Historic WWI Internment Camp Matiu-Somes 1920 - DOC

The Enemy Within

Only a thin veneer of civility maintains control of society’s base instincts. In times of war, it requires little to scratch that surface and reveal the primal nature of mankind. The world seems intent on moving, once again, toward super-power conflict and this will pose complex challenges for multi-cultural nations like New Zealand.

This discussion is best placed in the context of a scenario. Andracar is a developed ‘middle’ nation with a capable defence force. It is a member of PATO, the Pacific Area Treaty Organisation modelled on similar lines to NATO. In particular, PATO has an article stating “An attack on one is an attack on all.” Some of Andracar’s near neighbours do not belong to PATO and challenge various aspects of Andracar’s land and sea borders. Minor clashes happen from time to time.

Without any warning, a fully-laden Air Andracar A380 is shot down by a surface-to-air missile in international airspace, shortly after takeoff from the capital, New Dracar, on a scheduled flight to New York. Andracar’s Intelligence Service believe it to be the work of its belligerent neighbour Buranda. Andracar declares war on Buranda and most PATO members, including New Zealand, vote to support military action. In response, several non-PATO members pledge military support for Buranda. Military operations commenced a month later and all countries supporting Andracar are being hit with random murders, bombings and arson attacks at home.

The NZ Government meets and passes, under urgency, the Enemy Alien Control Emergency Regulations 2019. These include the power to revoke naturalisation (overseen by a special Enemy Aliens Tribunal), to develop a Register of Enemy Aliens (administered by a Minister for Enemy Aliens) and to intern any considered a risk to the nation. Police are stretched to the limit with mob violence targetting the Burandan embassy as well as shops and homes of Burandans and their allies. The Government decides that it can’t let this continue and follows the lead of Australia by interning all enemy aliens.

According to official figures, well over a million people who live in NZ were born overseas. In this scenario, imagine that 15% of them are from Buranda or the five other countries supporting them militarily. How are you going to round up, process and safely contain around 200,000 men, women and children? Will you keep families together or separate men and women?

If you imagine this is fanciful, remember that this is exactly what NZ did in WWI and WWII. All the references to aliens, the regulations and so on actually took place here. Then we should also remember the camps for conscientious objectors that were set up such as in Manawatu. Were NZ to require conscription, the conscientious objector would be a feature of our political and legal landscape once more.

Developing a comprehensive national security strategy is not only about buying weapons and training service personnel. It’s about planning on the broadest possible front for the contingencies necessary to maintaining an orderly, safe society. Lest we forget.

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