Andrew Little: Is being part of the club worth sending our soldiers to war without the authorisation of Parliament, without a plan, without legal authority, and without any guarantee of their safety?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are 62 members who have decided that they, in some part, will play a role in standing up to evil, in standing up to people who threaten New Zealanders and our values (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) and principles. I suspect, actually, it was a very similar number when Helen Clark decided to send the engineers to Iraq. I suspect it is the same situation as when Helen Clark decided to send the SAS in a combat role. As is so often the case, what we see from Labour is that it does one thing in Government and says another thing in Opposition.
Andrew Little: Why does he not support Labour’s position to actually give the Iraqi Government the help that it has asked for—humanitarian support and reconstruction expertise?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A number of things—firstly, we are already giving humanitarian support, $14.5 million. Secondly, I would make the point that in our meeting with the Iraqi Foreign Minister the No. 1 thing that he asked for was security training—so the training of Iraqi security forces. I will make this one final point. It is a slightly warped sense of risk when the Leader of the Opposition thinks that the role New Zealand should play should be conducting air strikes when we do not have that capability, as he has publicly said, and, secondly, the reconstruction of roads, schools, and hospitals outside the wire, in an environment where they would be subject to improvised explosive device attacks, attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—
Hon Member: You’re making it up again.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, you cannot do them behind the wire, sunshine.
During the debate on the issue, the PM summed up:
. . .On Monday the Government made a decision to send New Zealand forces to train Iraqi forces. It made the decision to send 106 people to Taji for up to 2 years.
We made the decision to stand up to the evil and barbaric behaviour we have seen from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant .
I want to focus not on political parties that have either well-established positions or fundamentally not much to add to the debate, but I want to focus on Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition .
The interesting thing is this. Labour in New Zealand, when it comes to sending New Zealand forces for training says no—it says no.
But the interesting thing is that the Labour Opposition in the UK says yes. The Labor Opposition in Australia says yes, and the equivalent of the Labour Opposition in Canada says yes. So every Labour Opposition in like-minded countries says yes, but, apparently, the Labour Opposition in New Zealand says no.
But hold on a minute, the Labour Opposition, when it was the Government, said yes to sending 60-odd engineers to Iraq. No debate, no vote—“You’re going, boys.”
And the Labour Opposition, when it was in Government, said yes to the combat forces of the SAS , and it did not tell the country; it just said yes.
I listened to Andrew Little’s speech, and here is the bottom line: he did not believe it, and I do not believe him because he knows that these people are barbaric and evil.
He knows that there are 35 to 40 New Zealanders at risk of a domestic threat. He knows, like I know, that the number of people on the list is growing to 60 or 70.
He knows, like I know, that New Zealanders are in the region. He knows, like I know, that New Zealanders travel prolifically, and he says that he cares about New Zealanders and he says that he wants to stand up for them.
Well, in Government he would be making this decision. You see, the reason he is not is this. It is not that it is not the right thing, because Phil Goff, when he was the Minister of Defence, used to do all this stuff with bells on.
The reason he is doing it is that he wants politics to win over what is right for the people. I will not—will not—stand by while Jordanian pilots are burnt to death, when kids execute soldiers, and when people are out there being beheaded. I am sorry, but this is the time to stand up and be counted. Get some guts and join the right side.
New Zealand is already giving aid but while the humanitarian support and reconstruction assistance Little suggested sounds better than sending troops to train the locals, it would be more dangerous.
A party that looks like a government in waiting has to be very careful to act like one in opposition.
The next Labour government won’t do everything the way the last one did.
But if it was asked to send troops as the last one was, is it would be likely to.
The wee parties can get away with
Instead of looking like he was ready for government, Little’s speech and stance has left him looking like the leader of just another opposition party who is unprepared for the hard decisions the executive has to take.
Hat tip for transcript: Your NZ