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship; that we would much rather prefer looking for multilateral opportunities to express our interests on a number of issues.”

ON WEDNESDAY, when the Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, met with our own, Nanaia Mahuta, diplomatic sparks undoubtedly flew. By then, Payne would have had plenty of time to analyse the content of Mahuta’s ground-shifting speech to the New Zealand-China Council on Monday. If that wasn’t enough to turn her face to flint, then it’s hard to know what could. Australia has made no secret of its desire to see the Kiwis straighten up and fly right for their Five Eyes partners. That Mahuta announced New Zealand’s intention of doing no such thing would certainly have sent sparks flying all over Canberra.

The Australians would’ve been no more interested than the Chinese in all the usual diplomatic ruffage in Mahuta’s speech. The only line that would have made them sit up and take notice was this one:

“It’s a matter that we have raised with Five Eyes partners; that we are uncomfortable with expanding the remit of the Five Eyes relationship; that we would much rather prefer looking for multilateral opportunities to express our interests on a number of issues.”

In plain English:

New Zealand is unwilling to go along with the Five Eyes intelligence gathering operation being expanded into a full-scale diplomatic and military alliance.

That is NOT what the Aussies were expecting, or wanting, to hear. Up until Mahuta’s appointment as foreign minister, New Zealand’s diplomatic (and military) direction of travel had been set by the Five-Eyes-friendly Winston Peters and his Defence Minister sidekick Ron Mark. The idea of New Zealand being welcomed back into the bosom of what Peters’ namesake, Winston Churchill, called “The English-Speaking Peoples” was one that warmed the cockles of the NZ First Leader’s heart.

Reading Peters speeches, it is clear that Canberra (and Washington, London and Ottawa) had allowed itself to hope that not only was Wellington finally prepared to set aside all that 1980s “nuclear-free” nonsense, but that it was also ready to make the key conceptual leap from the old “Asia-Pacific” to the new “Indo-Pacific” diplomatic paradigm.

Aimed directly at the Peoples Republic of China, the Indo-Pacific strategy of containment pits the combined military might of the United States, Japan, India and Australia against the burgeoning capability of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army. Encouraged by Peters anti-Chinese rhetoric, did New Zealand’s Five Eyes partners indulge the wild surmise that New Zealand was preparing to resume its strategic role as the guardian of Australia’s eastern flank? If so, then Mahuta has dashed their hopes most cruelly.

Contained in her address to the New Zealand-China Council (the venue, alone, should have put the other four “Eyes” on alert) is the outline of a wholly new set of foreign policy objectives. At the heart of Mahuta’s plan is the Pacific nation “Aotearoa”. As the largest of the South Pacific island nations, “Aotearoa” intends to articulate and defend the interests of the region in a proudly indigenous fashion.

“I believe our foreign policy settings can be enhanced by te Tiriti,” said Mahuta. “The principles of partnership, active participation and protection can be called upon to enable equity and tino rangatiratanga (self-determination).”

Mahuta’s title for her address, “The Dragon and the Taniwha”, must have sent the diplomatic corps scurrying for a dictionary of Maori myths and legends. What did she mean?

Given her comments about the predicament of small South Pacific nations currently overburdened by Chinese debt, Beijing might consider mollifying the Taniwha by writing-off these onerous “development” loans. How better to reward Wellington for stepping away from the rapidly solidifying anti-Chinese alliance? How better to signal to the nations of the South Pacific that Aotearoa-New Zealand’s new regional diplomacy deserves their enthusiastic support?

The veteran political journalist, Richard Harman, describes Mahuta’s diplomatic gambit as “arguably one of the most important made by a foreign minister in recent years”. Describing the speech as “subtly and carefully worded”, Harman argues that “with its declaration that we would no longer participate in the Five Eyes alliance’s broader political and security campaigns, it may prove to be as important as the 1984–87 Labour Government’s anti-nuclear speeches which led to New Zealand being expelled from ANZUS.”

Certainly, Bob Hawke resented David Lange’s do-it-yourself diplomacy. At the very least, Marise Payne, will be telling Nanaia to tell her mate, Jacinda, that “Australia’s not happy about this – not happy at all.”

