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Principles versus pragmatism

21 April 2021

New Zealand is a member of the international Five Eyes group.

Five Eyes is an intelligence organisation in which five individual nations have pooled their resources to "keep an eye on" other potentially dangerous members of the global community.

The USA, Canada, Australia, the UK and New Zealand are all in this together and (supposedly) share cruticial intelligence data obtained via a number of sources, including snooping on international and domestic communications.

"Only those with something to hide have anything to fear" from Five Eyes is probably the official line.

To date, Five Eyes has been a fairly harmonious relationship between its member states but recently there appears to be some friction going on as a result of New Zealand's reticence to condemn China for human rights abuses.

One could argue that Five Eyes should stick to its knitting and focus on survielance and data-collection as a method of preventing terrorism and other threats to national security. For it to delve into the politics of another sovereign state is surely way outside its mandate.

Indeed, I suspect that this would be the justification used by New Zealand for not standing alongside the other Five Eyes members when they issue statements critical of China. The reality, however, may be somewhat more simple.

China is NZ's largest trading partner, accounting for almost 30% of all its export trade and increasingly becoming a critical supplier of everything from consumer electronics and clothes to crucial infrastructure components. It would seem to be silly to provoke the anger of such an economic giant.

Unless, that is, you care about such things as human rights.

Clearly the leadership of New Zealand believes that money is more important than the lives of a few peasants in a far-off land -- although I'm sure they'll justify their position by claiming that they can do more to protect the rights of those people by keeping China as a friend rather than making it an enemy.

Do we believe our politicians when they tell us this?

Top tip: Are their lips moving when they say this?

I guess that it could be argued these decisions are being made in the best interests of New Zealanders and that it's the government's responsibility to put Kiwis first, even if that means ignoring significant human rights abuses allegedly carried out by our largest trading partner.

Of course if you ask any politician they'll tell you that protecting human rights is one of their top priorities and they would never sanction any abuse of those rights, either here or overseas. Do I smell some hypocrisy?

Oh, I almost forgot that hypocrisy is the language of politics.

To be honest, I believe that this is an issue which needs to be taken out of the hands of politicians and put into the hands of the people of New Zealand. Where we stand on this is too important to allow a bunch of self-interested, simple-minded cloth-heads to make that decision for us.

Either we are a nation of compassionate people with a wannabe Mother Theressa as our leader who believe that the human rights of *all* people are important, or we're more interested in selling out for those those cheap teeshirts, budget TV sets and other trinkets (the beads, blankets and muskets of the 21st century).

I was quite disturbed to see Nanaia Mahuta defending NZ's stance since she, as a Maori, should understand what it's like to have your people's rights and freedoms abused by another people. In fact, if she or her peers ever starts bitching about how hard done by Maori are in the hands of European settlers then she will surely be the biggest hypocrite I've seen for quite some time.

What do readers think? Where should NZ stand on this?

Are we doing the right thing by treating Five Eyes membership as simply a security agreement and avoiding the politics that seems to be creeping in?

Or should we be standing up for the rights of oppressed people everywhere so as not to be seen as hypocrites every time we apologise for past misdeeds against Maori?

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