The Greens see almost no new spending in this budget to address the major global problems, such as the growing gap between the very rich and the very poor on our planet, or the huge differences in wealth and power between countries.
Instead, this Budget largely follows the Bush agenda, that the answer is to throw money at combating terrorism, rather than addressing its social roots.
The Bush administration is still miserly in its development aid to the Third World, and so is the Cullen Budget. There is only a $4 million increase to $230 million, an increase less than the rate of inflation. In three Budgets this government has made absolutely no progress towards reaching the internationally accepted aid target of 0.7% of GDP. We are still mired at around 0.24%.
The Bush administration has dramatically increased spending on finding the terrorists. In the Labour/Alliance Budget there is new money for police “anti-terrorist” activities, and increases of 22% and 16% respectively in the budgets of the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau.
I would prefer any anti-terrorist money to go to the Police rather than largely unaccountable intelligence services. One of problems with the SIS is that in the absence of any real terrorist threat to New Zealand they start targeting dissenters, as we found when they raided the home of anti-free trade campaigner Aziz Choudry a year or two back.
It has been announced that with this new police money a senior police officer, Bill Bishop, will be off to Washington as a police liaison officer. Now I’m not against liaison between police forces, but we have to be aware that American policing is highly politicised.
Every week the Bush administration is churning out some new rumour of a threatened terrorist attack to keep anti-terrorist hysteria alive among the American people.
The remarkable thing about the past decade is that there has been less “international” terrorism in developed Western countries than in the 1970s or 80s — which is not to downplay the horror of September 11.
Increased security measures in New Zealand, for example at airports, did provide New Zealanders with some comfort in the panic that followed September 11. However, although we managed to seize a lot of knitting needles off grannies, and thousands of people lost their nail scissors, no terrorists have yet been spotted.
One of the worst “anti-terrorist” responses to September 11 has been the routine detention of asylum seekers, causing huge suffering to people often fleeing from oppression in their own countries. It is a sad indictment on refugee spending that we spend more on detaining asylum seekers than the $712 million on refugee resettlement. Over a million dollars is being spent on either imprisoning asylum seekers (under the Corrections Budget) , holding them at the Mangere detention centre, or covering the accommodation costs at specified “conditional release” institutions. The security system at Mangere alone will cost $460,000.
The other area where the government has tailed the Bush administration is in defence. Sadly, this Budget will include money to continue SAS operations in the US-led war in Afghanistan — over $2 million was spent last year on this.
This government’s participation in America’s “war against terrorism” has also put wind in the sails of the defence traditionalists, who want our military spending geared to large-scale American-led coalition warfare.
They hated the government’s laudable move, supported by the Greens, to scrap the Skyhawks. This means we don’t have a repeat of the $234 million item for Air Combat that was in last year’s Budget. However, we are still wasting a lot of money on equipment purchased for the Cold War, like the frigates.
It is absurd that we spend $543 million a year on the frigates and the support ship Endeavour, and less than that, $534 million, on the army’s land forces. It is obvious that the most positive contribution of our Defence Forces right now is the army peacekeeping in East Timor, backed up by air force helicopters.
The Defence Force establishment is still resisting Helen Clark’s attempt to shift the maritime patrol focus to EEZ work around New Zealand and South Pacific countries.
The Budget projections only allow for 480 hours a year to be spent on this work, or 80 hours annually per Orion. Several times that number of hours will be spent on largely irrelevant military objectives — such as participating in anti-submarine exercises in other countries.