History of Oceania in general|
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 97 22:03:44 CDT
From: email@example.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Document Highlights Australia-NZ Tensions
Document Highlights Australia-NZ Tensions
By Patrick Brown, in the Militant
Vol. 61, no. 31 (15 September 1997)
AUCKLAND - A briefing paper of the Australian government
leaked during July has caused a controversy in Australia,
New Zealand, and the South Pacific. According to a report in
the July 19 issue of the Auckland daily The New Zealand
Herald, '"the paper was prepared jointly by the Australian
Foreign Ministry and Treasury for the Treasurer, Peter
Costello, as a briefing for a meeting last weekend of
economic ministers from the 16-member South Pacific Forum.'"
The paper highlights growing conflicts between Canberra
and Wellington over policy towards the South Pacific. It
criticizes the New Zealand government for its '"initiative in
hosting'" recent negotiations involving forces from
Bougainville, saying it '"did not fully consult Australia,'"
and points to emerging differences over the Indonesian
military takeover of East Timor.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the '"93-page
document - marked 'AUSTEO' meaning Australian Eyes Only - divides
the 14 island states [the Forum excluding New
Zealand and Australia] into six groups, based on economic
and social conditions, with headlines such as 'Melanesian
mayhem,' 'Imprudent Micronesians' and 'Bottom of the
The only substantial sections of the document published
verbatim by the New Zealand Herald deal with the New Zealand
government. The paper states that '"New Zealand policy in the
South Pacific is a mix of cooperation and competition with
'"Old habits die hard,'" the paper continues, '"and many
politicians and officials in Wellington still like to
believe that New Zealand, because of its smaller size, links
to Polynesia and Maori and Islander population, is part of
the Pacific in a way that Australia is not and understands
the region better.'"
The paper criticizes '"New Zealand's early response to
Australian efforts to promote economic reform in the South
Pacific,'" but states that '"because of the threat to
[Wellington's] interests posed by the problems of its
associated territories in the Cook Islands and Niue [prime
minister James] Bolger and Foreign Minister [Don] McKinnon
have become more robust with the island countries over
The government document refers here to austerity
measures imposed on the Cook Islands by its former colonial
ruler, the New Zealand government, in 1996. '"Even so,'" warns
the paper, '"we still cannot assume that New Zealand will
support Australian policy because of a continuing desire for
'product differentiation.' '"
The text describes the New Zealand First leader, Winston
Peters, who is Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, as a
'"loose cannon,'" and an '"opportunist'" who '"would not be above
exploiting New Zealand sensitivities towards Australia.'"
No minister in the New Zealand coalition government has
objected to the remarks about Pacific Island states. An
article in the New Zealand Herald of July 27 reported that
'"high-level Australian sources'" said '"material from New
Zealand intelligence helped to form the damaging Australian
assessments of Pacific leaders and countries.'" Bolger
refused to comment on this report. He and other leading
National Party Cabinet ministers have consistently played
down the importance of the leaked paper.
Figures in New Zealand First, the minority partner in
the coalition government and a party marked by sharp
nationalism and rightist policies, have taken a different
tack. The New Zealand First deputy leader and minister for
Maori affairs, Tau Henare, said the report's description of
Winston Peters was '"absolutely nasty... They are a pack of
mongrels as far as I am concerned. And I would ask the
Australian government to apologize.'"
Winston Peters apologized for Henare's remarks and
deflected the blame for the report from the Australian
government. The rightist politician instead ascribed the
report to '"dingoistic'" bureaucrats. The dingo is a native
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