Friday, 27 March 2009


We wish that the NBR would put Hooton's column on line - even if it was after midday - its always a bloody good read - short and to the point but erudite laced with irony and lashings of subtlety and we are having lunch with him next week at one of Auckland's finest dining establishments.

Ooops we digress. Anyway we went out an bought a copy of NBR and got some hamsters to type it out again -

When Murray McCully was Housing Minister, tenants in Wainuiomata reported that paint fumes were making their homes unliveable. The complaints kept coming but Housing New Zealand kept denying them.

Eventually, Mr McCully had had enough. Without telling anyone, he had a government limo drive him to Wainuiomata to visit the main complainant. The fumes were overwhelming. Mr McCully sorted the problem and everyone was happy, except Housing New Zealand. He appears to be taking the same common-sense approach to his job as Foreign Minister.


Prior to 1984, New Zealand had a toddler foreign policy, dependent on the UK and the US. Our approach since has scarcely been more sophisticated, being based on the ludicrous notions of “independence” and “New Zealand leadership”.

In truth, there can be no such thing as an “independent” foreign policy. Foreign policy, especially for small states, is about interdependence: assessing one’s own interests and those of others, seeing where they align, and working together to achieve them, even when this requires the odd principle to be compromised.

A foreign policy that was truly independent would be entirely ineffectual.

“New Zealand leadership” is even more preposterous. The theory was that if New Zealand became nuclear-free, even at the cost of our security guarantee, other countries would be sufficiently impressed to follow. Later, the idea came to cover everything from trade liberalisation to climate change to goody-two-shoes foreign aid. Other than ironically securing Helen Clark a job at the UN (how “independent” does it make us to slavishly follow that corrupt body?) it has failed utterly.

No country awaits New Zealand leadership. The US and USSR didn’t abandon their nuclear arsenals; the EU hasn’t opened its market; no one will follow New Zealand in destroying their economy with an all-sectors, all-gases emissions trading scheme; and everyone else understands that states don’t give charity, they pursue their interests with cash.

A strategy of “independence and “leadership”, divorced from the interests of friends and allies, does not even work for great powers, with the only recent example of someone arguing otherwise, other than Ms Clark, being George W Bush.

To believe that one can be truly independent from others, and that one’s own recklessness will impress them, is to be the one thing more annoying than a toddler. It is to be an adolescent.


The unlikely figure of one-time larrikin Mr McCully has emerged to lead us into adulthood.

His speech this week to the NZ/US Council was firmly founded on New Zealand’s interests. “New Zealand”, “NZ” or “we” meaning New Zealand appeared 78 times. “United States”, “US”, “America” or “you” meaning the US appeared 40 times.

The content was about working with the Americans to fight protectionism to prevent a Great Depression; the benefits to New Zealand of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan; opportunities for American and New Zealand scientists to work together to combat climate change and the importance to New Zealand and the US of a stable South Pacific. It gave no ground on the nuclear issue. It included nothing Labour Leader Phil Goff could disagree with, emphasising that Mr McCully, as Foreign Minister, speaks for both main parties, consistent with the ideal of a bipartisan foreign policy.

But Mr McCully’s speech was not arrogant. It was common sense. Everything he said was based on facts gleaned from his conversations with his counterparts rather than lectures he plans to deliver to them. It included no highfalutin rhetoric about New Zealand’s importance to the rest of the world. “Leadership” was used once, in the context of the need for American leadership if trade liberalisation is to be progressed in the Pacific. And finally, after so many years, the nonsense about “independent” and “independence” appeared not at all.

We agree with Hooton on the issue of the UN - it is a very very corrupt organisation and we think it was a masterstoke by the current administration to back Clark into the post. They win if she lessens the corruption and they win if she falls flat on her face.A classic Dark Arts manouvre - very House of Cards.

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