You're wearing your Naval Reserve uniform, Dad.
Yeah, got invited to Devonport to see our biggest naval ship, HMNZS Aotearoa.
What did you think of her?
Well, she looked pretty big all right but she's ... er ... a sort of a ... er ... cargo boat.
A cargo boat?
Yeah. She's got no cannons or anything like the old days. She's got one weapon in case missiles are fired at her. And a couple of machine guns. But no cannons or anything.
What is she for then?
She's to give us a sustained maritime capability.
Oh. What does that mean? We've only got a couple of little, old frigates and four patrol boats to sustain.
They say Aotearoa will be great for humanitarian and peacekeeping duties.
That's good, Dad. But what happens if we get into a scrap?
Don't you have any homework to do?
Just asking, Dad.
Don't you read the news? New Zealand decided years ago that we'll never be in another scrap.
Well, we didn't say it in so many words. We just scrapped our air force Skyhawk jet fighters. That was in '01. No one made much of a fuss when it happened. In the end they were so old they couldn't even fly as fast as a jumbo jet.
Dad, are you making this stuff up? Skyhawks were super-fast jet fighters.
They were. But not as fast as a jumbo.
I think you're a navy tragic, Dad, you're pulling my leg.
No. It's true.
So what replaced the Skyhawks?
Um ... nothing actually. We don't have an air force that can shoot at things any more.
Ha ha. Sounds like having your biggest navy ship that can't shoot at anything. But we still have an army that can fight.
Not really, son. We've only got four and half thousand soldiers and they're mainly trained for peacekeeping duties. They've got a bloody good band though.
Oh, Dad. Enough.
Son, I thought you appreciated we're now a caring, sharing, clean, green sort of country. I thought you followed the news.
Well, I do. But I didn't realise we'd officially become a bunch of pacifists. Was there ever a vote on any of this peace forever idea?
No. There was no need. The defence experts said we enjoy a benign — their word — military environment in the Pacific.
Dad, the news I read says we're definitely not in a benign environment. But I suppose if the chips go down we'll have the Americans on our side.
Hopefully but we did leave the Anzus alliance. We told them to stick their nuclear warships — wouldn't let them into our green, clean harbours.
Oh, boy. I can see why you've kept your uniform, Dad.
Don't be cheeky, son.
There's still Australia though, isn't there — and the Anzac spirit and all that. Dad, you're shaking, you've gone white. Sit down, sit down. You're tearing up. What's wrong?
What's wrong? We've lost our best mates, son. They're sick to death with paying billions on defence while we duck away behind them, out of the firing line.
Dad, hold on. I'll loosen your tie. Feel better? How come you old guys allowed us to become defenceless anyway? Sorry, sorry. Don't try and talk. I'm sure none of this was your fault.
- Businessman Barry Colman is the former publisher of the National Business Review.