Submission by Dr Simon Ewing-Jarvie on 17 Nov 2021 to NZ’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Public Consultation for the Development of the NATIONAL SECURITY LONG-TERM INSIGHTS BRIEFING 2022.
The call for public submissions related to “Engaging an increasingly diverse Aotearoa New Zealand on national security risks, challenges and opportunities.”
The introduction of long-term insights briefings is commended. However, like any policy or briefing document, political implementation of important findings will be the true measure of whether this initiative produces meaningful change. Consequently, I approach this exercise with cautious optimism mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The elements of New Zealand’s threatscape have been well traversed by me and many others both domestically and internationally. I do not intend to replicate those points but list, at the end of this submission, several links to earlier or ongoing publications of mine that address various problems and solutions. I would note that several recent events (terror acts, Covid-19, natural disasters) have highlighted that the Government’s ‘all hazards – all risks’ mantra is woefully insufficient for the environment New Zealand faces now and in the future.
At the heart of New Zealand’s wicked national security problem is the New Zealand public is naïve and complacent about threats to this country. Not everyone loves Kiwis. We represent many things that significant other groups resent. The Christchurch Mosque shootings were a reminder of that.
The main reason why successive New Zealand governments get away with a sub-optimal (in capability not in terms of the people) approach to national security is that society allows it to happen. That’s because most Kiwis conflate being on the winning side of two world wars with a belief that there won’t be another or, if there is, we’ll have plenty of time to get ready. Politicians know elections aren’t won or lost on national security policies. They might, however, if voters were more engaged on the matter.
There are four areas where public engagement can be improved. These are:
- Remembrance – Ka mua, ka muri
- Channels – Te whare tapere
- Strategy – Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi
- Legislative Process – Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi
Remembrance – Ka mua, ka muri
Walking forward with one eye on the past is key to engaging the community. Every ANZAC Day, increasing numbers (pre-terror attacks and COVID) attend commemorations. They wear their grandfather’s medals with pride. They solemnly say ‘lest we forget.’ And then for most, they do forget for the next 364 days.
Little is taught in schools about how long it took this country to gear up for two world wars and how many lives were lost because of poor equipment and training. Engagement must include teaching of relevant history. Kei wareware tatou – Lest we forget.
The unity and sustenance of our veteran community is a key link in community awareness of national threats. It is poorly done at present which is evident in the proliferation of private trusts and support groups for veterans and remembrance. As an example, the NZ Remembrance Army finds, cleans, restores and records service graves. Why? Because the government has no idea where our former service people are buried unless they happen to be the few who are in a commonwealth war grave. A NZ War Graves Commission would solve this.
Any future war will generate thousands more veterans and the support mechanisms should be put in place now, not after the event.
Channels – Te whare tapere
Academic papers, reports and documentaries are all well and good but do not reach 99+% of the public and consequently have little effect on societal engagement with national security. It takes only a momentary glance at mainstream media to see that the battle between information and entertainment has ended – information was the loser.
Rather than see this as something to be railed against, it needs to be embraced. Take the people frequently to the house of games. Use the brilliance of NZ film makers to create works which highlight and explain complex national security issues. The Australian film industry does this very well but the last significant work of this nature in NZ was ‘Sleeping Dogs’ in 1977.
Encourage fictional works and harness the equally talented gaming sector to gamify the problems we need the public to engage with. Imagine the power of a computer game that simulated the national electricity grid, our shipping routes, ports and rail, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, food production and storage. The equivalent of ‘SimCity NZ’ could be a powerful tool for future engagement.
Strategy – Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi
Engage everyone’s basket of knowledge and create a coherent national security strategy. I realise that this submission is to the very organisation I believe should relinquish the task of advising on national security – the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. But rather than become defensive, I encourage you to look past the status quo. There are many good people in the system but a department that can be influenced directly by party political appointees such as party Chief’s of Staff and Ministerial Advisors is not the place to run national security from.
Create a standalone National Security and Intelligence Agency (an independent crown entity) that would have legislative responsibility for developing and testing an overarching national security strategy. The head of this agency, the National Security Advisor, should be an Officer of Parliament, like the Auditor-General and Ombudsman and be appointed by and responsible to the Parliament, not the government.
Then create a ‘red team.’ Outsiders who are contracted to apply alternative thinking, futures and analysis in order to test and probe plans. I know the departments run these teams in short simulations but a red team drawn from within is ‘captured’ by its own thinking and cultures. It never gets the chance to fully detach from the status quo and is therefore of limited use.
Legislative Process – Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro te iwi
A simple change to the law-making process which would have a significant effect on national security engagement is to introduce the requirement for National Security Impact Statements for all new Bills. The National Security and Intelligence Agency would have responsibility for raising these in the same way Treasury does for fiscal impact.
They would have two major impacts. First, any unintended consequences for national security should be identified and remedies proposed. All MPs would be made aware of these through the Bill’s initial documentation. Second, it would provide further opportunity for citizens to engage in the process, particularly at Select Committee, to make submissions relating to national security.
The hardest thing about instilling a new belief system in people is getting the old one out. You can’t ‘creep’ an idea into people’s consciousness – you have to blast the old idea out. That’s as true of national security as it is in terms of any consumer item you can think of. It needs to start at the top. Demonstrate that you’re serious about everyone playing their part and the people might, just might, start paying attention.
A Selection of Relevant Publications
NEW ZEALAND’S STRUGGLE FOR STRATEGIC IDENTITY 3 November 2021: https://wavellroom.com/2021/11/03/new-zealand-struggle-for-strategic-identity/
PODCAST SERIES: Indefensible New Zealand: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1792541
THE LONG HANDSHAKE – Additional Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Defence 10 November 2020: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2020/11/11/the-long-handshake/
ANOTHER GREAT BUT BROKEN PROMISE – Additional Briefing to the Incoming Minister for Veterans 1 December 2020: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2020/12/01/another-great-but-broken-promise/
MODELLING THE KIWI VETERANSCAPE 16 September 2021: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2021/09/16/modelling-the-kiwi-veteranscape/
DEFENCELESS ELECTION 10 October 2020: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2020/10/16/defenceless-election/
OPTIONS FOR NEW ZEALAND’S NATIONAL SECURITY POSTURE 2 September 2019: https://divergentoptions.org/2019/09/02/options-paper-on-new-zealands-national-security-posture/
WHAT BECOMES OF THE DISENFRANCHISED? 4 April 2019: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2019/05/04/what-becomes-of-the-disenfranchised/
DEFEAT IN DETAIL 19 March 2019: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2019/03/19/defeat-in-detail/
AGAINST THE TIDE 27 September 2018: https://unclas.wordpress.com/2018/09/27/against-the-tide/
The author does wish to be involved in ongoing consultation as this briefing is developed.
*The whakataukī (Māori proverb) in the title literally means “When it is hidden for a long time, it may be small when it comes forth.” This relates to a man who has a great deal to say but who does not put it into action. It is also used of war parties which, when they are small, hesitate to come out to show their strength. I use it in this context as a challenge to the government. Writing the national security long term insights briefing will mean nothing if it is not acted upon. (This paragraph and beyond does not form part of the formal submission)
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