It has been good to see some pushback in the media questioning the wisdom of Mahuta’s FiveEyes alignment as the first public act of her tenure as our Foreign Minister. Chris Trotter writes in interest.co.nz that upsetting New Zealand’s most significant trading partner seems like a very silly thing to do.
“When did the Five Eyes intelligence alliance morph into a foreign policy alliance?” There has been no consultation with Parliament over this changed role. Did Cabinet approve?
If so, what is the role of Five Eyes today? When did we put the spies in charge of policy?
According to Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s office, New Zealand joined FiveEyes countries to express deep concern about “China’s National People’s congress passing national security legislation relating to Hong Kong.” Quite why this is a problem seems unclear, as Article 23 of the treaty of transfer required the Hong Kong legislature to pass a national security law. It never did, and in the face of riots and outside intervention, China did. That seems reasonable.
A more likely reason for New Zealand joining the Anglophone FiveEyes “white might” chorus may be that it is designed to bail out Australia which has over-reached in its eagerness to join the China-as-designated-enemy chorus emanating from the United States, particularly President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo. Given that it is not yet clear to what extent this will be likely to be continued by President-elect Biden, it seems as strange decision for Mahuta’s first public move.
Richard Prebble blames the officials.
Officials like to say we receive 10 times more intelligence from our Five Eyes partners than we supply. I was a member of the parliamentary oversight intelligence committee and I am still bound by secrecy. I can reveal the biggest secret: I never learned anything I had not already read in the Economist magazine.
Our membership comes more from officials’ desire to be in the know, to be part of the in crowd, than from any advantage to New Zealand.
We have our Hong Kong hawks. Australia is plowing on in the face of increasing retaliation from China. New Zealand should not be joining them.