OPINION: As the spectre of widespread unemployment looms, the New Zealand defence forces have experienced a sharp increase in recruitment numbers.
With 109 trades on offer across the army, navy and air force, it’s easy to see why in lockdown there was a 21 per cent increase in interest in taking up a career in the armed forces.
An applicant needs three years of secondary school education, a clean rap sheet with no criminal convictions, and to be able-bodied enough to pass the physical fitness tests and medical requirements.
Oh, and you have to be 17 years young, but it matters not how ancient you are. If you’re fit and well enough to pass the physical and medical tests, you’ll still be in the running. Even if you’re over retirement age.
However, one wouldn’t expect many of the 60-plus to apply as they know their advanced years condemn them and it will be tricky for that age bracket finding work in a post-Covid employment-challenged world.
If our September election produces a Labour/Greens coalition, which results in a guaranteed minimum income, perhaps the older codgers among us on a new benefit might consider forming a Down Under home guard? Think Dad’s Army, that endearing and enduring British TV series, which followed the antics of a band of local volunteers on the frontline of the German invasion.
And if the election result requires getting all the old gang back together, ie Labour, Greens and NZ First, there are enough army blokes among the ranks of NZ First, who would find a Down Under Dad’s Army appealing.
All joking aside, New Zealand may have to do a Switzerland and become an armed neutrality in order to distance ourselves from our Anzac partner Australia and its developing and alarming cold war machinations with China.
New Zealand’s history of playing a predominantly peace-keeping role in the theatre of war is a safe position in light of last week’s announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to increase Australia’s defence spending by 40 per cent over the next 10 years, in particular investing in long range missiles for striking capability “to deter and respond to aggression in the Indo Pacific region”.
Morrison nailed Australia’s colours to the mast, firmly stating that America remains the foundation of its defence policy. With increased tensions between US and China, and tensions between Australia and China, Morrison says Australia hasn’t faced such strategic and economic uncertainty since WWII.
This racheting up of rhetoric and armament purchasing follows accusations by China of Australian spying, and Morrison announcing a $1 billion spend on cyber defence after Australia claims to have been cyberattacked by China.
New recruits to the NZ defence forces, who joined up hoping for job security, to learn a trade and develop a skillset, may be in for a nasty shock if asked to take up arms against this sea of trouble.
- Navy to send a 'Covid-19-free' ship to military exercise
- China tells Australia, UK to 'stop interfering' in Hong Kong or 'consequences shall be borne'
- China the unspoken threat at centre of new defence strategy
- Defence Force applications spike amid gloomy job outlook
Old allegiances are under strain, most recently our relationship with the US, which, after asking New Zealand to come inside its war in Afghanistan, had the graceless gall to present the bill for feeding us.
If Australia/China tensions come to a head, a neutral New Zealand defence force and an armed national home guard could be an option.
If National wins the election, China’s influence in that party has been under question. Long-term National MP Dr Jian Yang, a former Communist Party member and spy trainer, organised a meeting between former Opposition and party leader Simon Bridges and the head of Chinese Security Forces.
New Opposition leader Todd Muller has just handed Bridges the portfolio he demanded, foreign affairs.