A question of responsibility | Stuff.co.nz
NOTICE: President Franklin Roosevelt said of democracy: “The heart of our defense is the faith we have in the institutions we defend. “
Transparency and accountability underlie this faith and to maintain leadership in government and state institutions, they must be held accountable for their actions.
Two recent incidents of democratic accountability, however, raise more questions about maintaining that faith than they answer.
* Work, National discreet on the departures of former Kiwi-Chinese deputies
* Operation Burnham: The self-inflicted wounds of the New Zealand Army will not heal on their own
* Jian Yang, national deputy who admitted to training Chinese spies, retires
* There is over three hours of aerial footage from the raid in Afghanistan, according to NZDF
The first is Defense Chief Kevin Short’s decision not to take any disciplinary action against a member of the Defense Force due to serious internal failures found in the Operation Burnham investigation as well as a physical assault on him. ‘one Afghan prisoner per member of the SAS.
The investigation revealed “culture flaws in the upper echelons of the NZDF – confirmation bias, lack of objectivity and thoroughness in examining the” facts “, unnecessary defensiveness coupled with reluctance to acknowledge the mistake , the lack of monitoring of embarrassing information and the failure to respect the disciplines and obligations inherent in the principles of ministerial control of the army and accountability to Parliament.
In other words, a blatant violation of the principle of civilian control of the military, which has led defense ministers and a prime minister to mislead the public about Burnham.
The last sentence of the inquiry: “The way the NZDF resolves its failures and moves forward will reveal its true character and the strength of its purpose.” By not taking any disciplinary action, the true character of the NZDF remains, to quote another term from the Inquiry, “deplorable”.
Short said the 1971 legislation required an investigation within three years of any alleged infringements, which had now been passed. In addition, censorship was rejected because there was “little benefit” to “events (which) are now over 10 years old …”
Few Advantages for the NZDF I understood this because there is an indisputable advantage called democratic accountability, thus strengthening civilian control of the military.
The decision is absurd. Air Marshal Short is effectively telling his institution that if we block, mislead and obscure for three years (as we did at Burnham), we will be clear, notwithstanding an order from the defense forces on d ‘ possible civil obligations.
As for rejecting historic transgressions, imagine if judges applied this logic to treaty injustices, or if royal commissioners applied it to historic abuses of state protection. Being responsible for wrongdoing reveals the strength of national character. The choice of Short shows a weakness.
The second worrying incident is the sudden accidental retirement of Raymond Huo from Labor and Jian Yang from National ahead of the 2020 elections.
Air Marshal Kevin Short makes a statement on the Operation Burnham investigation report.
The allegation is that the two forced retirements were organized by Labor and National after receiving information about security concerns regarding each man’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
If this is true, there are interesting questions of democratic accountability. How are government and parliament to be held accountable if political parties in government and parliament have been penetrated by foreign influences?
It seems like a complex issue to me because we have a layer of national security that is there for a good reason, but also prevents transparency and, through that openness, accountability.
My experience working for the Minister of Foreign Affairs has reinforced the importance of the oaths of secrecy and the responsibilities that come with the privilege of serving in this space of national security.
So when national security clashes with the personal interests of parties, it is very difficult for the system and the professionals within the system to operate. Transparency and accountability are threatened when hats are interchangeable.
While Jacinda Ardern was briefed on her role as leader of the Labor Party, as the security concerns concerned an individual in the political party she led, she still had a broader national security responsibility as Prime Minister. If he is informed as Prime Minister, the same logic applies.
The question of accountability is whether, in a multi-party government, other political parties, if duly authorized, should have been informed by officials or informed by the prime minister. Should the parliamentary intelligence and security committee have been informed or advised?
I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I think it’s an interesting question. After all, National and Labor are the only two parties to have led governments since 1935. If either has been compromised, that’s a very big deal.
An independent Labor party would have been able to review the intelligence and approve the action taken, which would offer some control over an otherwise unclear set of interests. It seems to me that only the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security can monitor what happened here, but will they?
Given the dismal response to the Burnham Inquiry and the murky case of the sudden retirements of two MPs, faith in the institutions we defend is shaken.
Jon Johansson was Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ chief of staff and now works for a Wellington-based communications company. All the opinions expressed in this column are hers.