Mixing Business with Politics? The Role and Influence of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum
Since 2004, the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), an annual bilateral business-led Forum, has facilitated the engagement of high level state and non-state Australian and New Zealand actors in debate, unofficial dialogue, networking, information and idea exchange. Yet very little is known about the event, who participates and what the ANZLF produces. Drawing on extensive interviews with key participants and organisations, this thesis examines the Forum’s genesis, its form and modalities, and the substance of the meetings. While the literature on “track two” diplomacy and regional integration often exaggerates the importance of business and other non-official actors in the process, evidence from the ANZLF case suggests that these participants merely promote, but do not transform trans-Tasman economic integration policy. Rather, the ANZLF has served as a tool for governments to expand their capacities and to draw on alternative resources. The ANZLF is an example of unofficial diplomacy helping governments to build strategic relationships with a variety of non-governmental actors to advance specific objectives. From a New Zealand perspective, the thesis argues the Leadership Forum has been beneficial in building relationships, networks and trust as the country engages in asymmetrical integration with Australia.