Assessing the Defence White Paper

The Government’s recently released Defence White Paper has raised questions again about New Zealand’s defence priorities, and in particular the level and nature of public funding on defensive capabilities.

The Green Party has a longstanding belief that priority must be given to non-violent means of resolving conflict. The Government’s defence policy since 2009 has shown that it is less stringent in determining the legal and legitimate use of force than Green policy prescribes.  In particular, we support the NZDF to carry out core functions of global and regional conflict prevention and resolution (peacekeeping), and peace-making and peacebuilding.  We also attach importance to territorial search and rescue, disaster relief, and fisheries protection.

To fulfil these functions, defence personnel need equipment and other capabilities to operate effectively, and to stay safe in the field. Whether $20 billion is appropriate is another question entirely, and one that is difficult to address unless the Government provides a clear timetable outlining the details of its planned expenditure.

Minister Brownlee has said that cyber capabilities need to be thought of like any other weapon that is at the Defence Force’s disposal. While cyber capabilities seem less imminent or harmful than conventional weapons, it is still imperative that New Zealand’s armed forces must only be deployed in accordance with international law, and with the explicit sanction of Parliament.

It is positive that the White Paper recognises the importance of maritime surveillance of our Exclusive Economic Zone and that of our Pacific neighbours. These are Green Party priorities for the NZDF and are likely to become even more pressing issues in the near future.

However, for all the fanfare around the release of the Paper, there is limited detail about where the $20 billion in defence spending is going to go.  The recent explanation that proposed upgrading of the frigates will cost around $120 m. more than anticipated is further evidence that the Government’s cost-benefit analysis for defence spending is questionable.

It has long been Green Party policy to phase out these expensive ships and invest instead in assets that will help us carry out useful, peace-promoting activities, like disaster relief and maritime surveillance – such as Multi-Purpose Vessels (MPVs) and modern patrol boats.

Obviously the NZDF’s work on these issues will be influenced by the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, as indeed the White Paper itself notes. The Minister’s assertion that defence policy “is not determined by the potential for adverse effects of climate change”, however, demonstrates how far the Government can mindlessly go in shirking its climate responsibilities.

In recent weeks we have also faced the prospect of a US Navy ship travelling into NZ waters for the first time since 1984/85. The fact that we have stood strong on our anti-nuclear stance is a political victory for New Zealand, and for the nuclear-free campaigners of the ‘80s in particular.  It is incumbent on the Prime Minister, both morally and legally, to ensure that his decision to allow any US ship to visit will not violate our anti-nuclear legislation.

4 Comments Posted

  1. AH YES—WAR! Humans destroying each other using more and more modern and powerful technology. Has a DISTURBING TRAJECTORY into the FUTURE . How is a Frigate going to help in a BIO PLAGUE WAR. Getting easier and easier people! HMMMM NO GUN CONTROL. WOW– REAL CLEVER??? Now MORE MEAT for the MINCER of Human STUPIDITY. Made a NOBLE SACRIFICE??? You wont see NZs wealthy on the Battle field. A suitable JOB for the DOPEY WORKING CLASSES??? Cant REALLY TRUST our ALLIES??? as they have already run of from the latest front–Middle East and left the MESS for the LOCAL PEOPLE to CLEAN UP. NO noble sacrifice from the Coalition of the Willing??? NZ WOULDNT HAVE A CLUE as to WHATS REALLY GOING ON with NUCLEAR WEAPONS in the PACIFIC!!! Then theres the REFUGES after the WAR BIRDS have come to PLAY. But its ONLY 60 million. Thats probably MORE people than live in the whole Pacific??? OOOOOPSE the MEDICAL BILL??? Then TERRORISM as the BUTCHERED get even—As NZers WOULD if WE were INVADED! Sorry JUST another FATAL FLAW in so called HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, like GASSING our atmosphere to MASS EXTINCTION! Maybe UNFETTERED HUMAN VIOLENCE is the REAL REASON for OUR DEMISE???

  2. Well written as always, yes agreed, the madness of the military money machine.
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    “…the prospect of a US Navy ship travelling into NZ waters for the first time since 1984/85. The fact that we have stood strong on our anti-nuclear stance is a political victory for New Zealand,…”

    Well my history books disagree with KG’s blog, as quoted above;
    Wasn’t a US Navy ship in the Chch area at the time of the quake, for the Southern Katipo military exercise on the Feb. 21?

    And didn’t NZ provide fuel for both NATO and Soviet nuclear weapons; exporting heavy water from our geo-thermal sites, some decades ago, even through Lange’s PM term. The truth is shocking on this one. It’s looking just as likely the French blow up the rainbow warrior, because NZ refused to sell the french enriched hydrogen!!! Now that would just be speculation… hope Clark’s goons aren’t scoring base-ball-cards from this blog. Greeting to the bots at the UN 😉

    Seriously think Polynesian Navigation Arts should be included in the Navy Budget. That old knowledge of wind and water is as powerful as any modern steel or fire. (Bots at UN cyber-police will be reading my words, and recommending counter-action; perhaps an increase in vaccinations for Maori, or other measures, to prevent their boats from sailing) “one love”, Bob Marley sang. NZ’s defense policy sings “one-global-UN-police-force”. Sing like Bob.

  3. That is one interpretation of the “more appropriate” in the policy. The lengthy discussions around the Frigates settled on that phrase because there was no mission statement imaginable under which they would be appropriate.

    The long term threat environment is not however, as benign as the one we currently enjoy. Climate change and its consequences affect everything and with respect to Naval Power we have to work with the tools our parents bought for us. When it is needed, there is no time to build or buy, a Navy.

    Moreover, with the mistaken emphasis on ever more trade we are vulnerable over a vastly extended set of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) which means that even the 20 b figure is not adequate . “Free” trade doesnt’ exist. There is no “Free”. Nor is there any free money here to be used somewhere else. The fact is that the Frigates really do need replacements, and it isn’t going to be cheap.

    First the threat assessments. Then the mission statements. Then get some professional military types to help make sure the force mix is appropriate. I’ve got my own views on what those things are, but at the end of it all even with our priorities, they aren’t going to be cheap.

    It might be wise to select vendors who aren’t going to exact a pound of moral flesh too. Certainly with the current government we’d be hard pressed to find that much 🙂

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