Disappointing Dunne interview on cannabis

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was interviewed on The Nation about synthetic cannabis. Unfortunately there was only a quick question about natural cannabis at the end of the interview and most disappointingly nothing mentioned about medicinal use there’s been some suggestion that Dunne may be prepared to consider use of medicinal by-products.

On natural cannabis:

Given that you’ve said that the big stick and a law and order approach hasn’t worked before, what about cannabis, what about natural cannabis? Is there a move, will you move to try and do something on that, to decriminalise?

Dunn: No, no that’s a completely separate debate. We are currently reviewing our national drug policy and within that some of the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act, but ah you cannot use, and I’m not going to get involved in using the synthetic cannabis debate as a lever towards the legal, legalisation of the real product.

I don’t know if it’s significant that while he was asked about decriminalisation Dunne referred to legalisation, a different and more extreme move.

Ah that’s a completely separate issue, and we remain bound by the international drug conventions, and the current law remains in place and I’ve got no intention of changing it.

That’s a more definite statement, no intention of changing the current law.

I’m very dubious that “we remain bound by the international drug conventions”. Surely we can make our own laws on drugs like cannabis – as do other countries and a growing number of US states.

Regardless, Dunne sounds adamant he won’t change the law regarding decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis. And it’s very likely National would oppose any change as well. So things look to remain unchanged.

But what if the review of the Misuse of Drugs Act finds otherwise? Perhaps the review won’t be allowed to find otherwise, depending on how they review things and what any subsequent decisions are based on.

Things remain unclear on medicinal marijuana. There’s some reports that Dunne may be prepared to talk about the use of cannabis by-products.

Last month Dunne Speaks on Medicinal Cannabis.

Lest there be any doubt, the debate centred around some of the properties of the cannabis plant and their potential efficacy. No-one was suggesting that just smoking the cannabis leaf was some sort of medicinal panacea!

That highlights an important distinction in this debate – there are genuine situations to be considered, and there are those who just want to smoke cannabis whenever they choose to. That latter group is not our concern.

However, the argument for medicinal cannabis is by no means a simple one. The evidence –worldwide – is not as clear as it could be, nor is there any sense of commonality when it comes to the issues of dosage, methods of administration, product standards and so on.

In New Zealand’s case, estimates of the numbers of patients likely to benefit from medicinal cannabis are very low, which is why pharmaceutical companies have no interest in trialling products here. At the same time, for some reason, doctors are loathe to use the existing legal provisions to recommend patients to be prescribed medicinal cannabis products like Sativex.

I recently asked the Ministry of Health to review the issues relating to medicinal cannabis. The evidence provided was, as I said in Vienna, quite underwhelming. So I took the opportunity there to discuss with both the United States Federal Director of Drug Policy and Australia’s Assistant Health Minister work being done in both countries in the area of clinical trials. In both cases, the response was similar: it is simply too early to draw definitive conclusions.

When it comes to approving new medicines, New Zealand has always adopted a rigorous, clinical trials, evidence based approach, and it will be no different with the medicinal cannabis issue. We will gather the reputable evidence, consult widely with other countries, and then take a decision based on the highest professional and clinical standards. That is exactly the way we would deal with any other new medicine becoming available, and there is no credible reason or justification for treating medicinal cannabis products in any way differently. Indeed, we would be failing the public if we did otherwise, and exposed people to unnecessary or even unknown risks as a consequence.

This is not to suggest in any way a change in New Zealand’s current stance on leaf cannabis and its possession. But the issue of medicinal cannabis is a highly specific and particular one we need to address in the light of new and emerging evidence, as we receive it. We will do so against the three pillars of compassion, proportion and innovation I outlined in Vienna, pillars which I hope will more broadly inform debate about the future direction of drug policy.

Of course, that will not satisfy those whose sole interest, dressed up in the false guise of concern for those who might benefit from medicinal cannabis, is using cannabis recreationally. But it will ensure over time that, consistent with the principles of our national medicines strategy I introduced in 2007, New Zealanders get access to new medicines that are safe, affordable and effective.

That reinforces Dunne’s apparently strong position against allowing recreational use.

While giving some hope that medicinal marijuana products may be possible he suggests it’s unlikely to happen soon because “estimates of the numbers of patients likely to benefit from medicinal cannabis are very low, which is why pharmaceutical companies have no interest in trialling products here”.

