Dragons-and-taniwha speech raises questions about NZ’s future in Five Eyes – and about the extent of Cabinet’s endorsement

Question of the Week:  Will  New Zealand  be  expelled  from Five  Eyes,  following  Nanaia Mahuta’s  speech  on  foreign policy?

NZ Herald’s  political editor  Audrey  Young,  in  a  report  on  Thursday,  wrote:

“NZ  faces the  prospect  of  expulsion   from  the  Five Eyes intelligence alliance, according  to Con Coughlin, defence editor for  the  Daily Telegraph in the  UK.

Coughlin   said  attempts by the other Five  Eyes  countries  (Britain, the  US, Canada  and  Australia) to present a  united  front  against  China  have been thwarted by the  NZ  government’s  preference for  maintaining  cordial ties with  Beijing.

He  referred  to  Jacinda  Ardern  as  “NZ’s  tiresomely woke Prime Minister”, saying  she has a preference  for  “cosying up to China’s  communist rulers”.

“Thanks to  Wellington’s  naïve  decision to prioritise trade  with China over its membership of the elite  Five Eyes intelligence-sharing  network, Ardern  can expect her country’s isolation to deepen even further as  NZ  faces  the very real prospect of expulsion  over its pro-Beijing stance”.    

Point  of  Order  is  aware  Coughlin  is  a  highly respected operator  in  his  field.  He has close  contacts  not  only  within the  UK  Ministry  of  Defence in London but  also  in  Downing Street  and  across  the  river  in the  offices  of  the  intelligence agencies themselves.

And  there  is  little   doubt the  prospect  of NZ’s expulsion  is  being  watched  closely  in  both  Berlin and  Tokyo,  where  those  respective  governments  would  be  eager  to  step into  any  vacancy.

But  we  don’t  think the  Five Eyes  partners  will consider  expulsion. The real risk is the NZ will be frozen out of high-level stuff, as happened after NZ  dipped  out of Anzus  when David Lange took  NZ  into   its  anti- nuclear  posture.

NZ   leaders, as   they  did   for  20  years  from 1984,  will never know what they miss.

It  took  years of  careful  diplomacy  to  get  NZ  fully  back  on  board  the  Five Eyes  network.

Now, in  the  Wellington  beltway, the  question is  being  asked:  Is  this  a Cabinet decision?  Just what is the PM’s position?   Or  is this  a case of a  minister  new  to the  job  exploring   life  with  the   taniwha  and  dragon?

The  whole affair   underlines  the   perils of putting tyros into critical ministerial slots.

Already    the  gossip  among  senior officials is  that  Mahuta is difficult to engage with on foreign issues. Apparently Customs  officials found her exactly like this when she held that portfolio, and they would spend hours as she circled around any  issue  they raised.

One  thing  is  certain:  Mahuta’s  next  pronouncements  on  foreign  policy,  if  they  continue to  venture into  uncharted territory,  will  be  studied   line  by  line  not  just   by  diplomats  stationed in Wellington  but  in  capitals  round the  world.

One thought on “Dragons-and-taniwha speech raises questions about NZ’s future in Five Eyes – and about the extent of Cabinet’s endorsement

  1. The desire not to offend China stems from Ardern’s ambition for a top UN job, which China could veto, apparently. In any case New Zealand’s interests come a very poor second.


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