Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Who Defends New Zealand from the People Who Defend New Zealand?

1979 might have been a landmark year for international political relations, but I find 1977 much more interesting for domestic reasons.

God Defend New Zealand became the official national anthem, alongside God Save the Queen. The week after Star Wars was released in theatres, the Misuse of Drugs Act (1975) came into force. Sleeping Dogs hit NZ theatres and sensibilities while Muldoon expanded the SIS, as well as creating what would become the STG, as this delightfully soundtracked potted history clip shows. The GCSB also became fully armed and operational.

It didn't stop there, of course. The Fourth Labour government created their own awful precedents in the 1980's; using Defence Force materiel to conduct police operations by way of cannabis crop raids; installing the Waihopai Valley listening post, one of the costs of a nuclear-free policy.

The lines have become so blurred between the powers of government that they no longer hold each other in check, but have ganged up together, police shoulder to shoulder with the military. meantime, each successive Defence Minister became more clueless than the last, from Frank O'Flynn down to Jonathan Coleman.

Helen Clark attempted to rein in this unaccountable power bloc, as Nicky Hager's book Other Peoples Wars makes plain. She ended up making things worse. Clark ended up giving them a flash new Defence building instead, Castle Wolfensohn.

What started out as formalising legislation of the GCSB in 2003, thereby making it accountable in law for the first time, ended up with Key having the law saying he can appoint a horse for head of the GCSB if he wanted.

Key's government is so in thrall to this seemingly-elegant solution of executive and legislative muscle combined, that they are changing maritime laws to allow the Defence Forces to prevent political protest that would be acceptable on land.

David Farrar and others insist that the Kitteridge report will shed light on Key's evasive tactics, justifying why Ian Fletcher was parachuted into GCSB HQ. I'm more in agreement with Geoffrey Palmer (link here soon), who suggests in this NatRad interview this morning that the whole purpose of military intelligence needs reviewing.

But I'd go further. Sweeping reform in the Defence Forces and Police is paramount. They seem to have completely forgotten who they serve.