That’s an interesting statement, suggesting that the problem is simply a commercial reality.

But why is it thought that estimates of the number likely to benefit are ‘very low’?

With no change to the law on recreational and self-medication use there will be too much competition from reasonably easily obtained illegal products?

And there’s no mention of another factor – drug companies may have difficulty in getting patents on cannabis, so the market would be open and competitive, therefore not profitable enough.

So while there’s some hope medicinal products could be allowed the chances of that happening look slim.

And the chances of any relaxation of law on recreational use look to be zero under the current Government.

It’s a shame The Nation didn’t explore this more.

With the right approasch sensible RMA reform should be easy

One of National’s few election pledges last year was to reform the Resource Management Act to reduce roadblocks to development. This was a major issue in the this month’s by-election with National claiming a less restrictive RMA was essential to promote development in Northland.

A number of parties recognise the problems that have evolved with ridiculous application of the RMA by some councils but wish to retain the fundamental environmental protections that the Act is based on.

Labour ‘happy to look at’ sensible RMA changes:

Labour is offering to look at “sensible changes” to the Resource Management Act as the Government takes its proposed amendments back to the drawing board.

Labour’s environment spokeswoman, Megan Woods, says the Government never had broad political support for its proposed changes.

“Labour is happy to look at any sensible changes that do not water down our environmental protections,” she said.

And three parties outlined their positions to Radio NZ in Govt to ‘rip up’ RMA plans.

Labour’s environment spokesperson Megan Woods:

“We’ve said all along that we’ll look at sensible changes to the RMA.”

She said cornerstone legislation such as the RMA should never be changed without genuine consultation with all political parties in Parliament.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox:

“We don’t want to hold up economic progress in this country. We don’t want to be seen as the ones who are stopping that from happening but, in the same breath, we will not put our environment at risk for our future generations in doing so,” she said.

“So, yes, we need economic benefit for the country and the development of some of these things but not at all costs.”

United Future leader Peter Dunne:

“I’ve always said that, while I am not in the favour of any changes to the principles of the RMA, that I think there are process changes that can be made and we should be talking about them but, to date, those talks haven’t been held.”

There’s a common theme – retain the bedrock environmental protection but sort out the processes.

As is typical Winston Peters is all over the place on the RMA and can’t be relied on:

Mr Peters said New Zealand First was seeking to work with the Government on legislation that would change the lives of those in the regions – and he said that was not the RMA.

Mr Key said…

…it was still possible some process changes could be made to the act with the support of Mr Dunne or the Maori Party or both.

The Green Party is more hardcore environment over development for example: Failings in the Resource Management Act need to be addressed:

“The RMA is supposed to balance the short term needs of landholders with long term care of our environment. Clearly, the balance has tipped in favour of landholders.

“While the public have been able to protest this particular case and have been able to halt the felling of this tree, the RMA still favours developer profits over our environment, and this battle will have to be fought again and again to safeguard what we hold most precious.

“That the legislation failed to protect this kauri is astonishing. Minister for the Environment Nick Smith is planning a further brutal attack on the RMA this year, to tip the balance further in favour of his developer mates.

Despite this National should give all parties the opportunity to have input into possible changes – especially Labour, but also the Greens.

The Resource Management Act should be given every chance of wide cross-party consensus on reform.

Northland winners – Peters, Dunne, Maori Party

Winston Peters is obviously a big winner in the Northland by-election. He is a long time very savvy political opportunist and this election couldn’t have been designed better for him.

His informants and instincts were spot on, and he hammered National, something he has been trying to do since he got back into Parliament in 2011.

And this hammering was done democratically, albeit with a lot of media assistance.

Whether Peters hold Northland in 2017 doesn’t matter. If he didn’t stand again he would go out on a high. If he stands and loses in 2017 then he loses little – he may or may not stay in Parliament via NZ First’s party vote but it’s getting time he thought about retirement anyway.

So this is win win win for Winston.

Ironically one of the biggest beneficiaries of this Winston win is Peter Dunne, someone Peters tried to destroy last term.

Dunne now holds a critical vote for National and can be far more influential for the rest of this term – more influential than he has up until now and arguably more influential than Peters in Parliament.

