Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Lushington D. Brady: Will Luxon Be Our Best Little Mate?

As I’ve previously observed, New Zealanders are fast learning the truth of Paul Keating’s claim that “when you change the government, you change the country”. For once, the changes seem to be trending in the right direction.

The new government is repealing Three Waters, promising to bin the Auckland Light Rail white elephant, the ute tax and more. It’s being dragged, however reluctantly and slowly, into a likely referendum on co-governance and clawing back the ‘interpretations’ of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Luxon, no doubt prodded by Winston Peters, is also re-orienting New Zealand’s foreign policy back to the West, rather than pandering to Chinese communism. Notwithstanding, of course, his gutless signing of an anti-Israel “joint statement”.

If Matthew Hooton is to be believed, Luxon will also be New Zealand’s “most pro-Australian PM ever”. Which seems like a pretty strong call – though it’s not hard to at least better the sneering condescension of Jacinda Ardern. But “pro-Australian” is, if nothing else, just part of a general re-orientation, ‘back to Canberra, Washington, NATO, Tokyo and Seoul’.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s emphasis on Australia was underlined by his visiting Anthony Albanese in Sydney the same day his Finance Minister, Nicola Willis, was revealing the financial debacle left by Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins.

That prioritisation reflects Luxon’s view New Zealand has become too inward-looking and it needs to “hustle” globally.

It’s hard not to suspect that much of it is being driven by New Zealand’s new foreign minister.

His Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, has already dropped New Zealand’s childish insistence since 1984 that it runs an “independent” foreign policy. Peters points out the slogan was smug, implying other countries don’t, and meaningless, since every country does.

“Smug” and “meaningless” seems a pretty apt description of NZ foreign policy under Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta, after all.

It will be interesting to see how Peters, if not Luxon, reacts to the inevitable diplomatic bullying from Beijing.

The message to Beijing is that Wellington backing democracy over dictatorship is its independent choice, despite China menacingly warning New Zealand of the “risks” of seeking closer economic ties with India.

Somehow, I suspect that Peters will be easily a match for anything Beijing’s “wolf warriors” have to throw around. The bigger question will be whether the PM will have the backbone to resist, not just the pressure from China but the panic from business interests terrified at the prospect of having all that sweet, sweet Yuan yanked from their sweaty hands.

So far, though, Luxon is making all the right noises about the AUKUS (Australia, UK, USA) alliance.

Australian officials surely noticed that Luxon didn’t demur when Albanese said the two countries didn’t just share common values but “a common strategic outlook”. Luxon was the first to refer to the military alliance, promising Wellington would do its share of the “heavy lifting” in what he called “a more challenging and complex world” and emphasising greater military interoperability.

Given the AUKUS defence pact, which Luxon called “a very important element in ensuring peace” in the region, greater interoperability implicitly extends to the US and UK. Albanese denies pushing for New Zealand to join Pillar Two of AUKUS, but he doesn’t need to. Luxon confirmed New Zealand is interested and will decide over the next year. It’s unthinkable his government would choose no.

There remains, of course, the legacy of Lange.

New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy will stay. The baby boomers will need to pass before it can reconsider that matter rationally. Albanese astutely emphasised Australia’s new submarines will be nuclear-powered but not nuclear-armed. Some New Zealand voters make that distinction.

Both sides’ message was clear: New Zealand and Australia do better the more they co-operate.

Australia’s prodigal cousin continues its journey home.

The best Luxon could do in the short term is show up, by contrast, the lily livered Albanese government.

Lushington describes himself as Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. This article was first published HERE

1 comment:

CXH said...

Why does anyone bother with the comments of Mathew Hooten? This is someone who put all his cleverness behind Todd Muller being the next PM. Now he is to be taken seriously. Yeah nah.