Jun 14, 2008

Messages To Canberra

Well if the Aussies missed the messages being conveyed by Trans Tasman and The Hive they will get it double barrel by reading today's Herald. Fran O'Sullivan makes it quite clear what New Zealand expects for the future.

Memo Kevin Rudd - Stay family, if you want to be taken seriously. That's the clear message Helen Clark sent to the Australian Prime Minister when she leaked to a Wellington newsletter that she had not been consulted before Rudd floated his vision of an Asia-Pacific community planning economic, political and security matters.
Clark's decision to use Trans Tasman - rather than her Monday post-Cabinet press conference - to signal her gritted-teeth interest in hearing more from Australia's Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard about the new venture was well chosen.
Clark could simply resort to plausible deniability by suggesting to Gillard that the newsletter had beaten up her position. But Trans Tasman is well read by bureaucratic and media elites in both New Zealand and Australia.
Australia's diplomats are well aware that Clark sets aside a weekly briefing with the publication to telegraph her Government's positions.
In the parlance of the diplomatic game, the Prime Minister had got her position out there.

Fran concludes

Right from the time he was Labor's shadow foreign minister, Rudd framed his party's foreign policy in terms of "Three Pillars" - its engagement with the United Nations, Asia and the United States alliance. It was apparent that the former Australian foreign affairs official did not rate this country as a significant other, warranting just a few paragraphs in his 150-page document.
But there is a more profound issue at work here.
The reality is that while New Zealand was not in the frame, neither were many leading nations consulted. Barely coded messages have been sent by other nations to strengthen bilateral relations first, before hoping to take a leadership role in the region.
Rudd's enthusiasm simply got the better of good judgment.
Even the Australian headlined a critical commentary on his clumsy diplomacy "The new Mad Hatter".
If Gillard is perceptive she will take back to Canberra a clear view that New Zealand also intends to be a leading small player in the region.
It has no pretensions to be a middle power. But through its more understated manner, it can get things done.
There are some things mum knows.

Fran is being diplomatic. Every Asian capital we have consulted over the Rudd idea has said that it is ill conceived, poorly executed, and its announcement verged on the offensive and arrogant. They don't like the Australians much to begin with. They like Rudd less now. The fact is that Asians don't say "no". They know Rudd knows this and they suspect that he has cynically used this grand idea to posture at home, knowing full well that it will get nowhere.