No Minister

ON DEFENCE

The predictable (but nevertheless somewhat hysterical) reaction by Ardern following the announcement of the formation of AUKUS and that Australian is to acquire nuclear powered submarines that they would not be allowed in New Zealand waters (while ignoring the inconvenient fact that her government is relaxed about our frigates working with US Navy task-forces that include nuclear powered vessels) demonstrates yet again that, despite protestations to the contrary by both the NZL and Oz governments, our defence relationship with Australia remains strained.

Lets be very clear. Successive governments of all stripes and colours have begrudged every dollar spent on defence. We have always taken the minimalist approach and have happily demanded that the military do more with less. Our ‘combat’ Navy consists of two aging frigates (albeit substantially upgraded) with the reality being that we cannot guarantee we will have a ship available 24/7. Don’t be diverted by the two OPVs. The are not combat ships. They are ‘civilian spec’ ships more akin to coastguard type vessels and do not possess the redundancies found in warships. For the Army and they can deploy a ‘light’ battalion group (circa 500 strong) with all other units having to be stripped in order to maintain it for an extended period plus limited special forces elements. The RNZAF have 4xP8-A Poseidon aircraft on order to replace our 6xP3K2 Orion patrol/search aircraft and also 5xSuper Hercules due in 2024 to replace our 60 year old C-130 Hercules. Of the three services they are probably better placed to carry out their assigned roll.

My assessment is that the Labour Party has shifted left away from any form of collective defence and is comfortable in their own skin in doing so aided and abetted every step of the way by the Greens. It would be a bold person to suggest they will not win the next election in concert with the Greens made even more certain by National and ACT taking quiet potshots at each other over where they sit in the ideological spectrum. The lead-in time to replace our frigates has started and there are no signs that Labour is seized with the issue … and post 2023 and with a Labour/Greens government the issue is dead in the water. It it sits right now I see the RNZN being restructured to a coastguard type service built around OPVs (some ice strengthened) and I’m not sure the public will see this as something to worry over.

I well remember the time of the first Fiji coup when Lange mused about possible military intervention only to be told by the then Chief of Defence that any intervention ran a substantial risk of failure. It’s what happens when you run the military on a beer budget. Can I suggest not too much has changed or is likely to change.

Written by The Veteran

September 17, 2021 at 3:17 pm

13 Responses

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  1. Sadly, all true. It will be interesting to see what National comes up with, but realpolitik is that politicians end up following the voters, rather than the other way around. Churchillian anti-appeasement had little effect until Hitler grabbed the rest of Czechoslovakia after he’d been given Sudetenland. NZ might well welcome nuclear-powered ships one day but it’ll be after China has invaded Taiwan and bullied Indonesia, the Philippines and so on. That is, it’ll be too late.

    Cassandra

    September 17, 2021 at 3:27 pm

  2. Don’t worry, chaps.

    When the Chinese nuclear powered and nuclear armed aircraft carrier steams, uninvited, into the Veronica channel, you BFPM will be standing on North Head with her best frowny look, shouting ‘You can’t come in here. We are nuclear-free!’

    adolffinkensen

    September 17, 2021 at 4:05 pm

  3. I suspect that this deal will be a bit of a wake up call for the government. Jacinda won’t be able to keep saying it is of no concern to us.
    As The Veteran notes, we have two old (nearly 25 years) frigates with no plan for their replacement. Our one military ally, Australia, will expect us to do more, at the very least, renew our naval combat capability.
    Any idea we can get away with replacing the frigates with OPV’s is now dead. We are going to have to be more serious that that.
    It is two years to the next election, which is too far away to use that as an excuse not to make a decision. I reckon the government will have to make a decision within the next two years to replace the ANZAC frigates with new ships of similar or better capability. The Aussies, the Canadians and the Brits have all gone with the UK designed Type 26. It might be too dear for NZ, but the Type 31 will suffice, which is also a UK design. The Brits are building a minimum of 8 Type 31 frigates.
    The fact that the UK is part of this new deal is an outcome of Brexit. The UK is looking abroad again. NZ needs to take note.
    The government will have to act. National will need to set out what they think. Specifics, not generalities.
    For Tom, who ignores all of the hated MSM. Today, I gave interviews on the AM show (Ryan Bridge), Newstalk ZB (Mike Hoskings), Morning Report (Corrin Dan) and Stuff for tomorrow’s papers. But of course Tom will have no idea what I said.

    Wayne

    September 17, 2021 at 10:24 pm

  4. Thanks for the heads up Wayne, I had a look at one of those interviews, and it’s very short on facts, and long on ‘feelz’.
    That isn’t a criticism of you, but it’s where the MSM typically is these days.
    The Veteran has written a far better article of the the situation above with supporting facts, which leaves the reader much better informed in order to draw their own conclusion.

    uncoffined

    September 18, 2021 at 8:56 am

    • Uncoffined,

      As you will well know, radio interviews are very short, typically a minute or so. You have to make your key point very clearly. My key point was the need to replace the frigates with ships of similar capability.

      Unlike The Veteran, I don’t think Labour has stepped way for all forms of collective defence. The fact that the NZDF was part of the evacuation coalition from Afghanistan shows that. So does sending a frigate and the tanker to the FPDA exercises which is currently taking place.

