Most people will be unaware that for the 50 years-plus the Royal New Zealand Air Force has operated the Orion aircraft, those planes have never been equipped with anti-ship missiles or antisubmarine weapons.
This situation goes back to a statement made by the Holyoake government in the 1960s that New Zealand did not need to stockpile weapons as, in a crisis, these could be rushed here from the United States.
Since then, successive governments of both the Left and Right have not bothered to come up with the funding for the Orions to have such weapons.
On July 9, 2018, then Defence Minister Ron Mark announced that to replace the Orions, New Zealand was to purchase four P-8A Boeing maritime patrol aircraft at a total cost of $2.346 billion and the first of these would be delivered in 2023.
These aircraft were chosen as several of our allies operate them, in particular, Australia which has 14, equipped with anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine weapons.
There was no mention in the minister's announcement of weapons being included in our purchase and that does mean that New Zealand has not yet committed to equipping our aircraft with weapons. Thus our long-standing record of bludging on our allies when it comes to regional defence, and betraying the professionalism and commitment of our air force personnel, is preserved.
The country most affected by our bludging is, of course, Australia. Australia already spends more than twice as much per taxpayer on defence as New Zealand does and that gap will widen considerably with its recent commitment to acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.
When the decision to purchase the Boeing P-8As was announced, Mark said: "Maintaining a maritime patrol capability is essential for New Zealand's national security and for our ability to contribute to global security efforts."
Imagine what the world would look like today if in the late 1930s Britain had decided "to contribute to global security efforts" by not arming her Hurricanes and Spitfires.
Arming our Orions so as to keep faith with Australia when it comes to regional defence is surely the least we can do to pull our weight. The leaders of the National and Act parties should give a clear indication as to whether they now favour properly arming our new maritime patrol aircraft.
Australia has recently entered into the Aukus pact to build and operate nuclear-powered submarines in response to the Chinese President's belligerent and threatening behaviour towards Taiwan and his illegal claims to sovereignty over large parts of the South China
The problem is, these submarines will not be fully operational until the mid-2040s, by which time the fate of Taiwan may be long sealed and China's claims in the South China Sea will be buttressed by a collection of military bases on man-made islands which the regime of President Xi is currently building.
It increasingly looks like President Xi regards the takeover of Taiwan and the illegal incursion into the South China Sea as legacy projects to be completed before the end of his rule.
When the Xi regime was threatening to take over Hong Kong, in breach of an agreement made with the UK, seven former British foreign secretaries called for united international action to stop this from happening. All to no avail, and the people of Hong Kong have now fallen under the grip of the Xi regime.
To prevent the people of Taiwan from suffering the same fate and to counter the Xi regime's illegal gambit in the South China Sea, a co-ordinated international response is required.
This matter has taken on some degree of urgency as in the first three days of October the Xi regime has chosen to ramp up intimidating flights of Chinese warplanes over Taiwan's air defence zone.
Our Government should commence talks with our friends and allies who constitute the family of nations who always help out when some sort of international crisis arises. This family includes, but is not limited to, the US, the EU, Japan, the UK, India, Scandinavia, Canada, and Australia.
The agenda should be about issuing a warning to the Chinese President that if China attacks Taiwan or takes over Taiwan after threatening such an attack, all members of the family will impose trade and other sanctions on China of sufficient severity to bring the Chinese economic miracle to a dead stop by causing massive economic dislocation and job losses. This would be done regardless of the economic damage that Chinese retaliation may have.
The warning could be expanded to cover the necessity for China to comply with the ruling of the International Court in relation to the issue of sovereignty in the South China Sea.
The Chinese economic establishment must be left in no doubt that, if their President is not reined in or removed, China could be turned into an economic leper colony in very short order.
• David Stevenson is a Wellington-based freelance writer.