The Maori Party also now hold a balance of power vote so their importance increases for the National led Government.

It could also be a win now and a potential future bigger win for Shane Jones, who may take over from Peters in Northland. That would make it hard for National to win the previously safe electorate back for some time.

The mood was jubilant at the NZ First campaign night headquarters, the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell. Among those celebrating were former Labour MPs Dover Samuels and Shane Jones.

– Northern Advocate: Winston’s ‘Force for the North’ steamrolls National

Dunne’s history on RMA reform

Peter Dunne’s current position on National’s intended Resource Management Act reforms was discussed yesterday with pdm saying “This opportunistic change of position by Dunne on very necessary RMA reforms epitomises all that is wrong with MMP”.

That seems to be a common view but it’s not supported by facts. In January:

In a speech in Nelson, Environment Minister Nick Smith called for a substantial overhaul of the Act, attacking it as outdated, cumbersome and slow.

United Future’s leader Peter Dunne said he was therefore very surprised by the tone of Dr Smith’s speech.

“I thought the tone would’ve been more moderate. The language is incredibly strident. It looks as if it could have come out of the Act Party’s press office in terms of wholesale attack on the RMA.”

He said he had thought the Government was moving down a more pragmatic path, but he was not so sure.

“I just don’t quite know what the intended strategy is here. This speech just leaves you wondering frankly.”

Mr Dunne said the speech was short on detail, so he was still no closer to knowing whether he could support any changes.

United Future and the Maori Party stymied the Government’s efforts to make changes to the RMA last term, by refusing to give their support.


That was before the Northland by-election was announced (and before Mike Sabin resigned):

And in September 2013 “We will vote against RMA changes,” say Peter Dunne and Tariana Turia

The National-led government has lost its parliamentary majority to pass reforms to the Resource Management Act, with the United Future and Maori parties announcing in Wellington this morning that they will not vote for changes that undermine environmental protections.

While both parties support reforms to speed up the resource consenting processes, both believe that proposals to rewrite two fundamental sections dealing with environmental benchmark considerations go too far.

“The changes do far more than rebalance the Act to make consenting procedures more efficient,” said United Future’s sole MP and leader, Peter Dunne, and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia in a statement.

“We say the changes to remove emphasis on the ‘maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment’ fundamentally rewrite the Act and put a spanner in the works of the legal system, which will take years of litigation to fix up,” they said.

That’s entirely consistent with Dunne’s current position as posted yesterday – Dunne’s position on RMA reform.

Dunne’s position on RMA reform

If National lose the Northland by-election then Peter Dunne’s vote becomes more important for National to advance non-confidence and supply legislation. The proposed Resource Management Act reforms are often mentioned in this respect, and it’s often claimed that Dunne opposes RMA reform – but that is only partially correct.

In Losing Northland won’t end National’s RMA plans Hamish Rutherford covered the situation to date:

National will push ahead with its attempts to reform the Resource Management Act even if the party is defeated in the Northland by-election.

However the minister sponsoring the changes concedes a loss on Saturday will complicate matters and force further negotiations with the party’s support partners.

Environment Minister Nick Smith…said that he hoped to build support for changes beyond a bare majority in Parliament, back then National needed only the single vote from ACT leader David Seymour to ensure the legislation could pass.

However, if Winston Peters wins the Northland by-election in Saturday, Smith would be forced to convince another MP, most likely from United Future or the Maori Party, to back changes.

“There is no doubt that if National is not successful in the Northland by-election that the job of resource management reform is going to be more difficult,” Smith said.

“Regardless of the result, Resource Management Act reform will still remain an important priority for the Government.”

Smith said that while he was not clear what concessions a loss on Saturday could make, saying that level of discussion had not taken place he indicated that the process to build support was ongoing.

“Discussion with our support parties are underway,” he said.

But some support parties at least don’t seem to be involved yet.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he has had no talks with Smith or the government for two months.

“I’ve had no discussion with anyone from the Government about where they want to go or what they want to do since a telephone call with Nick Smith shortly before he gave his speech in Nelson in January,” Dunne said.

Dunne’s position on RMA reform was clarified as much as the lack of information could allow.

Dunne said he was “relaxed” about process changes to the Rama but he remained opposed to changes of section six and seven of the legislation, which set out the principles of the legislation.

