Peter Dunne questions whether the Prime Minister is 'playing a long game' with the assertion that Russian spies are not active in New Zealand

Peter Dunne questions whether the Prime Minister is 'playing a long game' with the assertion that Russian spies are not active in New Zealand

By Peter Dunne*

Are we seeing a subtle act of international defiance from the New Zealand Government, or just another example of its naiveté?

According to the Prime Minister, there are no Russian spies operating in New Zealand at present, so therefore there is no need for us to do like other countries and expel Russian intelligence operatives, in the wake of the poisoning of Russian dissidents in Britain.

At face value, the Prime Minister's statement is reassuring.

No-one likes the notion of other countries' spies lurking around in our backyards. She seems to be implying that New Zealand is now so insignificant on the world stage that it does not arouse the attention of the Russian intelligence services. So we can all sleep safe in our beds.

But face value is not a reliable measure here. Given New Zealand's role in the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, it beggars belief that British and United States intelligence agents are not active in this country, and conversely that New Zealand intelligence agents are not similarly active in other countries. And, in return, it equally beggars belief that agents of countries the Five Eyes partners are likely to be interested in, notably Russia and China, are not active in New Zealand.

So, is there something more to what the Prime Minister has been saying?

There have long been suspicions about the depth of Labour's commitment to New Zealand's participation in international intelligence sharing arrangements.

In the case of the Greens, however, there is no such doubt - they are implacably opposed to New Zealand's involvement in such agreements.

So, is the Prime Minister playing a long game here? In the short term, her blanket denial that Russian intelligence agents are active in New Zealand means there is no need for New Zealand to follow suit with other countries and expel such personnel. But, in the longer sense, could our complete reluctance to even consider such a possibility actually be a calculated snub to our intelligence partners and an early signal that New Zealand is not going to be as co-operative a member of arrangements like the Five Eyes, as it has been? In such a context, last week's initial reluctance to appear too critical of Russia takes on a more significant light. Is New Zealand using the current tension over Russia as a way to flex its small international muscles, and signify that from now it is going to be a little more independent member of the international club, although still paying its subscriptions?

Helen Clark's 2003 decision that New Zealand would not join the "Coalition of the Willing" to invade Iraq was not only correct, but was nonetheless a gentle shot across the bows of Britain and the United States, that although New Zealand was basically sympathetic to the Western cause, it was also an independent nation that would make its own decisions, and would not just be dragged automatically into conflicts like this. Maybe the present Prime Minister is using the Russian intelligence argument to make afresh the same point to the United States and Britain today.

Of course, it may just be that the Prime Minister is absolutely correct and merely stating the obvious when she says there are no Russian intelligence agents operating here. Nevertheless, such a blunt public commentary on another country's diplomatic arrangements is a little unusual. On that basis, though, presumably we can now look forward to the Prime Minister's similar frank public assessments in the weeks to come about the level and numbers of intelligence agents deployed here by the likes of the United States, Britain, and China, and perhaps even how many of,  and where, our SIS and GCSB agents are operating overseas.

Of course, all of this is quite unlikely, no matter any urgings by the Greens, which leaves the question still begging - why was the Prime Minister so specific? Deliberate planning, or just more of the loose lips her Government is becoming so well known for? You be the judge.


*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister. This article first ran here and is used with permission.

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79 Comments

The Russians, allies in 2 world wars, looks like we need an enemy.

Reds under the Bed..
Sometimes it gets fuzzy who friend or foe really is....
I'm guessing, during WWII , Polish RAF pilots thought they were fighting for freedom..
https://polishgreatness.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/yalta-conference-secrets-...

Looking at the broad brushstrokes of history.... I'm thinking Principles and some kind of integrity , are what guide us in discerning if a Nation might be a friend or not.. ( thou Poland never saw this coming... friends don't do that.! )

In the current world order, any countries that value things differently from the US or the Puritan, Monotheism, and Anglo-Saxon culture are potential enemies.

And the US uses "democracy and freedom" as the high-moral-ground excuse to force whoever to abate at others significant costs.

This is pretty fking hypocritical.

Brilliant. I guess the "world order" (whatever that means) really is one-eyed and hypocritical.

Thanks David,

The first post touches on China's minor ethnicity policies as well as religions (typically Islam) in China.

The core of the 2nd generation ethnic policy is summarized below.
"We/CCP advocate the implementation of the concept of demoting ethnic groups and 56 ethinicities, strengthen the identity awareness and identity of the Chinese nation, and promote the policy of integration and national identity of the Chinese nation. The guiding ideology of the second-generation ethnic policy is to follow the model of the nation’s national melting pot and does not allow any ethnic group to live in a historical territory of its own."

