The prime minister’s speech was picked up for comments around Ukraine and the United Nations, but it was our independent foreign policy as a Pacific nation that was it’s key focus, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin.
Our independent foreign policy
As my colleague Toby Manhire has observed in passing, it’s not an everyday occurrence to get a fulsome expression of what our foreign policy is, directly from a prime minister. Often we are left to discern it by stitching together speeches, interviews or analysis of overseas trips and trade missions. Yesterday’s speech by prime minister Jacinda Ardern at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, was a 3,642 worder that lasted 24 minutes (plus a very long Q&A after). The speech was titled: A Pacific Springboard to Engage the World: New Zealand’s Independent Foreign Policy.
Our place is in the Pacific
Headlines picked out the PM’s comments about the general state of the world (“a “bloody mess”, “grim”) and her condemnation of Vladimir Putin and the United Nations. “Morally bankrupt position” is probably the strongest language Ardern has used to describe the United Nations’ failure to stop the war in the Ukraine and these are not inconsequential or unimportant comments. But acknowledging that failure is not particularly shocking. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the council had failed in preventing or ending the war in Ukraine in April.
Climate change must also be a “foreign policy priority
The speech unequivocally positioned New Zealand as part of the Pacific. There are 30 mentions of the word “Pacific” in the speech. Among her comments about the Pacific, Ardern said climate change must also be a “foreign policy priority” citing her trip to Tokelau, a low lying country where they are having to contemplate the relocation of burial grounds “to stop their ancestors washing away”. Ardern also said “it would also be wrong to position the Pacific in such a way that they have to ‘pick sides” while acknowledging other countries have interest in the region.
Pacific Island Forum next week
Ardern will meet with Anthony Albanese today to wrap up her trip to Australia. Ardern is managing expectations on outcomes there by saying (paywalled) the meeting “won’t necessarily bring issues to conclusion.” Next week, the prime minister will head to the Pacific Island leaders Forum. The 51st Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is in Suva, Fiji from July 11-14. Pacific peoples minister Aupito William Sio will attend the PIF instead of foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta who is recovering from Covid. Representatives from 18 countries, including New Zealand and Australia, will attend the summit.