Fancy foot­work on world stage

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Just as every­one be­gan to turn their minds to it, this year’s elec­tion cam­paign was blown off the front pages last week by the down­ing of Flight MH17, al­legedly by Rus­sian sep­a­ratists, and the carnage in Gaza.

Amid the out­pour­ing of sym­pa­thy for the vic­tims, the diplomatic niceties were care­fully ob­served. Prime Min­is­ter John Key, for in­stance, praised his Aus­tralian coun­ter­part Tony Ab­bott for the forth­right way he de­nounced the Rus­sians, with­out us­ing the same lan­guage him­self.

We re­tain hopes, af­ter all, of clinch­ing a trade deal with Rus­sia.

On Gaza, even trick­ier foot­work was re­quired. New Zealand has spent a lot of money on its bid for a tem­po­rary seat on the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

Turkey and Spain are our ri­vals, and only two con­tenders will be elected. One sell­ing point in our cam­paign is that New Zealand would al­legedly of­fer a pluck­ily in­de­pen­dent voice on in­ter­na­tional con­flicts.

There’s some truth to the claim – in 1994, we used our tem­po­rary Se­cu­rity Coun­cil seat to call for armed UN in­ter­ven­tion to stop the Rwanda geno­cide.

Gaza has de­manded a sim­i­lar scale of re­sponse. Sev­eral UN fa­cil­i­ties have been bombed and shelled by Is­rael, who – in the opinion of many ob­servers – has vi­o­lated the Geneva Con­ven­tion pro­vi­sions for­bid­ding tar­get­ing civil­ians, and the col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment of en­tire pop­u­la­tions.

With the world’s TV screens full of im­ages of med­i­cal cen­tres be­ing de­stroyed, whole neigh­bour­hoods flat­tened and chil­dren slaugh­tered as they sought refuge in UN schools, any coun­try an­gling for a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil post has needed to be seen and heard from.

Turkey, the ac­knowl­edged fron­trun­ner in New Zealand’s UN bid, hasn’t minced its words. Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan point­edly and con­tro­ver­sially likened Is­rael’s ac­tions to those of Adolf Hitler.

Luck­ily for New Zealand, though, its other ri­val, Spain, is one of Is­rael’s few staunch friends in Europe. Thus, the press re­leases on Gaza from Spain and New Zealand were al­most in­ter­change­able – both called for re­straint, peace talks and a twostate so­lu­tion.

New Zealand also con­trib­uted $ 250,000 to re­build­ing Gaza. Given the Is­raeli block­ade on ce­ment prod­ucts, this could prove dif­fi­cult to use as in­tended.

Mean­while, Labour leader David Cun­liffe was left spin­ning his wheels. Labour needs a strong late run to make up ground on Na­tional, yet Cun­liffe was re­duced to prais­ing the Key govern­ment for its han­dling of the Flight MH17 and Gaza is­sues.

All year, Labour has proven it­self un­able of cap­tur­ing pub­lic at­ten­tion for the right rea­sons. It has re­leased ma­jor poli­cies on preschool learn­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, the Can­ter­bury re­build etc. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously though, it has dis­as­trously dis­tracted it­self – and the pub­lic – with gen­der apolo­gies, talk of rein­car­nated moa, and ski­ing hol­i­days.

Last week, Labour was at it again. While the Govern­ment con­ducted se­ri­ous for­eign pol­icy, Labour was com­plain­ing about TVNZ’s choice of Mike Hosk­ing, a pre­sen­ter with a track record of par­ti­san­ship, to chair the lead­ers’ de­bates. To TVNZ, this was a com­mer­cial de­ci­sion.

Pre­sum­ably, the pre­sen­ter who had res­cued Seven Sharp had been picked in the hope he might make the po­lit­i­cal de­bates palat­able to a wider au­di­ence.

By mak­ing Hosk­ing an is­sue, Labour de­flected pub­lic at­ten­tion away, yet again, from its cre­den­tials as a cred­i­ble al­ter­na­tive govern­ment.


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