Budget Security: Too Much and Not Enough

I want to address whether this Budget will give New Zealanders a greater sense of security. In one sense it will. Significant financial assistance is to go to poorer people to make them feel more secure, and that is good.

But do we not also have a duty to help make poorer people throughout the world feel more secure? The Budget fails to meet their needs by giving only $15 million a year extra in overseas development assistance, which only keeps up with inflation. New Zealand’s aid spending has increased from only 0.23 percent to 0.24 percent of gross national income (GNI), a far cry from the longstanding international standard of 0.7 percent of GNI.

The Government is spending extra money on international security; it is just that the money is going in largely the wrong direction – to increase the intelligence and military capacity of the rich Western countries to keep rebellion in the poorer countries in check.

Iraq is a case in point. Iraqis have rebelled in one way or another since the Americans occupied their country and asserted control over their economy. The New Zealand response has not been all bad, in that we have given some reconstruction assistance post the war. But New Zealand has also legitimised the US-led occupation force – much to the expressed pleasure of the Bush administration – by embedding our army engineers in a British military unit.

In addition, New Zealand has put a frigate and an Orion in the Gulf as part of an American-led Western effort to assert dominance over the seas around the Arabian Peninsula. Of course, our Government says that the frigate and Orion are there to fight terrorism – not that they have discovered any terrorists, or are ever likely to – and it uses the same anti-terrorist excuse for sending our SAS, at considerable expense, to fight with American forces in Afghanistan.

Actually, it is exactly the American policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and towards the Israel-Palestine situation that is, unfortunately, producing a terrorist response. Of course, no sane person would support in any way the terrorist acts against innocent people that have occurred in some Islamic countries recently. But by operating alongside the American military in the Middle East, New Zealand is actually contributing to the terrorist problem rather than being part of a solution.

Instead of providing more overseas aid, which would be part of the solution, the Budget increases spending on fighting what the Government calls “international terrorism’. In fact, it achieves just the opposite. The budgets of the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau have gone up by a whopping 28 percent. The police get an extra $14.8 million to form dedicated national security teams to counter terrorism. Three million dollars a year is being dedicated to a Pacific security fund as part of a silly campaign to have the island nations waste scarce resources on anti-terrorist measures, when the chances of finding a terrorist amongst the coconut palms is virtually zilch.

There is also a smorgasbord of other so-called security measures that the Government is spending money on, allegedly to make things tougher for international terrorists but in reality, and mainly, undermining our civil liberties and privacy.

These include granting the police and intelligence agencies new surveillance powers to intercept our emails, to hack into our computers, to put biometric identifiers on our passports, and, in relation to passports, even to give the State the power to take away our passports on vague national security grounds. The Government is adapting to the mean-spirited, anti-foreigner paranoia so promoted by Winston Peters.

The latest example is putting traffic police on tracking down overstayers – a move likely to lead to racial targeting and the antagonism of ethnic communities towards the police, which will only make it more difficult to solve real crimes.

Ahmed Zaoui is the most prominent victim of anti- foreign sentiment. Mr Zaoui’ s case shows how extra spending on intelligence services can produce exactly the wrong result. The Algerian Government has branded its democratic opponents, including Mr Zaoui, as terrorists. The French Government, with big interests in Algerian oil, supports the repressive Algerian Government and has helped smear Mr Zaoui internationally. Our small SIS does not like to buck its big brothers overseas, including the French intelligence service, so it wants to do the French service’s bidding and get rid of Mr Zaoui. Instead of New Zealand contributing to the democratisation and development of Algeria, and thereby reducing the danger of terrorism, it is in effect helping the Algerian generals and French oil interests by detaining Mr Zaoui for what is now 18 months.

The Green Party says that this is not the way to a more secure New Zealand and a more secure and just world.