This is similar to what Dunne has previously intimated – he is opposed to changing the fundamental principles of the RMA legislation but depending on what National end up proposing he could support process changes.

Perhaps Smith and National are waiting to see how strong (or weakened) their negotiating hand will be after this weekend’s by-election result is known before they actually discuss anything with their support parties.


“As I said at the start of the year we would like to get United Future, we’d like to have the Maori Party’s support. Frankly, if Labour is serious about addressing some of the housing affordability issues they too should be supporting changes to the Resource Management Act,” Smith said.

“Even Winston Peters is vaguely supportive of changes to the Resource Management Act. My experience in working with Winston previously is it’s pretty Machiavellian, it’s pretty difficult to work out where he is.”

NZ First is likely to be one of the last cabs off the rank in reform discussions.

If Dunne can negotiate a reasonable balance of removing the obstructionist aspects of the current legislation but retaining fundamental environmental protections then Labour could (and probably should) also support reforms. Then Peters and NZ First will be irrelevant.

And MMP will have worked well.

Drug Foundation responds to MOH “underwhelming” evidence on medical cannabis

Ross Bell from the Drug Foundation has queried Ministry of Health advice to Peter Dunne that evidence supporting the effectiveness of medical marijuana is “underwhelming”.

Bell says he fears the information is outdated and says comprehensive research has been done evidence available and “the drug foundation has concluded that cannabis has therapeutic benefits”.

This is inresponse to a speech Dunne has given to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna – see On Peter Dunne’s speech to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

NZ Herald reports in Ministry of Health investigates medicinal cannabis use.

An investigation into the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been carried out by the Ministry of Health.

Growing numbers of jurisdictions allow cannabis for medical use and the Government has come under pressure to re-examine its use here.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who oversaw New Zealand’s innovative regulations on so-called legal highs, asked officials to look into the issue.

“My office receives regular correspondence seeking legislative change … cannabis, I am told, is apparently the panacea for a plethora of ailments, some of which, sadly, are painfully debilitating,” Mr Dunne said.

“For those suffering from such ailments I have enormous sympathy … the evidence [supplied by officials], however, has been underwhelming.”

Bell’s response:

However, NZ Drug Foundation director Ross Bell, who attended the meeting, said he feared advice provided to Mr Dunne was outdated.

“There are lots of countries that have quite well-established medical cannabis regimes, they have experience with this and they have seen some benefit.”

Mr Bell said comprehensive research had been done on the issue.

However, the drug foundation has concluded that cannabis has therapeutic benefits for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.

“We should be looking at delivering that benefit through proper medical products … it’s not smokable cannabis.”

Mr Dunne also spoke about how “compassion, innovation and proportion” should be front of mind in the development of drug policy.

“We, as a global community, must continue to move away from rigid law and order responses, and apply a health lens when dealing with those adversely affected by drug use,” Mr Dunne told the gathering.

That message was bold, Mr Bell said, and clearly aligned New Zealand with countries moving beyond a “war on drugs” punitive approach.

However, he was concerned at the dismissal of cannabis for medical use. Mr Bell was told of the ministry’s investigation in a meeting with Mr Dunne in late January.

Sativex mouth spray is the only form of medicinal cannabis currently available, but is not funded by Pharmac and costs about $1300 a month.

Dunne is still in Vienna and unavailable for comment, but his comments have initiated comment an issue of growing importance to many people.

In particular it’s important to find out why the Ministry of Health is so luke-warm on the use of medical cannabis.

Dunne clarifies post-Northland “re-think”

A week ago I posted Threat of Dunne ‘rethink’ if Peters wins should help National where it appeared that NZ Herald’s headline was misleading.

The article (especially the headline) made it appear that Dunne had threatened to renegotiate his coalition deal with National if Winston Peters won the Northland by-election and reduced National’s majority.

Peter Dunne wants rethink if Winston Peters wins Northland

United Future leader Peter Dunne says he would look at revisiting his post-election concessions from the National Party if New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wins the Northland byelection.

Mr Dunne noted that his party signed a confidence and supply agreement when National had an outright majority. National has since lost a seat in the final election count and could lose another in Northland.

