“The Defence Minister needs to explain whether he’s following the law when he interfered in a staff essay writing competition,” says ACT’s Defence spokesperson Dr James McDowall.

“Peeni Henare contacted the Chief of Defence and demanded that an award-winning essay, that he hadn’t even read, be removed from the Defence website.

“This is cancel culture in camouflage. The essay titled “Can the Army afford to go woke” raised a series of relevant points reasonable people could choose to agree or disagree with.

“It also shows an unfocussed Minister spending too much time in the wrong foxhole.

“Imagine being the Chief of Defence trying to defend New Zealand’s interests in an increasingly complex and hostile strategic environment and the Minister rings up to interfere in the staff essay contest.

“The story sounds absurd but separation between politicians and military operations is one of our most important constitutional safeguards. One way you know a country is in trouble is when politicians start micromanaging the military.

“Section 25(2) of the Defence Act 1990 says "The Minister shall give to the Chief of Defence Force written terms of reference (not being inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Act) setting out the terms and conditions of appointment as Chief of Defence Force, the duties and obligations of that appointment, and the manner in which the Government expects those duties and obligations to be carried out; and it shall be the duty of the Chief of Defence Force to perform the functions and to exercise the powers of the Chief of Defence Force in accordance with those terms of reference".

“Did the Minister ahere to the law by issuing written terms of reference to the Army? Or does he just phone up the Chief of Defence when he feels like it, banana republic style.

“The Minister should be ensuring the Army is fighting for our freedom, not against it.”