Religious practices should promote and help to achieve the policy goals above. So, you may tell certain religious practices that have negative impacts on achieving the policy goals will be demoted. The policies on religions in China can be traced back thousand years, a very murky and sensitive area. But by saying that, there is zero tolerance from not only CCP but also majority of Chinese people for any religions in tempting to divide and break China.

The 2nd post seems just like ranting to me. For example, if you do not trust stats in China, just use data from his country to corroborate - an easy place to start will be data on imports/exports/visitor movements/FDI etc..

A political dictatorship making the decision to demote or promote ethnicities and religious practices. Wow. Thank you for sharing how scary this place really is. Let's hope the same doesn't ever happen in free and democratic countries.

"Let's hope the same doesn't ever happen in free and democratic countries." -- hahah BR.

Because it already happened with irreversible damaging impacts on the indigenous people in US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and others.

The rest is just history. Would you like me to elaborate?

Agree. Actuate point.

Yes please zingmywang, could you please elaborate. I would like to hear how China is going to do the same thing in this century as those countries did in previous centuries.

Wow. Scary. We've never seen movements around ethnicity and pure nationalism go wrong in world history before.

Those who don't want to use US Dollars tend to run into spots of big bother also, e.g. Gaddafi's Libya

Please expand.
Libya ran into bother because they didn't want to use US dollars?

Of course, Gaddafi was using his country's oil revenue to underpin a AU block currency.

What does it mean to use money to "underpin" a block currency?

Google it. It was going to be Gold backed Pan African currency. Plenty of press story's.

Lol. In my experience, "Google it" generally means "I saw it somewhere, but I don't know the details myself, so I'll just use vague words like underpin and make vague 'touch your nose' suggestions" like how you have initimated that the US invaded Libya because they were underpinning a block chain currency.

I proudly served in our Military until the day the 1984 Labour Government was elected, when I resigned. So glad not to have to serve this lot who have no clue. When you can only count scones with Ed Sheeran as the highlight it shows that this Government's foreign policy is a joke. You have to wonder what Comrade Peters is holding over Taxinda.

1965 Vietnam war. keith Holyoake as National PM. I assume that was before you joined, as hardly a proud moment huh?

Why would he not be proud?

Well before my time. I did meet him briefly when he was Governor General but we didn't talk about that. If I recall correctly he was quite frail then.

Why do you have to wonder what Comrade Peters is holding over Taxinda? Isn't it obvious?

Without Peters' grace and favour towards Taxinda, there would be no CoL government.

Common sense

Suspect that the Russians are hacking into both NZ and Australia and providing information as a backdoor into the UK and USA intelligence. New Zealand would have many Chinese spies operating and some working in industry and providing information back to the Chinese government to provide advantages. Chinese spies would be activite on a large scale globally.

they may be using Facebook

National leader Bridges wasn't questioning PMs position here.

Canada expelled 4, Australia 2, New Zealand 0, so far. Seems rational, given the relative sizes of "our" countries.

But from what I seen (on Al Jazeera pieces) any Russian Diplomat is by definition a spy. Just how they roll.

I don't believe for a moment that there aren't any Russian spies in NZ, but if they haven't been detected and identified, then they can't be expelled. Only option in that circumstance is to kick out a token diplomat or two.

Token kicking out of Diplomats is not New Zealand's style. Never should be. Bridges wasn't going out on any limbs here either. He's been in Government recently too. Who knows what the PM has been briefed on by intelligence here and from Partners? We still may be playing some more useful role somehow without a "response".

If no Russian spies have been identified, surely this is something to be taken up with NZ's intelligence services.

On another note, it seems like the Jian Yang matter - including his misleading Immigration NZ in his application - has been allowed to go away quietly.

On the other side, what links the Skrupal event with all the countries finding out at the same time they had spies in their country, and they now feel like getting rid of them. After keeping them in their country for years with full diplomatic immunity.

Surely countries don't allow diplomatic spies so long as they all "be good" around the world.

I must be missing part of the story.

Jacinda needs to get in the real world and realise not everyone is as good natured as she is.

It is Us

The manufacturing of Russia as the arch enemy of not just the U.S. but mankind in general has reached levels of absurdity and pathology. This is all sort of obvious, though, I think. The yellow journalism of the creepy Max Boot at the New York Times is emblematic of the current toxic demand for war. I do wonder what these people are thinking. I mean do they know something I don’t? And the list of propagandists, both in media and governments throughout the west, is quite long. In fact finding someone who objects to this war mongering is much harder. There are some, of course, but they are largely invisible in mainstream media.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/21/it-is-us/

The tweet from the Russian Embassy in the UK suggesting that in the absence of evidence, Hercule Poirot should be sent to solve the Salisbury poisoning mystery, wasn’t well received by sanctimonious, virtue-signaling neo-cons.

