9 July 2003

The man of steel at the Sydney Institute

Howard's opinions and actions on the US and Iraq are well-known. I was interested in what he had to say about the Solomons and New Zealand:

Such a coalition of interest and effort will be well placed to provide the necessary assistance, especially the substantial policing, law and justice and economic resources required.

But we must also ensure that the environment is stable and secure enough to implement reform � without security the Solomons cannot begin the task of rebuilding.

Restoring security to the Solomon Islands is essentially a policing task. But any policing assistance must be provided with adequate protection and support. In finalising the shape of an Australian contribution we must ensure the safety and security of all those who are involved. This is likely to involve a substantial number of defence personnel and the precise mix of police and military personnel will be determined by the expert advice of the Chief of the Australian Defence Forces and the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police.

The Solomon Islands is a sovereign country. Any action will be in response to a properly issued legal request from the government of the Solomon Islands, thereby ensuring that our assistance fully complies with the requirements of international law.

We recognise that such an action represents a very significant change in the way we address our regional responsibilities and relationships. But our friends and neighbours in the Pacific are looking to us for leadership and we will not fail them.

And the rest of the world, understandably, sees this as an area where Australia has particular responsibilities


Could I just ask a final question on Australia / New Zealand relationships. I mean, as you know, you�ve got a good personal relationship with Helen Clark, Australia and New Zealand are at distance on some strategic issues � New Zealand and United States is quite distant. How do you see New Zealand fitting into any Australia / US free trade agreement? I mean, I think you�ve said that you would speak for New Zealand�s interest. But it seems that the United States in this present frame of mind isn�t particularly interested in New Zealand in that respect. I mean, how do you see our relationship, vis-a -vie in New Zealand and New Zealand visibly to the US?


Well there is a difference in the defence relationship between New Zealand and the United States and the defence relationship between Australia and the United States. New Zealand made a decision in the 1980�s under the leadership of David Longey, and it was not significantly reversed when there was a change of government, not significantly reversed, to pursue a less engaged approach. Now, that�s New Zealand�s decision and New Zealand�s right. One of the reasons why I think I have developed and maintained a good relationship with Helen Clark is that although we come from different sides of the political spectrum and neither of us from occasions is regarding entirely as sitting in the exact dead centre of our two parties. Despite that, I do sort of think that one of the ways in keeping that very important relationship is not to give too much public advice about what are essentially domestic matters for the other country in the partnership. We just do though have a different approach. As far as the free trade agreement is concerned, we are negotiating one for Australia and that�s my preoccupation. I�ve indicated that if there are ways in which out of that process we can assist New Zealand, we�d be very happy to do so, but there�s no conditionality involved in that, they have to be separate operations. We do, for example, have separate interests. I mean, clearly if New Zealand were ever to have a free trade agreement with the United States, dairy would� their dairy industry would bulk very large in anything that New Zealand would need, where as that is not necessarily the case with Australia.

If the Solomons intervention works (and I think it might) it will be another success to add to East Timor. The fact that this, like East Timor, a multilateral effort in response to an invitation from the Solomons government (and hopefully) parliament places it in a different category from Iraq.

No comments: