Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An awful precedent

For the past 70 years, New Zealand has pursued a foreign policy based around human rights and international law. But as Tracey Barnett points out in the Herald, National's new refugee detention law changes all that:

The truth is, human rights are just not particularly fashionable right now.

There is a cold wind blowing in this part of the world - and I fear we've just caught the sickness. It is one spreading through the Five Eyes Alliance, (the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and we have been the last to fall ill to it.


New Zealand has established a horrible new precedent: We have now said to the world we don't have to honour the international laws we have pledged to uphold. Countries around the world who have asylum numbers in the tens of thousands annually look at us, confounded.

I'm not sure what is more frightening: Now that this precedent has fallen, how easily others will crumble too. Or, in our innocence, that we keep telling ourselves it will never happen here.

This is going to have consequences. We're a small country, with nothing much to offer anyone; as a result, our foreign policy is basically mana-based. Our ability to get what we want depends crucially on our strong advocacy of human rights and international law. Step away from that, break our commitments, and other countries will care about us about as much as we care about Zambia or Jamaica. Our entire independent foreign policy goes out the window; rather than having our own voice and being able to make our own deals in our own interests, we'll be reduced to a US client again, getting whatever crumbs they deign to give us.

National doesn't care about that; all they care about is toadying to the strong by kicking the weak. The rest of us should care. National's actions are robbing us of our international voice and attacking our national identity. And if we want it to stop, we need to kick them out of government.