Let's just imagine though what might happen if Agatha Christie’s famous fictional detective did- in defiance of the Thought Police- head down to Wiltshire, along with his faithful sidekick Captain Hastings.

What sort of questions would he be asking- and what conclusions would he come to?

https://sputniknews.com/columnists/201803201062720931-poirot-goes-salisb...

I think Jacinda is the same as many on the left .They have a ingrained self-hatred for the West. It is almost a reflex now. So instead of facing the clear evidence they invent grand conspiracies or live in a fantasy land where no one is out to harm us.

Un-Informant comment?!

as opposed to conservatard patsy land where every word from the master is taken at face value and that everyone is out to harm us.

Self-hatred of the West? No not the "West" - just Western hegemony and for very good reasons.

Do not attempt to think, or depression may occur.

Thanks "dollar_bill" for proving my point. We are actually talking about how Russia used chemical weapons in attempting to kill people but you want to focus on how bad the West is. How sad.

Thanks "dollar_bill" for proving my point. We are actually talking about how Russia used chemical weapons in attempting to kill people but you want to focus on how bad the West is. How sad.

The political point scoring and lampooning on the back of this incident was all yours but carry on down your rabbit hole.

dollar_bill - "Rabbit hole" you mean acknowledging the truth that the Russians used chemical weapons to silence the opposition as opposed to believing a conspiracy theory. Ok, whatever you say.

Where is your evidence it was Russia? Because Boris Johnson and Theresa May said it was? You are joking right? Laughed out of court. The Russians are laughing too. The only conspiracy theory here is coming from the UK government.

dollar_bill - don't make out that you sat down and pondered the evidence and came to the conclusion that it must be a "false-flag" operation. Come on now...

.

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Peter Dunne makes no mention, and none of the commentators here pick up on a comment made by Jacinda in her interviews. she stated clearly the she was advised there were no intelligence agents that fit the criteria the countries used. First the question is, what quality is the advice tendered? Then we can go on to ask how many credentialed attaches are based in the Russian embassy here, and who else is there there? This article, like Jacinda's comments leave too many unanswered questions to make a sensible conclusion.

Taxinda initially quoted advice from MFAT who probably have as much knowledge of spies as Phil Twyford has on house building, she did later refer to SIS when somebody pointed out her error and Taxinda is briefed by SIS so demonstrates her total inexperience and competence although she possibly a did an acceptable job wrapping fish & chips.

Yep, if only National was in power... Wait a minute, did Bridges just agree with Adern? Hmm, never mind.

'No program' and 'antonymouse' (members for 7 years and 7 months) and 'dollar bill' (member for 7 years and 6 months). Coincidence? Probably, but just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean they aren't out there.

Really Ex Expat? That's the basis for your proof of possible NZ based intelligence operatives and an attempt to shut down any counter argument that doesn't agree with your narrow world view?! Stick to the facts and not paranoid, ad hominem speculation please. Interest.co. can independently confirm that we are not the same person (or in any way associated) if they choose.

Who knows what the facts are in this murky world of espionage? I'm just pointing out that three accounts of very similar long standing are posting on one thread in a certain manner. It may signal nothing or something material. Who knows?

Yes, that's certainly an impressive and conclusive conspiracy theory all right......three different posters infiltrate little known NZ economics forum and post in a 'certain manner'. Shock!

watch out - we're all out to get you - dirty commies are under your bed and evil neo-cons are in your living room - there is nowhere to hide.

There is a noticeable Russian speaking presence in Postcode 1071. None under my bed, as far as I know. I'll check tonight when I get home from work.

I think that's because 1071 has too high of a density of self validating, vile, and sinister inhabitants.

Any Russian spies would stick out straight away - they would appear far to be far too pleasant, trustworthy, genuine and bearable when contrasted to the standard 1071 demographic.

Ouch! Although I do have Russian friends as well, so maybe that balances out my 1071-ness.

Goodness me Ex Expat, an ad hominem attack on 3 different people in one sentence... that's worthy of a special award for the person with the greatest amount of suspicion.
You seem to have too much time on your hand.

Perhaps in reality I'm John Pilger and was in this interview
https://dandelionsalad.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/john-pilger-there-is-no-...
Coincidental our age is about the same too.

I think NZ could do without neurotic people like you, and perhaps you should have stayed an Expat.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks"

UK will be really serious about Russia when they freeze the London assets of the Russian oligarchic money.

No one wins if the West and Russia actually go to a live confrontation. Russian is an important county with a role to play. Just a reality. West needs to be firm but fair.

West wants international law to hold in Russia - not Chinese "law". West shouldn't push Russia into Chinese arms. Has to be fair to Russian citizens, but firm with Putin.

... two for the price of one .... could we hold an international summit to sort out Vlad the Bad , and the Australian cricket team , at the same time ....