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 23 April 2021.


David George said...

Having witnessed what the Chinese are doing with our Pacific neighbours I've no confidence they would even consider writing off their unpayable loans. Tonga, the Solomans, Vanuatu etc. are now in the unenviable position of having to concede fisheries and mineral rights, power and control to Beijing, that was their purpose. When Sri Lanka fell behind in it's payments for the Chinese built port it was simply expropriated. The new, unneeded, port in Tongatapu, funded by debt to the Tongan people, is a barely disguised naval base complete with massive perimeter security fencing, guard towers and large accommodation block.

It was obvious from the get go that the motivation was ownership and control, to forgo that to appease "the Taniwha"? Seriously? What would Beijing hope to gain from our ostrich like acquiescence, what are expected to give up in return? Were will we, alone, stand when the Pacific takeover is no longer possible to willfully ignore.

Marilyn Murray-York said...

It will be interesting to see if China does 'write off' the massive debts owed to it by our Pacific neighbours. I very much doubt it.
New Zealand's Labour Party is naive to think that China is our friend. The Art of War is already in progress if New Zealand is kicked out of the Five Eyes alliance.

Marilyn Murray-York
Freelance Journalist

David George said...

Be under no illusions, the Chinese regime are utterly ruthless and deeply racist and, from what I observed, with no regard or respect for the Pacific Islanders. Where will New Zealand stand when our time comes to be forced to choose.
The Brits are making a stand:

"British lawmakers on Thursday (local time) approved a parliamentary motion declaring that China's policies against its Uyghur minority population in the far western Xinjiang region amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The motion is non-binding and does not compel the British government to act. But it is another move signalling the growing outcry among UK politicians over alleged human rights abuses in China.

The motion was moved by Conservative lawmaker Nus Ghani, one of five British lawmakers recently sanctioned by China for criticising its treatment of the Uyghurs.

"There is a misunderstanding that genocide is just one act — mass killing. That is false," she said, adding that all the criteria of genocide — an intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group — "are evidenced as taking place in Xinjiang".

"Bob Seely MP condemned the stance taken by New Zealand and said the country was "in a hell of an ethical mess".

Jacinda Ardern, he said, was "a prime minister who virtue signals whilst crudely sucking up to China whilst backing out of the Five Eyes agreement, which I think is an appallingly, appallingly short-sighted thing to be doing."

CXH said...

" defend the interests of the region in a proudly indigenous fashion." Surely this means warfare. Prior to the signing of the treaty disputes were normally solved by war. Yet it seems this is the furthest thing from Mahuta's mind.

It would appear Labour are looking at setting NZ upto be China's Albania of this century. It didn't work out well for them and our present appeasement of China is unlikely to work out well for us. Unless you can speak Mandarin, in which case you will have plenty of work translating their orders in the years to come.

Sam said...

We can go back and take a look at the worst speeches made by the absolute worst tyrants imaginable and find the same uplifting rhetoric. Its totally meaningless unless you look at what they do. UK, Australia and America and a little bit NZ and Canada have been using the 5eyes to torture and murder its own people.

Expansion is away out.

Andrew Nichols said...

So proud of our nation in this instance. Tired of us being expected to toe the line once the US/latest Empire declares the latest designated enemy, whether its Russians moslems, Venezuelans Chinese or whoever is the latest nation to displease the f..king Washington Empire. We are a mature sovereign nation that practices traditional diplomacy not the shouting of empires and pygmy cringeing vassal states.

Kat said...

Nothing like a bit of counter intelligence. If push ever comes to shove it will be the Taniwha joining with the Eagle giving kaitiaki to the Pacific, along with kangaroos. The more things change the more they stay the same.

greywarbler said...

