Wednesday, 9 December 2015

10 December 2015

So, according to the Security Intelligence Service, increasing numbers of young New Zealand women are off to Syria to become what have been called “jihadi brides.” Well, actually, there are not that many. Of the thousands of foreign fighters in Syria, and assumed to be fighting for ISIL, it is understood that less than a dozen may be from New Zealand. Unless the so-called “jihadi brides” are marrying non-New Zealanders involved in the campaign, the actual numbers are very small, probably insignificantly so, indeed.

Therefore, why raise this spectre of alarm? One reason might be that, small as it is, the number has grown, and is consequently, in a time of increased international tension, worth noting. Possible, but unlikely. After all, whatever way you look at it, the numbers are still very low. And also, there has been no change in New Zealand’s terrorism alert status in the last year to account for it.

Well, it may be that New Zealand is becoming an active recruiting base for such people. Again, unlikely, and in any case, were it so, drawing attention to it would be the very worst thing to do, as it would only serve to recruit more people to the cause.

So perhaps it was just a throwaway comment, made just in passing. Whatever their many lapses, security agencies are not prone to passing throwaway comments, so that defence can be dismissed.

All of which leaves two possibilities. One is that our risk status has increased and this is a coded way of drawing public attention to it. This too is an unlikely scenario for the simple reason our official risk status has not been upgraded in the last year.

That leads to the inevitable conclusion that the comment was part of a softening-up process for the outcome of the independent review of the security services due in the first quarter of next year. After all, heightening the perception of threat would boost the case for increasing the powers of the security agencies. This is a little too obvious and we should be careful not to become too taken in by it.

But there is another, potentially more subtle aspect to this. The softening-up process may not be directed so much at the general public and the politicians, as it is to the review itself. After all, the review could recommend curbs on the way the security services operate, or even worse from their point of view, some rationalisation and reorganisation. That would be anathema to the shadowy practitioners of the craft, who since virtually forever have operated largely as a law unto themselves. But what if a tighter line was to be drawn between their activities, and those of say the Police under the Terrorism Suppression Act, for example?

Now all this I freely concede is but unsubstantiated speculation on my part, but I suspect issues like this will be focusing the minds of the spooks as they huddle furtively around their summer barbecues. They should also be topics for the rest of us to ponder as well.

On that note, Dunne Speaks takes its leave for the year. Best wishes for a happy and peaceful Christmas and a safe and prosperous 2016.







Wednesday, 2 December 2015

3 December 2015

The announcement that Japan intends to resume scientific whaling, as it prefers to call blatant slaughter, in the Southern Ocean this season received surprisingly scant attention last week. There were the ritualistic expressions of outrage, the perfunctory Government statement of concern, and the muted calls to dispatch a naval vessel to the region to “sort things out”, but really that was it.

But Japan’s actions deserve a far greater response than that. After all, not only are they thumbing their noses at international opinion, they are also openly defying the rulings of the International Court of Justice. Indeed, this is the contemporary equivalent of France’s arrogant actions from the 1960s onwards of testing nuclear weapons, first in the atmosphere, and then underground at Mururoa Atoll in the Pacific.

And the comparisons do not end there. In both cases, these environmental assaults occurred in our broad neighbourhood, and in both cases, it was not unreasonable to expect New Zealand to take a leading role in opposing them. We did that admirably against French nuclear testing, from the time Norman Kirk sent a New Zealand frigate, complete with a Cabinet Minister on board, to Mururoa in 1973, at the same as he sent his Attorney-General Dr Martyn Finlay to the World Court to argue successfully the legal case against the French. Our staunch approach caused France to first move to underground testing, then inspired the dastardly terrorist attack against the Rainbow Warrior, but finally forced France under Mitterand in 1996 to abandon all testing, albeit 181 tests later. Along the way, hundreds of thousands of typical New Zealanders had been inspired to join the campaign for a nuclear free Pacific, and an end to nuclear testing.

If our outrage about Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean is as serious, we will need to adopt similar tactics to defeat it. The inclement weather of the Southern Ocean makes it impractical and dangerous to encourage protest flotillas into the area, but maritime patrols by either the Navy or the Air Force are surely an option to keep the focus of international attention and scorn on the whalers. Norman Kirk described the frigate HMNZS Otago as it set sail for Mururoa as “a silent witness with the power to bring alive the concerns of the world”. A modern Naval vessel or Air Force Orion shadowing or circling the whaling fleet could provide the same inspiration today.

At the same time, New Zealand should continue its efforts in the International Court of Justice, alongside Australia and other like-minded nations to hold the Japanese to international account.

From the time Peter Fraser signed the United Nations Charter in 1945, New Zealand has been strongly committed to a rules-based international system. We have consistently and properly upheld the primacy of the international institutions we helped create, so utilising those institutions in the fight against whaling is entirely appropriate.

New Zealand and Japan have a good relationship. Through the Trans Pacific Partnership that is about to become a little closer. We should not be afraid to use that relationship, the power of the international community, and our capacity to be a “silent witness” to bring Japan to end the barbarism of whaling in the Southern Ocean.