I read with interest Robert Ayson’s take on the mending of relations between the United States and New Zealand. Rob believes that New Zealand is the prodigal son from the Good Book, welcomed home by the doting parent despite the other son’s (Australia’s) resentment. But there are three parables in Luke Chapter 15. And given the Land of the Long White Cloud’s heavy dependence upon four-legged beasts who are white and woolly, perhaps it might be appropriate to rehearse the parable of the lost sheep (Luke, 15: 4-7). The finding of the lost sheep is a metaphor for a sinner’s repentance; the lesson being that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
This message of a sinner’s repentance can also be found in the parable of the lost coin (Luke, 15: 8-10). And if Professor Ayson re-reads his own parable of the prodigal son I’m sure he will find a similar theme there too. The younger son tells his father than he has ‘sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son’ (Luke, 15: 18-19).
All three parables make the same point: that the sinner who repents may be washed in the blood of the lamb. None says anything about sinners who don’t repent. Since New Zealand shows no sign of abandoning its anti-nuclear policy, perhaps we have to look for its ‘repentance’ in other areas. A case could be made that New Zealand has attempted to help carry some of the weight in Afghanistan and more so in the South Pacific. And Washington certainly has no pressing need to bring nuclear-armed vessels into New Zealand’s ports. But the return of strategic cooperation seems likely to be on a case by case basis.
On a final point, I would say that Rob is wrong if he believes that Australia resents—and opposes—New Zealand’s return. It is in Canberra’s interest to have Wellington on board in relation to common strategic interests, and for New Zealand to bring what weight and influence it can to shared positions. The brutal truth though, is that it can’t bring much weight—so it’s very much in Canberra’s interest, as in Washington’s, to know when and where Wellington sees itself as indulging in ‘riotous living’ (Luke, 15:13) and when and where it sees itself as a strategic player.
Rod Lyon is a non-residential fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.