Response to the Budget

New anti-terrorism or security spending comes up in a number of Government departmental budgets. There is a large category of $19.8 million in the immigration budget, supposedly to “manage immigration risks”. No doubt, some of the anti-terrorism spending is justified but there is also a reaction to imitate what is happening overseas. It is not so much to keep up with the Joneses but to keep up with the Bushes – that is, George W Bush.

It might be fair enough to strengthen security at our embassies overseas, but do we really need to be spending a lot of money on detaining asylum seekers here in New Zealand when before September 11 we always let them out into the community while awaiting their refugee status. I have not been able to find in the Budget papers or through inquiries to the Minister’s office how much we are spending on detaining asylum seekers this year.

This year’s Budget is much less enlightening than last year’s in terns of breakdowns. Last year’s Budget had an expenditure of $601,000 on detaining asylum seekers. There will be virtually no terrorist threat to New Zealand unless our Government is silly enough to hitch itself to the arrogant interventionist policies of the United States. All international terrorism – as opposed to domestic terrorism – over the last few years has been targeted on Israelis, Americans, or people from closely allied countries. Of course, the Greens are utterly opposed to and condemn such terrorism, but we have yet to see any evidence of the targeting of New Zealand or New Zealanders, or even Western countries as a category.

Keeping out of the war in Iraq was a big plus for New Zealand, although we will make few friends in the Middle East by having our Orion and our frigate in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman under, overall, an American command. That deployment will also cost us an extra $5 million, according to the Budget.

The Greens think we should fight terrorism in both its main forms. The predominant form is State terrorism, which we have seen an explosion of this week in Aceh with the invasion by Indonesian troops. We see it in the West Bank in Gaza with Israeli troops again firing on Palestinians. We see it with the Russian troops continuing their human rights violations in Chechnya.

The Greens favour the use of considerable sums from our foreign affairs budget on political and diplomatic efforts to fight that State terrorism, and it is good to see the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Phil Goff, visiting the Middle East.

The second form of terrorism is small group terrorism, as we have seen in Saudi Arabia and Morocco recently, and which continues amongst Palestinians in the form of suicide bombers. We also very strongly condemn all of that terrorism. It is born and sustained by the anger and despair felt by many people in the Islamic world and in other less developed countries. It is anger towards domineering American Government policies and despair, in cases like that of Palestine, where the people live in an occupied country without any real control over their own future.

But military action and over the top security measures do not defeat that small group terrorism. It merely helps them recruit, as we have seen with the recent atrocities in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Instead, we should help empower the people of the poorer countries and help their socio-economic development.

It is good, in that context, that the aid being sent overseas by New Zealand is rising from $230.4 million in last year’s Budget to $245.6 million, or a 6.6 percent increase, in this year’s Budget. But it is really only a catch-up for inflation, because in the first three Labour Government Budgets aid increased by a total of only 5.2 percent. We will still be languishing at around 0.25% of Gross National Income compared with the international standard of 0.70 percent. It is also now correctly focused on poverty reduction, and on building the capacity of communities and of human rights.

I would also like to pay tribute here to those many New Zealanders who are posted overseas, helping more needy countries to build a better future.