Defence on the Keyboard of National Security

A National Security Portfolio Primer

A few years ago, I wrote an article for the NZ Army News which was about a ‘first’ in the Army occurring in our Regiment. The editor phoned me and said “Look, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve just changed your article to read ‘in what is believed to be a first’. He went on to explain that often someone would pull out a little-known example from decades or even centuries before and it would discredit the whole piece. It was good advice.

The last few days have been a social media train-wreck for Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman. For the second time this year, she went on record claiming to be the first female defence spokesperson for any party in the NZ Parliament. She was called out on this when she made the claim the first time on the political TV show, The Nation, earlier in 2018. This week, she made the false claim again in a ‘dissing’ response to Defence Minister Ron Mark’s announcement that the government, of which she is a part, has decided to take up the purchase option negotiated by the previous National-led government of four P-8A Poseidon aircraft to replace the RNZAF’s ageing P-3K2 Orion fleet of 6. I’ve traversed the maritime patrol options at length in other articles so I don’t intend to go there again now.

I thought about calling this blog post “The Golriz Gambit” but decided, as it should be done in our justice system, that education and rehabilitation is better than punishment. She has received plenty of the latter in the last 48 hours under the Twitter hashtag #GolrizmyCV.

Her claims are wrong and blaming (and doubling down on the blame of) the Parliamentary library does a dis-service to a really good Parliamentary Service unit. Worse, she brings the entire NZ Green Party into disrepute because she enables the opposition, particularly on the back of the Turei revelations, to paint the Greens as a pack of liars and not to be trusted. I think this is wrong and Greens’ leaders, James Shaw and Marama Davidson, need to rein her in. Love them or hate them, Keith Locke and Kennedy Graham provided a legitimate alternative view on defence that enriched the conversation. Their thoughts were principle-based and not self-promotional. They weren’t lost for words when someone asked “so what planes would you buy?”

Here’s the disclaimer: After 25 years in uniform, I stood for the ACT Party in 2002 and 2005. I was Stephen Franks’ campaign manager in 2004 to replace Richard Prebble as leader. Rodney Hide won (don’t get me started on how he did that) and I knew it was pointless standing as a candidate again so I turned my attention to the party’s defence policy offerings.

Also, in 2005, Phil Goff became Minister of Defence under Helen Clark. He had previously held Foreign Affairs and I met him on his trip to East Timor while I was serving in the UN peace-keeping force there in 2001. His long time political BFF, Annette King, was appointed as Associate Defence Minister.

I continued working on Defence policy which, in line with the 2001 Cabinet determination (and whole of government logic) was better defined as National Security. ACT had two MPs between 2005 and 2008. One joined the Army Reserve and did basic training in Waiouru. The other made an ass of himself and dropped his partner on national TV on ‘Dancing With The Stars’. Heather Roy focussed on defence and was widely reported on matters like the sale of the air combat force. (just google Heather Roy and Skyhawks).

Heather was spokesperson for the other half of the portfolios that Rodney didn’t want from 2005 – 2008. What started out as the Defence portfolio was transformed into National Security in line with where Cabinet and DPMC and straight-out logic was at. We, as a country, needed to remove silo-thinking to keep Kiwis safe.

Heather and I wrote a whole heap of stuff for ACT about Defence. It’s all out there. Then there’s the 2008 ACT International Relations (dropping the olde worlde ‘Foreign Affairs’ title) and National Security Policy that was presented at the 2008 election. Then she became Associate Minister of Defence with National’s Wayne Mapp as Defence Minister. I was her ministerial advisor until Rodney threw a grenade into the ACT caucus tent and destroyed the party brand, himself and everyone around him.

Now, Golriz is claiming that being an Associate Minister of Defence is subordinate to being a party’s ‘full’ defence spokesperson. She claims support from the Parliamentary library for this claim.

So here’s the Primer 101 for Golriz:

Did the Labour Party need a Defence spokesperson in 2005 – 2006? Answer – NO! – they had a Minister and Associate Minister to do this!

Did the National Party need a Defence Spokesperson in 2008-2011? Answer – NO! – they had a Minister to do this!

Did the ACT Party need a Defence Spokesperson in 2008 – 2010? Answer – NO! – they had an Associate Minister to do this!

Is Defence a subset of National Security? – Answer – YES!

Is Jacinda Ardern the current minister of National Security? – Answer – YES!

Does the Parliamentary Library list Heather Roy as spokesperson for National Security? – Answer – YES!

Are there pages of google resources attributed to Heather Roy on defence and national security-related matters? – Answer – YES!

What is really disturbing is that a MP who wants to talk about defence doesn’t seem to be able to do simple research or to understand the difference between a party spokesperson vs a Minister or Associate Minister. More importantly, they don’t seem to understand the relationship between defence and national security. And ultimately, they don’t know when to just shut up because they are making themselves and their party a laughing stock.

So that concludes the lesson. If you must count female defence or national security shapes; first there was Annette, then there was Heather – then there was Jacinda and then Golriz. In what is believed to be the truth… A spokesperson and a minister is not always the same but might be and probably is.

Thank you for playing – Game Over PLAYER 4.