Asked whether he would seek greater concessions from National if it lost another seat, he said: “That’s something I’d want to consider. I don’t have an immediate answer at this point.”

It had looked to me like it was mostly a made up angle by the Herald, with Dunne just responding fairly vaguely,

And today it’s been shown that at least one other journalist took it as a serious threat of re-negotiation, but Dunne has clarified in response.

Brent Edwards @rnzgallerybrent

Let’s be clear. Despite the hysteria Northland by-election will make no difference to Govt.

Toby Manhire @toby_etc

@rnzgallerybrent hardly an upheaval, but no difference? That @PeterDunneMP has said he’ll seek to renegotiate suggests at least some

Peter Dunne @PeterDunneMP

@toby_etc @rnzgallerybrent I never actually said that – I told the Herald I might think about that if it happened – but was not doing so yet.

So Dunne responded vaguely when prompted and a more aggressive slant had been portrayed. He didn’t say he wanted a rethink, he said he would think about it if Peters won.

Threat of Dunne ‘rethink’ if Peters wins should help National

NZ Herald seems to be trying to make up news but highligthing something they seem to have posited to Peter Dunne may end up helping National in the Northland by-election.

Isaac Davidson has an article with a misleading headline – Peter Dunne wants rethink if Winston Peters wins Northland – and a misleading opening paragraph.

United Future leader Peter Dunne says he would look at revisiting his post-election concessions from the National Party if New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wins the Northland byelection.

That sounds like Dunne has come forward with the idea of a rethink. And:

Mr Dunne pointed to Resource Management reforms as one area which he could have greater influence over if National lost a seat. He said the reforms, which he has expressed concerns about, would “take on quite a different hue” if National relied on his vote to pass.

Mr Dunne noted that his party signed a confidence and supply agreement when National had an outright majority. National has since lost a seat in the final election count and could lose another in Northland.

But then:

Asked whether he would seek greater concessions from National if it lost another seat, he said: “That’s something I’d want to consider. I don’t have an immediate answer at this point.”

So he was asked a question about it, said he would consider it but doesn’t have any answer ‘at this point’.

But by raising the risk to National of a Peters win in Northland should help National.

It makes the by-election a high stakes contest. Most by-elections change little apart from one MP. But Northland could significantly change the balance of power in Government.

This will ensure National is determined to do well. And it should help encourage more National voters to vote (by-elections typically have low turnouts).

And Peters’ decision to stand makes for an interesting twist.

If Peters were to win Northland it would hand potentially much more power to arch-rival Dunne.

It’s possible a Peters win would see National turn to NZ First for support, but that seems very unlikely. It would seem far easier to renegotiate a few policy positions with Dunne than get strung along by Peters in lengthy negotiations and then through the next two and a half years.

And it looks far simpler to motivate National voters to hold onto Northland.

Peter Dunne’s response to the Ministerial Statement on Iraq

Ministerial Statements

Iraq— Deployment of Troops

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future):

The activities of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) over the last year have brought a new meaning to that longstanding phrase “man’s inhumanity to man”, because we have seen new levels of barbarism, new levels of violence, and a pervasive stretch of campaign unlike any we have seen in the past.

The issue is not whether as humanitarians we should do anything; the issue is what we can do constructively to both assist those who are struggling against that yoke of oppression but also to change the circumstances that gave rise to it in the first place.

So this is not a debate about whether to Iraq or not Iraq; it is about what we can do that will be effective. And when one looks at the history of engagement in the Middle East, over a long period of time—far longer than the 50-odd years referred to earlier—the one constant has been that external intervention has invariably produced failure.

Whether it be from the splitting up of the boundaries under the so-called Balfour Declaration earlier in the 20th century or whether it be the overthrow of the Mosaddeq regime in the 1950s or the attempts by the West after the various Middle East wars to try and reimpose a sense of order, the constant has been failure, and the consequence has been an engrained and increasing sense of disillusionment and bitterness that gives rise to the next form of expression we might regard as extremist and unacceptable, and which we recognise today as ISIL.

We can go on doing what we have done. We can go on repeating the mistakes of the past. We might feel good that we are making a contribution, but we will not be fundamentally changing anything.

The issue the House should be debating is what the most effective form of response is.

We are an isolated democratic country. We in this country believe in the institutions of our State, our courts, our independent legislatures, and our judiciary to deliver certain rights and freedoms to New Zealanders.

