Winston the diplomat

Winston Peters wagging his finger at Australia

Nobody ever really understands what makes Winston tick. He probably doesn’t know himself. But one thing we all believed was that he was desperate to be prime minister, even if only for a short time, and that this would be the crowning glory of his long political life. This was what was behind the coalition talks, and this was to be his likely swan song.

I think that the thing that he will be most remembered for, is not his tenure as prime minister. The thing that he will be remembered for over and above everything else is him destroying our relationship with Australia, our closest neighbour and biggest ally.

Winston being Winston, he does nothing quietly. It is now all over the international media that he has told Australia to change its flag.

Let’s start with?CNN?Quote:

New Zealand’s acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has accused Australia of copying his country’s flag, telling its neighbor to get its own design.

“We had a flag that we’ve had for a long time, copied by Australia,” Peters?told local network TVNZ?on Tuesday.
“They (Australia) should actually change their flag and honor the fact that we got there first with this design,” added Peters, who is filling in for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern while she is on maternity leave. End quote.
Then there is?The Guardian?Quote:
Acting PM further strains ties with neighbour, urging Australia to find its own design.

Winston Peters, the acting prime minister of New Zealand, has taken another swipe at Australia, accusing it of ?copying? the?New Zealand?flag.

Relations between the Pacific neighbours have been growing noticeably frostier since Jacinda Ardern?s leave of absence, amid?Australia?s continual deportation of New Zealand citizens.?Experts say the increasing tensions are fundamentally altering the once robust and ?special? relationship. end quote

New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister has added fuel to a trans-Tasman war of words by claiming Australia copied the Kiwi flag and should get a new one.

During New Zealand’s failed 2016 referendum on replacing its flag, confusion between the Australian and Kiwi ensigns was often raised by those looking for change. End quote

It looks as if relations between New Zealand and Australia have reached a new low. And all because Winston (our current foreign minister) wouldn’t know diplomacy if it hit him with a ten-foot pole.

Everyone knows that there has been confusion over the flags for decades, but nobody has ever thought it was bad enough for a change to be necessary. Indeed, John Key’s flag referendum turned out to be a complete waste of money because, in the end, the people voted for the status quo. If the similarity between the flags was really that important to us, we would have voted for change. But we didn’t.

Why did Winston have to raise this subject now, right at the time when there are already problems with the relationship with Australia over Manus Island refugees and the deportation of Kiwi criminals from Australia?

I wish to make it clear that I do not agree with the government’s position on either of these matters.

First of all, Australia stopped accepting boats full of migrants because thousands of them were drowning in leaky vessels before getting to dry land. So long as the immigrants were being accepted into? Australia, the people smugglers continued to send them. Once the rules changed, the boats stopped coming? and thousands of innocent people have survived from drowning as a result since then.

Remember, most of these migrants took their chances with people smugglers who did not care if they lived or died. People smugglers are paid up front. Once the boats left, the immigrants were on their own. Australia has stopped that.

As for the deportation of criminals, all countries actually do this. European countries are trying to deport immigrants who commit crimes, often without success, because they have no papers. It is every sovereign country’s right to deport people who are not citizens and who commit crimes. New Zealand does it too.?Stuff?reports that we have deported 8 Australians. So, it is okay if we do it, but not if they do?

This latest outburst from Winston, coming on the back of all of the other issues, is deliberately inflammatory, and there is no good reason for it. All he is going to achieve here is that he will damage the relationship even further.

I have never really been a Winston fan, but I always thought he was better than this.? He was thought to have been a good foreign minister in Helen Clark’s government. But, foreign affairs has always been the domain of diplomats, who have to weave their way through sensitive issues with foreign officials and dignitaries and it really does take a special sort of skill to manage this well.

Clearly, Winston needs to look up the definition of ‘diplomacy’ and start applying it forthwith. Although I think it may be too late.

There is a fair bit of ‘Aussie bashing’ that goes on in New Zealand, and not all of it is harmless fun. Apparently, 62% of New Zealanders agreed with Winston that Australia should change its flag. We must live in a parallel universe or something because I always thought it was the right of a sovereign nation to choose its own flag. Can you imagine the outcry if Australia told us to change ours?

The thing is that, if this all turns to custard, as is likely, it will be much more our loss than Australia’s. Far more New Zealanders choose to live in Australia than the other way round. So New Zealanders may soon not be able to go and live there on current terms at all, and we may all find ourselves needing visas just to go for a trip to the Gold Coast. I wonder how that 62% of people who agree with Winston will feel then?

That is where we are heading. The Aussies do not get pushed around.

God, I can’t wait to see the back of Winston.