The prime minister’s visit to Australia will inevitably focus attention on our role in the Aukus alliance while Christopher Luxon cites Australian success in his pitch to focus on trade with India, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
The case for our involvement in Aukus
Prime minister Chris Hipkins will be in Australia on Saturday and Sunday. As mentioned yesterday, much of the focus will be on what progress has been made on additional pathways for New Zealanders to work and live in Australia. Hipkins has indicated he’s expecting to be able to make a “reasonably significant announcement” on that this weekend. It’s also likely that his visit will draw some attention to our potential involvement in the Aukus security alliance. Last week, Nicholas Khoo, an associate professor at the University of Otago, argued that our potential participation in Pillar II of the agreement “is a vital and necessary contribution to our security and to regional stability.” Pillar II relates to a range of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, hypersonic weaponry, information-sharing and electronic warfare. A similar case has been made by Reuben Steff, a senior lecturer at the University of Waikato.
Former prime ministers express opposition
Khoo’s piece has generated pushback, most notably from former prime minister Helen Clark. As Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva reports, Clark responded to Khoo’s piece by tweeting: “We are all acutely aware of changes in the geopolitical environment, but entanglement with [Aukus] isn’t [the] response NZ needs.” Sachdeva also details growing opposition to our potential involvement in Aukus from Te Kuaka, a foreign policy think tank. Another former prime minister, Jim Bolger, denounced the Australian deal to purchase nuclear-powered submarines. Speaking at a recent event, Bolger questioned why Australia needed them and as the Herald’s Audrey Young describes (paywalled), “spoke with despair about the near-daily threats of nuclear war which had the potential to destroy the planet.”
Australia and New Zealand’s armies to work more closely together
For now, as Sachdeva reports, Hipkins remains non-committal on when the government is expected to make a decision on whether or not it would sign up to Aukus, saying: “There’s a process that we’ll need to go through in the event that we need to do that, to have those conversations. We haven’t done that.” Plans for Australia and New Zealand’s armies to work more closely together were announced yesterday. The plan supports participation in the American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Armies Programme, a military standardisation pact between the powers that also operate the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. Speaking to ABC’s Radio National last night, Khoo suggested it would be highly idealistic to expect that our role within Five Eyes wouldn’t be impacted if we didn’t participate in Aukus.
Luxon cites Australian success on trade
Focusing on another part of the world but with reference to Australia, National party leader Christopher Luxon announced yesterday that National would make a Free Trade Agreement with India a high strategic priority if elected. Luxon cited Australia’s success in getting one and criticised the government’s inability to do so to date. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade official Vangelis Vitalis told a parliamentary select committee earlier this year that New Zealand was in a difficult position when it came to trade agreements with India because of the significance of the dairy sector in both countries. BusinessDesk’s Dileepa Fonseka has written comprehensively about New Zealand’s relationship with India and previously described (paywalled) our approach as “transactional”. This morning Fonseka asks (paywalled) whether a focus on “free trade” should be the way we restart the conversation with India.