Australian High Commission
New Zealand
Cook Islands and Niue

A Message from the High Commissioner

A Message from His Excellency Peter Woolcott

1 March 2016

It is a privilege to have been appointed Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand. The relationship between Australia and New Zealand is very close, with an intricate web of economic, security and political ties underpinned by shared values and deep personal connections.      

It has been a fast start for me at the High Commmission.  I arrived on the 9th of February 2016, presented my letter of introduction to Prime Minister Key that afternoon and then left for Sydney on the 18th for Leaders Talks.  The meeting between Prime Ministers Key and Turnbull has been well covered in the media and there is little for me to add. They have a strong, easy going and outcome- focused relationship which in a short time has made a significant contribution to this web of structural connections.

I plan to blog occasionally on issues of direct relevance to our two countries. What I want to write about today is the release last week of Australia’s Defence White Paper, which pays tribute to the importance of our defence relationship with New Zealand. As close partners and ANZUS allies, we will continue to operate together in shaping a more secure and economically prosperous environment. There is a great deal of ANZAC history too in this, and a strong sense that we have each other’s back.

We are both grappling with a complex and challenging security environment.   

The Australian White Paper provides a comprehensive long term plan for the security of the Australian people and the defence of our territory and interests.  It is a hard-nosed document which sets out clearly our requirements and doesn’t shirk the cost ($195 billion to 2025 and 2% of GDP by 2020-2021).   Maritime power is a centrepiece of Australia’s strategy –  as Mr Turnbull said, “an island nation needs a strong navy and it particularly needs a strong navy in this environment.”

The Australian White Paper highlights six key drivers shaping Australia’s security environment:

  • First, the relationship between the United States and China, which is likely to be characterised by a mix of co-operation and competition

  • Second, challenges to the stability of the rules-based global order by states and non-states actors trying to promote their interests outside of the established rules

  • Third, the growing global threat from terrorism and foreign terrorist fighters to Australia’s security

  • Fourth, state fragility, including within Australia’s immediate neighbourhood, caused by uneven economic growth, crime, social, climate change and governance challenges

  • Fifth, the pace of military modernisation and development of more capable military forces in our region

  • Sixth, the emergence of new complex, non-geographic threats, including cyber threats to the security of information and communications systems

New Zealand is currently engaged in producing its own Defence White Paper. We recognise that NZ in its Defence White Paper will make its own judgements in regard to its national interests and these will reflect its own priorities and strengths.  There is, however, much that will be seen as common.  We share our immediate region, the South Pacific, a reliance on the stable rules-based global order for our prosperity and a willingness to make positive contributions to regional and global security operations. 

Peter Woolcott was appointed Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand in February 2016. His biography is available here.