      I think there will be very considerable pressure on Labour, while they are a majority government, to make a decision about the frigate replacement, and I don’t think going for OPV’s will cut it.

      The Veteran has always been uncomfortable about New Zealand’s nuclear free stance, so I am inclined to put his first paragraph into that context. I don’t think it helps the defence debate by focussing on that issue. Referring to the reaction as hysterical is pretty much guaranteed to put the interlocutor onto the sidelines of the debate. The nuclear free issue is too strongly held by most New Zealanders for that to be a reasonable approach.

      I don’t believe any likely New Zealand government will abandon the nuclear free position, and by that I mean both weapons and propulsion. Though I do accept that the propulsion part may be contested somewhat down the track.

      Wayne

      September 18, 2021 at 9:51 am

  5. I’ve been in the army for coming up 18 years now. Not sure how much longer I want to stay in.

    I get tired of doing combined exercises or operations with the Aussies, Brits and Yanks and very much being the poor retarded cousin in the room who brings nothing to the party but is there anyway. Even the Canadians have far more warfighting capabilities than we do.

    We can’t even train at the moment, we’re all going in and out of isolation facilities.

    Divorce and separation rates are going through the roof, though my ex wife got fed up with the army long ago. Attrition would be a lot higher were it not for such a bad economy to not get a job in.

    I could stay in, but then I’d have to very much toe the party line about all the woke nonsense initiatives that Wellington is forcing on all the front line units.

    Honestly, this isn’t what I signed up for.

    Major Star

    September 18, 2021 at 9:36 am

    • Major Star … thank you. If your comment reflects any sort of widespread view held by the military then its in a deal of trouble. I have taken the liberty of re-posting your comment on the Vietnam veterans (closed) net.

      The Veteran

      September 18, 2021 at 3:24 pm

  6. ” The nuclear free issue is too strongly held by most New Zealanders…”

    Therein lies the manta of the political weakling. A worthy politician would recognize the stupidity of such a policy and scrap it – taking public with him.

    adolffinkensen

    September 18, 2021 at 11:07 am

    • A long time ago Bill English as leader of the opposition floated it – a media pile on ensued and he was ” gone by lunchtime” to be replaced by the lamentable Don Brash

      In a way that has been National’s problem for a very long time – the caucus panics in the face of hostile media coverage in the mistaken belief that the media speaks for middle New Zealand

      Andrei

      September 18, 2021 at 11:19 am

    • Adolf,

      Well, that is your view, a wrong one at that.

      National made a strategic decision in 2006 to accept the nuclear free policy. It was very obvious to us in the caucus that most New Zealanders were deeply attached to the policy. No amount of argument could shift them.

      Don Brash, encouraged by myself and Lockwood Smith, had tried to persuade New Zealanders that the ban on nuclear powered ships was unnecessary. We made absolutely no headway, in fact the attempt to change New Zealander’s minds on this issue was a serous block against National’s political fortunes. When John Key became leader it was very clear we had to change tack. And we did.

      No longer could National be bashed about by being pro nuclear. Our political fortunes increased almost immediately. Obviously not only because of our change of nuclear policy, but it was an important factor.

      Wayne

      September 18, 2021 at 11:28 am

  7. Andrei,

    It wasn’t just the media. Numerous opinion polls put support for the nuclear free policy at between 60 and 70%, including polls that National commissioned. Not just the ban on weapons, but also the ban on nuclear powered ships.

    Maybe in the future that might change as regards nuclear power, but it certainly has not yet.

    Wayne

    September 18, 2021 at 11:32 am

  8. Wayne … you do me a disservice with your assertion that I’m uncomfortable with NZLs nuclear free stance. I’m not … I’m pragmatic enough to accept that its deeply ingrained in the Kiwi psyche but I do question the hypocrisy of the position that refuses entry of nuclear powered vessels to our ports while allowing RNZN vessels to exercise in concert with USN nuclear powered vessels.

    I think too your analogy about NZL being part of the Kabul evacuation taskforce as evidence that Labour still holds to the concept of collective defence was unfortunate. The whole exercise was virtue signalling at its worst designed to hide the simple fact that the government had, less than two months previously, denied Afghani LECs entry into the country at a time they could have safely
    exited Afghanistan. As it was our C-130 arrived late and exited early after only a couple for flights leaving the USAF and the RAF alone to finish the job. As I said, the whole exercise was virtue signalling at its worst.

    I guess we can debate the frigate replacement issue. Clearly you see Labour as more sympathetic to the issue than I do … we agree to disagree.

    But of all the comments on this thread perhaps the most worrying one is that posted by Major Star (I assume that’s a pseudonym as he wouldn’t want the wrath of the Chief of Army visited upon him in the way it did to private soldier who had the temerity to comment about the woke culture in the military). That’s the view from the coalface and cannot be glossed over by flannel and puffery..

    The Veteran

    September 18, 2021 at 2:56 pm

  9. Should anyone be unfortunate and contract a cancer which is best treated successfully by radiation, will they be invoking the no radiation policy? Major hospitals have radioactive substances used to treat certain illnesses. Should the no nuke hysteria be extended to that treatment even if it is potentially lifesaving? NZ nuclear policy is like many other policies. Based on irrational fear without substance like rising sea levels and green hysteria.

    Issy

    September 18, 2021 at 3:34 pm


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