Aussie election result result opens the way for a revitalisation of the Anzac partnership

Australia’s  election,  thrusting  the ALP  and  its leader Anthony Albanese  back  into  a  governing  role, offers  the Ardern government a fresh  opportunity  to blow  the  cobwebs  off the  Anzac partnership.

During  the  last  years  of the Liberal era,  the once-strong Trans-Tasman relationship appeared  to  cool.  Australia’s deportation policy under   the  notorious  501  provision  of  its  immigration law has  become a sore  point  and  the  Liberal government under  Scott  Morrison planned  to increase  the flow  of  Kiwi deportees, much  to  Wellington’s chagrin.

Australia and NZ share similar goals  in  trade and defence, but these, too, need a fresh polish.  The world during the Covid  era  has  been changing  rapidly, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created  a deep tension in global relationships.

China – in  signing a pact with the  Solomon Islands that  will  enable it to establish  a  base  in that territory – has shaken both NZ  and  Australia  out of  their Pacific  complacency.

In the John Key  era, the Trans-Tasman  relationship had  a  warm  glow  to  it,  even  when the  ALP  had  command  in  Canberra. There  was never  any  doubt  that  Australia and  NZ  marched  in  lockstep on  issues  of  mutual interest.

But  under the  Ardern government — and because  of  Covid  without  the  regular ministerial personal contacts —  there  has  been a  visible  slackening in  Trans-Tasman ties.

NZ  now  has  a  chance to  seize the initiative  and pump  renewed  vigour  into the  Anzac  relationship.

Whether   it  will  do so is  uncertain.  Certainly  the  Ministry of  Foreign  Affairs  and  Trade   whose  head,  Chris Seed,  had  a  long  stint in  Canberra  will  have plenty  of  advice to offer  on that  front.

The ACT  party appears sceptical that  the  Ardern  government  will infuse the Anzac partnership with  what is  needed.

Its  foreign affairs  spokesperson  Brooke van Velden, said ACT  “hopes”     Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta will use this opportunity to reset New Zealand’s ANZAC relationship.

“The world is changing and New Zealand needs to stick with our traditional allies and ensure that our defence capabilities are significantly improved.We’ve already been left out of AUKUS and the technology cooperation included in that deal”.

She  said  that with a new Australian Government,  NZ needs to see this as an opportunity to strengthen  ties with Australia and show a united front.

“China now has a foothold in the Pacific. Labour agrees that the world is changing but it doesn’t know what to do and it’s too busy wasting money on poorly targeted spending.

“ACT says we should follow the NATO target and methodology. It would see $7.5 billion in extra capital expenditure over the next four years on Defence.

“ACT has committed two per cent of GDP for Defence expenditure, focusing heavily on capital investment so that we have the capability to defend ourselves and send a message to our allies and to those less friendly that we are here to stand up for liberal democracy.

“The target of two per cent of GDP is what all of our traditional allies, including Australia, are committed to and would demonstrate the seriousness with which we take our defence obligations”.

ACT   argues this is the kind of valuable spending that government should be doing, protecting NZ  and aligning it with  allies.

“It’s time for Jacinda and Nanaia to take our relationship with Australia far more seriously and following the Australian election is the perfect time to start.”

The  Prime Minister, of  course,  has  a business visit  planned  to  the  US  this  week   and   the  Deputy Prime Minister is  preoccupied  with  post-budget  issues—but  they   should be  attaching   the  line “when  can  we  meet?”  in  their  congratulatory   messages   to   their  new  counterparts in  Canberra.

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