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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Conclusions in Talboys Report

Conclusions in Talboys Report

Mr Talboys outlines several conclusions from his report:

1. New Zealand should continue to support Asean as a group and its individual nations with whatever limited support Wellington can give. Such a policy may not be without its risks because some pessimists believe that the insurgency in North-east Thailand has already gained the upper hand. There does not seem to be any alternative for New Zealand and the more support New Zealand gives the quicker the pessimists would be proved wrong. NZs own security will be assured with a peaceful and stable South-East Asia, with the Asean and Indo-Chinese countries working in a cooperative relationship with each other. The big powers should only be indirectly involved (presumably via Wellington).

2. Defence Cooperation

It is unlikely that NZ would be asked to participate in a defence pact in South-East Asia. The Minister claims that the armed forces in these countries value the close cooperation between their senior officers and their New Zealand counterparts. Over the 20 years or so New Zealand defence forces have established a good relationship with the countries, the politicians and the officials in the region. Senior military officers in these countries play a key role in the formulation of national policies (and presumably if NZ officers have the ear of these indigenous officers the possibilities are there for NZ to influence the national policies of these countries).

3. Singapore

The Minister's views about Singapore reflects the simplistic and naive manner in which National Party politicians structure the country's foreign policy. There is no consciousness whatsoever of the repressive nature of Lee Kuan Yew's governments. Lee Kuan Yew's highly efficient concrete jungle is something to be admired The "tencno-fascist" nature of Singapore society escapes some people with regard to Malaysia. The Minister concludes that the problem there is the racial balance. It is not a question of poverty or the economic gaps between the rural and the urban areas. Such views are symptomatic of the recipe understanding that most people have about Malaysia. In other words, the Minister is implying that if we solve the racial problem then all other problems will be solved.

4. Malaysian Students

The Minister's views are brief in this regard and he reserves his comments until the Immigration Minister submits his reports to cabinet. Thus when Talboys was in South-East Asia Gill was already formulating a policy to cut-back on Malaysian students.

Malaysian Education Minister, Dr Mahathir

Malaysian Education Minister, Dr Mahathir

This report underlines the government's simplistic view o f South-East Asia's realities and because of this the government will respond in an unsophisticated and simplistic manner.

In the early '60s the decision to commit combat troops to Vietnam was based on a failure to understand the Vietnamese situation. An almost dehumanising understanding of Asian people accompanied that decision, and it can be summed up in the old aphorism that it is better to spill blood over there than here. Asian life is cheaper than Western life. This may be rubbing it in a bit too much but one would be surprised to find that many of Mr Muldoon's "ordinary blokes" share this belief.

Therefore while New Zealands relationship with Malaysia and Singapore at the formal or diplomatic level are cordial and while all three government have a lot in common (because they are all conservative governments) by and large, on a people-to-people basis the relationship is really an unsatisfactory one On a government to government basis it could be much better. For example New Zealand could opt for a neutral stance in its foreign policy or it could link itself to an Australasia - South-East Asia zone of peace, freedom and neutrality.

But at the moment is unwilling to do this because New Zealanders have a view of the world now being structured by the National party according to Washington's thinking. It is willing to play ball with the Malaysian government on the cut-back issue because there are certain kinds of symbolic benefits in doing so.

Clearly therefore a new basis for relating to South-East Asia has to be worked out. If the number of Thai. Malaysian or Indonesian students drop dramatically NZ will be further isolated than it is at the moment. Overseas students provide New Zealanders with an alternative reality.

The new relationship that has to be worked out should be non-colonial and must move away from this "big-little" power pretension of a small insignificant nation among nations. The figures quoted for the armed services underlie this point. The new relationship should be a sensitive one where NZ is ready to listen to what people in this region have to say instead of having their perceptions structured for them by K.L. and Singapore.

New Zealand has to develop a whole variety of stimuli to listen carefully to what people other than officials from these countries say. There is a need to work out what kinds of resources can be shared between the three countries and education is one of them.

It is good for overseas students to come to NZ because it allows New Zealanders to gain a broader view of the world and vice-versa. As a corollary of a changing relationship there is a need to bring the troops home because of its neo-colonial posture in South-East Asia.

Only when there is a language and cultural understanding of South-East Asia and recognition of working on an equal basis, can there be a more creative diplomatic exchange at the nation-to-nation and people-to-people level. New Zealanders must get away from the cold war rhetoric of the present National government.