N.Z. AND THE CHARTER
J s re P°i't on the United Nations .Conference—a report which in explanatory care and comprehensiveness will be a model for representatives cf New Zealand when they attend international conferences in the future— Mr. Fraser rightly gives due emphasis to the obligations which the Dominion will undertake when Parliament ratifies the Charter. It will be easy to do this, but it is much to be hoped that Parliament will do some hard and non-party thinking before it makes its decision. Possibly the most serious of the contemplated obligations will never be discharged, hjut Parliament cannot prudently approach its consideration of the Charter from this standpoint. It must assume that at some future time, perhaps remote, but conceivably near, a Government of this country will be called upon to honour the signature of its predecessor.
The most serious obligations are two. First, the Dominion will undertake to make available to the Security Council, "on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces, assistance and facilities, including rights of passage, necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security." When the agreement is made, the forces must be supplied on the "call" of the Security Council. Secondly, some of the forces are to be "immediately available," so that it will be necessary for New Zealand to have ready an air contingent. The obvious implication of these obligations, if undertaken, is that the Dominion must maintain armed forces on a permanent basis. The strength and composition of these forces are to be determined by agreement with the Security Council, and any agreement is to be subject to ratification by Parliament, but, in Mr. Eraser's opinion, "it
will be wise to assume that each member will be asked to supply a substantial amount." In view of the nature of modern war it is not conceivable that the Security Council will countenance any half-hearted maintenance of forces; it will certainly require the forces to be made available to it, at "call," to be quickly effective. This can hardly be ensured, perennially, by a voluntary system of enlistment. Furthermore, as the forces will not be maintained cheaply, Parliament must take into account the probability that a substantial fixed charge for armed forces, greater than the pre-war defence charge, will be a permanent feature of the Budget. Money so spent will not be available for other purposes, including the extension of social services.
It is highly important that such implications of the Charter should be thoroughly examined and well understood before it is ratified. For this reason, and also because the contemplated obligations will be permanent, and become the responsibility of successive Governments, it would seem necessary that the Government should inform the House as fully and completely as possible concerning the air, naval and military establishnA-its which New Zealand may be asked to furnish. Mr. Fraser has much background knowledge, acquired at the conference, and he might be expected to provide, at least in outline, plans and estimates revealing the Dominion's possible commitments. It is certain that ratification of the Charter will impose obligations such as New Zealand never contemplated unc'er the pre-war British Commonwealth system of defence. In consequence,' the long-term effects of ratification may tend to disturb the country's economy, both financially and in manpower resources,, and will certainly call for prudent and ordered direction of expenditure based on commitments necessary to ensure ability to discharge the country's obligations. Responsibilities thus shouldered will rest upon the whole country, and will have to be placed above all party considerations. The Government would do well to set up a representative committee to examine, and report upon, the proposals in an atmosphere free from party strife.
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N.Z. AND THE CHARTER, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 171, 21 July 1945
N.Z. AND THE CHARTER Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 171, 21 July 1945
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