What should Peeni Henare wear for Defence talks with Peter Dutton? A flak jacket, perhaps

On his  first  mission abroad   as  Defence  Minister, Peeni Henare  says he  is  seeking to “regenerate New Zealand’s  defence  force readiness and  capability in  a  post-Covid  world”.

In  that  phrase he (in effect) underlines  how   heavily  committed  defence elements  have been in  their  various  roles  during the prolonged  pandemic.  It  will  be   with  relief    that  those  forces can  now  get  back  to  what  they enlisted to be.

But  Henare   now  has  to  get  to  grips  with the vital  role  of  securing  NZ’s  defences –  as  NZ   always  has done – with its  allies  and partners, particularly with his  Pacific  focus.

After   talks  in  Fiji on  how best to support Pacific partners to work together to provide solutions to the region’s challenges, he  goes  on to Australia which  is New Zealand’s only formal defence ally and one of its closest security and bilateral partners.

There  he  is  to hold talks  with  the  formidable  Peter  Dutton.

Whether he packed  a  flak jacket to  take  with him is  not  known  but he  may  need  it.

Dutton  made  headlines  when –  in an earlier  ministerial role – he  talked of  “taking the  trash out”   when  deporting  former NZ criminals from  Australia.

Of  course, he  will  know   that our defence  minister  bears  a highly respected  name in  NZ’s  defence  history,  but  even  so  Henare  could  face  some brusque  exchanges on  what NZ  is  actually planning  to  do to “regenerate”  NZ’s defence  capability alongside Australia.

Only  this month the Australian  Government announced the Australian Defence Force will undergo the biggest expansion in nearly 40 years.

The number of ADF personnel will be boosted from 60,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women to about 80,000.

The $A38 billion defence expansion will be the biggest since the Vietnam War and comes amid rising tensions with China and Russia.

When  unveiling the government plan at Brisbane’s Gallipoli Barracks the  Australian  PM,  Scott  Morrison,  said it was  a significant investment in  “in our future”.

“We don’t leave our tasks of defence to others. We take it up ourselves.”

Morrison noted that when the Coalition came into power, defence spending as a percentage of GDP was at its lowest level since the Second World War.

“If we had kept defence force spending at the same rate as what the Labor Party left us, there would be $A55 billion less spent in our defence forces today,” he said.

“That’s a real gap. That’s a yawning gap.”

Dutton  on  that  occasion  raised the spectre of Russia and China.

“People who believe that President Putin’s only ambition is for the Ukraine don’t understand the history that our military leaders understand,” he said.

“If people think that the ambitions within the Indo-Pacific are restricted just to Taiwan and there won’t be knock-on impacts, if we don’t provide a deterrent effect and work closely with our colleagues and with our allies, then they don’t understand the lessons of history.”

He took a swing at the Australian Labor party’s past management of the ADF.

“The reality is, to be very, very frank about it, the Labor (party) lost control of our borders,”  Dutton said.

“Labor lost control of our borders and if you can’t protect your borders and if you can’t stare down people smugglers, how on earth can you pretend that you’re the same as this government.”

Henare   might find  similar  words  ringing  in  his  ears  as he  emerges  from  his  meeting with Dutton.

One thought on “What should Peeni Henare wear for Defence talks with Peter Dutton? A flak jacket, perhaps

  1. Oh to be a fly on the wall. The invasion of Ukraine is at day 26 and Henare is banging on about a post-Covid world. The ROW except NZ has moved on from Covid and it is no longer a subject with the thinking nations given the changes in geo-politics and energy in a few short weeks. Talk about lost. The puppy is about to hear a massive bark from the big dog and a message for his mistress that more is required and fast.


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