Australia recently released a defence White Paper that has encouraging but complicated implications for New Zealand.
Australia's defence policy is much more important to New Zealand than ours is to Australia. That means we need to read the Gillard government's new White Paper very carefully.
The good news is that Canberra has its lines on New Zealand about right. The discomforting news is that where we stand will be affected by Australia's bigger commitments and relationships over which we have very little say.
The new White Paper makes a big play of an idea we hardly ever hear about in New Zealand: The "Indo-Pacific" region as a new way of describing Australia's strategic environment. That's not entirely surprising: Where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet is close to Australia and not to us. And all the big powers, the United States, China and increasingly India, have interests that span across these seas.
It stands to reason that the more Australia focuses north and west, the less time it may look east to see what it can do with the Kiwis. Fortunately for New Zealand, it is not as simple as that.
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