Although the form will differ from country to country, those basic tenets remain in all countries, so to deliver basic freedoms and rights and opportunities to the people of Iraq and beyond comes through ensuring that the institutions of their State are capable of living up to the expectations that their public have of them to be able to provide quality health and education services and to be able to provide law and order and good civilisation.

And how can we contribute to that? The historical record makes clear that external intervention over a long period of time has not made a positive contribution in that respect.

When this House debated the intrusion into Kuwait in 1990-91—and I recall the House being recalled early in 1991 for a special debate on that matter—the same points were made. Was New Zealand’s limited military involvement going to make any great difference without any efforts to satisfy some of the more fundamental problems of the region? The answer then was no.

When we debated the intrusion into Iraq that led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the same questions were raised. They were raised in a peripheral way about Afghanistan, and they are being raised again today.

New Zealand has a proud reputation, earned over many years, and for many reasons the point we were elected to the UN Security Council was for being a beacon of humanitarianism and common sense in the international arena.

People remember the role we played in the Rwandan crisis, for instance, where a similar regime of horrific slaughter was in place, where the world felt powerless to cope with the forces that were at play in Rwanda, but where New Zealand was at the forefront of a sensible outcome for which we are still lauded today.

We should be using our role on the Security Council to, first of all, insist that any action that takes place against ISIL is UN mandated—and this is not—and, second, focus on the areas where the most positive construction can be made: humanitarian aid ensuring that the children who are being maimed, slaughtered, and violated routinely are protected; aid that ensures that the various States of the region, Iraq in particular, have the opportunity and the chance to rebuild their institutions of State to deliver fair and democratic outcomes for the people they serve; and aid that ensures that the experience that countries like us that have a longstanding parliamentary democracy have in issues of good and fair governance is able to be brought to bear to assist the people of that region.

The concern that I have about the deployment of now nearly 150 New Zealand personnel into the area is the escalation effect. They are going as trainers and advisers.

President Kennedy sent a few trainers and advisers into Viet Nam in 1961. That culminated in the deaths and injury of up to 220,000 American troops over the next 15 years and 220-odd New Zealanders similarly suffered in that conflict.

The point is that it is very difficult to control these sorts of incursions to protect just the goal that we had to start with. Inevitably, people in military uniforms will draw attention—terrorists do not distinguish between whether they are advisers or other personnel, and conflicts occur.

We would expect in those situations for people to defend themselves, and suddenly the situation has escalated far beyond what we originally intended. The tragedy then becomes the loss of innocent blood, of young New Zealanders in that situation. It is very easy for these things to move very quickly.

A limited engagement in Afghanistan that this House agreed to many years ago saw us ending up spending more time in that country than our combined input into World Wars I and II. There is no reason to think that the challenges that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses will be dealt with quickly, expediently, and that it will be all over in a couple of years.

We are committing New Zealand personnel for what will be a long-term engagement. We have to be prepared to face the consequences of that and the risks to those soldiers. We need to equip them well—and we have had issues in the past about how well equipped our forces have been in such situations—and we need to be prepared for the long haul.

The question I think many New Zealanders are asking is whether we actually know what the game plan is and how the exit strategy is to be developed. We do not want to see what, in effect, becomes an open-ended commitment made. There are, as I have said, many other avenues that we can be pursuing.

I believe that as a country that espouses the democratic tradition the forefront of what we do ought to be about encouraging other countries in a similar way and ensuring that they can benefit from the institutions of democracy and deliver safe and fair environments to the people that they serve.

I recall a representative of the African National Congress telling a meeting at this Parliament shortly after President Mandela came to power in 1994 that when people accused Mandela of being a terrorist they had it wrong because what Mandela and the African National Congress were about was respect for the institutions of the South African State, but they wanted to control them. They wanted to control the Parliament, they wanted to control the courts; they did not want the white minority to continue in the apartheid regime.

It is the same principle here.

Most people value democratic institutions. Most people value representative government and the opportunity to participate. They do not like having things imposed upon them. What our challenge is in this instance is to ensure that the people of Iraq can take control of their own destiny; the people of Iraq have the confidence in the authorities to deal with these violent, despicable people in ISIL; and the people of Iraq know that that is wrong, unacceptable, and unbelievably bad behaviour, and they take charge of responding to it.