I'll head down to the $ 2 shop and get some yellow electric tape for Putin's big fat tyrannical gob ... and some yellow electric tape for the Aussie cricketers balls ...

... punishment yes ... one must be firm but fair ...

... are the Russians here to uncover the secret to our fabled A2 milk or something ...

I mean ... what secrets does a tin-pot little dairy farm in the south pacific have ...

... how to win at cricket without under-arming your opponents or scratching their balls ?

How to completely munt your house building industry ...

... if Vlad the Mad could solve that last one for us , I'd give the tyrant a knighthood myself ...

It's not us that they are particularly interested in - rather use us as a back door into the US intelligent operation.

Love many, trust few and always paddle your own canoe.

Try mentioning something about Russia on your Facebook and send to your friends. See within 3 weeks if you get a friend request from some attractive lady. Don't accept the invitation but at least you know you have been potentially hacked by outside sources.

New Zealand intelligence agents? Active in other countries? New Zealand intelligence agents??? bwhaahahaha! such piffle, the guy must be a drunk

The spies are too busy looking for somewhere to stay. Rental/purchasing prices in NZ are rocketing, they are probably working in second or third jobs to supplement their paltry Russian incomes and no time for spying.

Good response Jacinda. I don't have a problem with Russia, who is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in my book. Unlike the UK, who says Russia is instantly guilty as charged.....without a shred of publically revealed evidence. There was no motive for them to do something so dumb anyway.

In fact Russia is the best friend any country could ever have, just ask Assad. They have saved Syria from a fate worse than death and are very popular in Syria, surprise surprise. There's a new 4 hour documentary on Putin with English subtitles on the web, well worth watching.

I am sure the dead in Syria will be thrilled to hear of your support for Putin and that other Assad sad honcho.

They have killed many innocent people, both of em....in their endeavors.,,to remain in power.

I wonder how many down ticks you would get, if normal people could vote 'down tick' on this site.

I often wonder why they removed that option.

Clearly you are a Kool-Aid drinker. Freeing Syria of terrorists has not been easy yet 1,300 terrorist groups have entered reconciliation agreements with the government.......the average Syrian is very grateful for Russia's help giving them back their country. Why do you think Assad can drive his own Honda car into Ghouta as he did recently to see the troops, with no protection......

@ Alter Ego. Hundreds of Thousands of Syrian have been killed by terrorist factions, under various names and acronyms, and each of those supported and paid for by foreign governments.
Without all that foreign interference those dead Syrians would be alive today.
The Russians have done a brilliant and careful job of creating peace, carefully sorting our each pocket with reconciliation, mediation and at times military. And Assad has not had it all his own way with the Russians at all. But together they have mostly sorted it, including the odious ISIS. US mostly has impeded the Syrian Government's removal of ISIS

In 1885 we twigged to the fact that Russians were about to invade us, so we built all those forts and artillery posts at the entrance to our ports that our kids love to play on today.
What a good job we built those, because those cowardly Russian warships turned around and slunk away. Scared of our British manufactured cannons.
Um. Wait a minute. Maybe it was because they were not even coming. ?

I thought it was because our friends and allies, the Japanese, blew them up.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tsushima

Who cares about the Russians. We should be going after trade deals with them. Shouldn't we be more worried about the the Chinese Communist Party, which actually does have a spy in the upper echelons of the National party! I find it hard to believe that the Russians would kill anyone using a Russian invented nerve agent. Isn't the FSB's assassination MO to accidentally stab oneself, fall off a building, or to be be shot in the street. Incidentally, anyone with a PhD in synthetic chemistry could make that particular nerve agent with some chemicals and glassware. Seems suspiciously false flag-ish to me.

Catch the Russians and forget about Chinese. The intelligent plan is working perfectly.

all of the goodwill developed by the previous government has been "undone" by Ardern and co. in a little under 6 months. Bagged Australia our largest trading partner, shoved the knife into Theresa May. And criticised Trump. Then we have Tamati Coffey a Labour party representative marching in the US on a domestic issue - total amateurs

I am impressed by Ardern's handling of this matter. Some are calling her a "laughing stock' however it is May that is the laughing stock in the eyes of many.

Time to give some free Citizenships to Russian Billionaires may be ?

This is better reading and a great relief from the tedious endless debates on real estate pricing, policies, blunders. Go Russkies, you have lightened our day.

Hopefully Russia will now invade and take back most of the Ukraine. They have little to lose politically.

I think this is all deliberate political drama played out according to scripts written long back. Countries plant diplomats and low level spies who are always there to be kicked out, when an international situation like this occurs. The real juicy spies don't get kicked out and carry on in their merry ways. Wink-Wink by the Governments to score brownie points with their citizens...