Australia was looking at our position in relation to theirs similar to the USA and Mexico. They have chosen to deport NZs back here when it suits them. They have imposed higher demands for citizenship on Kiwis than they impose on most other nations. We seem to be viewed rather as 'wetback' Mexicans trying to enter the USA to better themselves. This is not the behaviour of a friendly nation relationship. Now will they, as the USA has done with Cuba, start tyrannical behaviour with sanctions against us? And note that the USA did that, while still occupying part of Cuba themselves, and using it for disgraceful treatment of prisoners they didn't like - Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, an ultimate insult.

Being an English speaking nation in the 5-Eyes cohort is less an advantage and more a poisoned chalice. I've got a book of insulting quotations, handy for when the s hits the f. I throw this into the pot, quite irrelevant but I do feel in need of a chuckle these days. From the great Anonymous on John Sparrow, British academic, who? 'If only he'd wash his neck, I'd wring it.'

Patricia said...

I much prefer diplomacy to wild eyed international agreements whether they are 5 eyes or 6 eyes. Apparently Japan now wants to become a member. And whether or not China’s loans are debts that cannot be repaid all depends on the terms of the contracts. And that depends on the currency that the debt is denominated in. At the moment the US$ is the world reserve currency but with digital currencies challenging that then everything is a changing. We still look contracts from a western point of view but that is not necessarily how the East looks at them. Certainly the IMF and the World Bank’s loans cannot be repaid because their aims are the privatisation of those countries who borrow from them to enable large western companies to rape and pillage those countries.

sumsuch said...

You have to go high overhead to see the politics of foreign policy , though it got us Aotearoa.

We're in the big game, but it's always been so.

Ideology v. other factors. Should you follow your feelings or your thoughts? I don't hate China, just this guy ... produced by China. The grand homme of their freemarket revolution would disapprove equally. Yep, I can't remember their Chinese names, though Deng has just dinged up propitiously.

I hate non-democracy, should I apologise? America is a creature of ... And we are all the creature of infinite use of finite resources.

thesorrow&thepity said...

Her speech should've been titled 'The Fox & the Hen'

As for "Beijing might consider mollifying the Taniwha by writing-off these onerous “development” loans", naive pie in the sky wishful thinking. No, they'll write off those loans at the cost of a deepwater port facility for their "coastguard vessels"

Can't believe I'm going to type this; but really makes me miss Winston Peters.
The left are sleepwalking about Chinese aggression

CXH said...

Greywarbler, Aus got pissed with us for becoming a backdoor for those they had turned down. We were warned and arrogantly ignored them, so we got punished. To now bleat about how unfair it all is shows we still haven't accepted we were in the wrong.

As for comparing us to Cuba, not that far out as we are certainly being driven towards a socialist state.

Geoff Fischer said...

Paul Buchanan (Kiwipolitico) argues that no one should panic over Nanaia Mahuta's comments because, according to his assessment which is backed with an impressive body of facts, New Zealand and the Labour government remain firmly in the Five Eyes camp despite having resolved that it cannot afford to gratuitously offend the PRC.
I would rather believe that Mahuta's speech marks the point at which the Realm of New Zealand begins to turn away from its vile involvement in the Five Eyes alliance. One swallow does not make a spring, but time will tell if this really is a sign that the process of decolonization can take place within as much as without the colonial regime.

sumsuch said...

China? Should they be in the South China Sea? Should they be in Tibet? Should they be threatening Taiwan? Should they be mass imprisoning the Uighers?

Yep, we British did it all, no excuse. Deng managed to be realistic, dis new Mao ...

I spose as a guy guided by post WW 2 idealism I can't stomach cruelty at eye level.

greywarbler said...

CXH Australia apparently considered we became a backdoor for Asian people wanting to settle in Australia. That doesn't excuse them for discriminatory policies against most NZs then and now, and uprooting people from NZ who should be considered citizens after a long time in the Lucky Country.

The proportion of NZs going to Australia as a percentage of their population compared to ours doesn't seem excessive.

in 2020 on the Worldometer - Populations -
Australia 25,499,884
New Zealand 4,822,233

Wikipedia says - In 2001 there were eight times more New Zealanders living in Australia than Australians living in New Zealand,[47] and in 2006 it was estimated that Australia's real income per person was 32 per cent higher than that of New Zealand and its territories.

More info: