Defence Minister Judith Collins has described the previous Labour government as somewhat anti-American, but is refusing to explain why she holds that view.
Collins made the comment while speaking to reporters about the AUKUS security arrangement between Australia, the UK and the US.
She expressed her disappointment more was not done to include New Zealand in the second pillar of the arrangement, which is focused on information sharing and defence technologies.
She signalled the coalition government’s interest in participating in the second pillar.
“I think it was a real opportunity lost by the previous government but … they’ve always had something of an anti-American stance.”
When later asked to elaborate, Collins said “well, I think most people would realise that there was quite an anti feeling”.
She said her position was based on “a lot of time in politics and listening a lot,” but refused to name a decision or policy introduced by the previous government which was anti-American.
“I’m not answering… that one. What I am saying is that their general feeling towards the United States has been somewhat negative.”
Labour leader Chris Hipkins said Collins should explain her comments.
“Our government had a very strong relationship with the American government, I don’t think there is any real evidence to back that up.”
Hipkins suggested his government could not have done much more to be involved with AUKUS.
“We made it clear right at the beginning, we’re certainly happy to talk to the AUKUS partners about what pillar two might involve … at this point they are still shaping up what pillar two actually looks like.
“We certainly left the door open to having conversations about it but at this point I don’t think the AUKUS partners necessarily have finalised what pillar two looks like yet.”
On Monday night, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters promised closer co-operation with New Zealand’s security partners, in a speech to diplomats.
New Zealand would “vigorously refresh” engagement with Australia, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as increasing focus on Asia – including India and Southeast Asia, Peters said.
“New Zealand’s approach to national security will be deliberate, focused on being positioned to act early and prevent threats and challenges, wherever possible. And focused on building resilience and readiness when prevention is not possible.”
This would include reinvigorating defence engagement with the United States and other Five Eyes partners, “as well as with other key security partners in the region and beyond”.
Peters today said his speech was not influenced by a belief the previous government was anti-American.
“It picks up on the Pacific Reset of 2018 and we’re going forward with a sense of urgency and with the knowledge of those influences and those countries around the world who can best help our economic progress.”
Source : RNZ