Thursday, June 16, 2011

Speaking out of both sides of our mouth

Yesterday, I noted that the New Zealand government had endorsed the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression which found that disconnection from the internet is grossly disproportionate and a violation of international law. Today, Labour's foreign affairs spokesperson Maryan Street asked in parliament whether this meant that they would be repealing the disconnection provision. The government gave a surprising response, denying that we had endorsed the statement.

Except that we have. Here's the statement, and here's the preamble to it:

I have the honor of addressing the Human Rights Council on behalf of

Austria, Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Lithuania, fmr Yugoslav Rep of Macedonia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palestine, Peru, Poland, Senegal, South Africa, Serbia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, Uruguay

Our name did not get on that list by accident. New Zealand diplomats will have formally agreed to be on it, and formally agreed to the exact text of the statement being made in our name. And MFAT will have the documents to prove it (though our chances of extracting them via the OIA are about zero, given MFAT's dislike of democratic oversight).

Finlayson has now put those diplomats in a difficult position. Because of his wriggling to avoid domestic political embarrassment, their word can no longer be trusted. And, by extension, neither can ours. On the international stage, we are now speaking out of both sides of our mouth, not practicing what we preach. And quite apart from being dishonest, this undermines our entire mana-based foreign policy.