They do not react well to the people of the rest of the world telling them what they have to do. I think New Zealand is making a sad mistake. But I just want to say one other very quick thing: those troops who go do go with this Parliament’s blessing for their safety and for the challenges that they face. I hope that they come back safely in due course.

Dunne on the futility of military action against ISIL

Peter Dunne has blogged on his views on the futility of getting involved militarily against ISIL in the Middle East. His main objection is that Western history in the Middle Easy has been notable for it’s failures and not it’s successes.

Dunne’s experienced views on this are an important additiion to discussion we should be having on getting more involved in a part of the world that is extremely difficult to deal with from the outside, and extremely complicated and difficult to deal with on the inside.

I have one major reservation due to the apparent aim of ISIL to take their fight to ther world, so whether we like it or not what they manage to do is likely to impact on us in some way.

So why will it be any different this time? The Middle East’s a bloody mess that has generally only been made messier by Western meddling.

Not preventing the spread and growth in power of ISIL may have serious repercussions, but so might getting into the middle east of a shit fight.

Dunne Speaks

19 February 2015

Most New Zealanders will have never heard of the Nairn brothers. But from 1923 until the late 1950s, these two New Zealanders operated the famous Nairn Bus to Baghdad. At the time, it was “the” way to make the 1,040 kilometres journey over often dusty desert roads from Beirut to Baghdad. While the Nairns have long since passed on, it still seems to be a case of all roads lead to Baghdad, as far is New Zealand is concerned.

Within the week, New Zealand will decide on a military deployment to Iraq to combat the rise of ISIL. Of course, no formal decision has been made as yet, but all the signs are pretty obvious, and when I overhear young soldiers at Auckland Airport talking about how exciting their role in Iraq will be, I know our forces are as good as on their way. And forget the niceties – regardless of whether they are just training advisers, or whether they are under the protection of the Iraqi armed forces, they are in fact military personnel and will thus be subject to all the perils that implies. And remember too, that the innocuous term “trainer/adviser” seldom stops there. Kennedy sent a few hundred advisers to help South Vietnam in the early 1960s – by the time the Vietnam War ended in (in American  defeat) in 1975, over 210,000 young Americans and more than 220 young New Zealanders had been killed or wounded.

I have been a keen student of Middle Eastern politics since the early 1970s. The intervening years have seen massive upheaval and changes in the region, the fall of old regimes and dynasties and the rise of new ones. But no matter how the lines on maps have been drawn, or which governments have been backed by the West, and which have not, the one constant has been the failure of Western policy. Mainly, this has been the fault of the United States, although the British and the French must also take their share of culpability.

In their heyday, the Nairns had to battle all manner of political and other obstacles, from the inhospitably hot weather to the marauding intentions of hostile Bedouin tribesmen (who were even then subject to RAF bombing and strafing in Iraq). Nearly 90 years later, not a lot has changed, except that the brutality and precision intensity of weaponry has increased dramatically. ISIL and its ambition to establish a new Caliphate is hardly new either. The Rashidun Caliphate was established almost 1,400 years ago. The Ottoman Caliphate lasted from the sacking of Constantinople in 1453 until 1924. The Crusades of the 11thand 12th centuries were Christian Europe’s first ultimately unsuccessful response to the rise of Islam. ISIL, whatever one thinks of its depraved brutality, is the modern expression of those traditions. History suggests it is not going to be bombed or blasted away.

I oppose New Zealand becoming militarily involved in the ISIL campaign for one simple reason – it will not work. In doing so, I am not condoning ISIL’s atrocities or barbarism in any way. But external intervention as now proposed will be ultimately unsuccessful and much innocent blood on all sides will be spilled in the process. Whether or not ISIL’s desire to establish the new Caliphate succeeds depends far less on the exercise of external military might than it does on the support of the people in the region to let it happen.

So any intervention we feel obliged to make should be at the diplomatic and humanitarian aid ends of the spectrum, working with and alongside local people to strengthen civil society. And if the international system is to count for anything (and given our role on the UN Security Council should we not be doing our best to ensure it does?) any such action should be under a UN Mandate.

We can hardly expect others to play by the international rules, if we are not prepared to do so ourselves.


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