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Leaked report by the New Zealand Labour Party's Consultative Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security criticises Australia's strategic policies

PRU GOWARD: A confidential report from the Labour Party's Consultative Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security in New Zealand - the New Zealand Labour Party Report - has been leaked. It condemns Australia as a `war mongering, destabilising influence in the Pacific', and accuses its own government of `duplicity and deceit' for the way in which it handled the decision-making over the frigate project.

I've been joined now by the author of that report, Katey Bonas, a member of the New Zealand Labour Party from Christchurch. Good morning Ms Bonas.

KATEY BONAS: Good morning.

PRU GOWARD: You call us a destabilising influence in the Pacific. Can you give us some evidence for this?

KATEY BONAS: Yes, I would like to clarify that I'm only one of the authors; there's five of us. And certainly I feel that the arms build-up within Australia at the moment ...

PRU GOWARD: What arms build-up?

KATEY BONAS: ... destabilising influence, and certainly not confidence building, and it's something that the New Zealand population do not really want to be part of.

PRU GOWARD: But what is our arms build-up?

KATEY BONAS: Well, from what I can ascertain, Australia is building up a lot of submarines, there are a lot of warships, a lot of aircraft, and an arms industry spending about $25 billion over the next 10 years on rearmament. And we certainly don't want to be part of an arms industry.

PRU GOWARD: You don't see that as Australia making up for years of running down its defence force equipment?

KATEY BONAS: No, I certainly don't, and especially when they start bullying New Zealand into buying frigates that we don't want, for an enemy we don't have.

PRU GOWARD: How did we bully them?

KATEY BONAS: Well, I've got very good evidence that there was a lot of intense pressure from people within your government for us to buy these frigates, with the threat of no exercises, no training and even no defence relationship, and we feel that that is bullying. We also feel that we didn't have an independent input into what our base-line characteristics should be for these ships. And I think it's been pushed by things like Beazley's fear that New Zealand might drift out of its community of friends and move into neutrality or going on its own and designing its own armed forces for its own needs.

PRU GOWARD: Well, Ms Bonas who was it who specifically bullied New Zealand politicians along the lines you've just described?

KATEY BONAS: I'd rather not say at this point, but certainly we've had rumblings, very clearly, that it has come from very high up.

PRU GOWARD: So, we're not talking about defence officials; we're talking about politicians?

KATEY BONAS: I would say so, yes.

PRU GOWARD: And did the New Zealand Government take kindly to that, or do you feel that they were actually a bit intimidated by the bullying?

KATEY BONAS: I do feel they've been intimidated, and certainly the Labour Party has not taken kindly to that, or the New Zealand public. I mean, this decision went against 76 per cent of our population's wishes; it went against the Labour Party, the churches - the mass of our population did not want these ships and they did not feel that they were suited to our needs.

PRU GOWARD: When you say you feel that your pollies were intimidated, without names and pack drill, what evidence do you have for that? What did they say?

KATEY BONAS: I'd rather not repeat it at this point, but I've definitely heard from fairly high up.

PRU GOWARD: They're all a bit scared that if they don't go along with it, we won't `exercise with you'?.

KATEY BONAS: Yes, more than not exercise; I'd say no training and probably a threat that this is the end of our relationship.

PRU GOWARD: But so what in a sense, if most of the New Zealand population don't agree with it anyway?

KATEY BONAS: They would agree with a relationship but it has to be a relationship which is built on mutual respect and an honest admission of our differences, because we do have differences with Australia's foreign policy. For starters, Australia does not accept or adopt our nuclear free policy. We were told that we had to buy these ships as an example of our litmus - it was a litmus test of our relationship with Australia, but we don't feel that Australia has a same sort of litmus test with New Zealand by adopting our nuclear free policy. We have completely different perceptions of who our enemies are. Australia also ...

PRU GOWARD: Who do you think your enemies are?

KATEY BONAS: ... ... which we don't. They make themselves a willing nuclear target by hosting ship visits, and having bases for selling uranium, and the Liberal Party is even talking about overturning the South Pacific nuclear free zone. Now, these are all quite different things from where we're heading.

PRU GOWARD: Yes. Now, who does New Zealand think its enemies are?

KATEY BONAS: I don't think we have any enemies, and threats to us are not seen in military invasion terms; they're seen in things like environmental threats, disaster relief, economic zone - you know, these are the things that we should be looking at, the disaster relief and all these other things, and at the low level military insurgency is a very, very low threat, and certainly that was what was put in our Defence White Paper.

PRU GOWARD: Well, Katey Bonas, I take it from talking to the New Zealand Parliament this morning or members of it, that they're very embarrassed. Nobody wants to comment but yourself. Do you feel that you're only reflecting the views of the left in the Labour Party and not the views of the New Zealand Government or even its backbenchers?

KATEY BONAS: No, I think we'd have a lot of support from New Zealand backbenchers on this one, and I also know that I would be talking on behalf of a lot of people, and both the peace movement and within the Labour Party.

PRU GOWARD: Sure, but any chance of change of policy because of this?

KATEY BONAS: I would hope so. I mean, the Defence White Paper talks about the need for an independent foreign policy and many of us feel that we haven't really had an independent input into what our base-line characteristics should be for these ships and what our foreign policy should be. And we need clearer guidelines about what our nuclear free policy means, what our foreign policy is.

PRU GOWARD: Okay, thank you Katey Bonas for your time this morning.