Professor Alexander Gillespie on Paris, Isis and the Rainbow Warrior video

CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Alexander Gillespie, professor of international law at the University of Waikato says the French response to the Paris attacks is justified, and thinks New Zealand will end up as allies alongside France, Russia, the United States and England in fighting ISIS.

It perturbs Alexander Gillespie that he's the "bad news guy".

The phone of the University of Waikato professor, who specialises in international law, tends to ring whenever media need an expert opinion on global conflict, climate change, refugees and environmental issues - none of which are anything to smile about.

"People see me on TV and go, oh it's that guy, what's happened."

Alexander Gillespie, Professor of International Law at the University of Waikato is predicting New Zealand will end up ...
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Alexander Gillespie, Professor of International Law at the University of Waikato is predicting New Zealand will end up as an ally alongside France, Russia, the United States and England in fighting ISIS.

He may be a commentator on all things serious now, but Gillespie, who also surfs and boxes, used to lead a much more bohemian lifestyle.

In 1985, he was entrenched in Greenpeace and an aspiring art student who had just painted a ship in bright, bold stripes of red, yellow, blue and white, and a dove on its hull.

The Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the French three days after Gillespie finished the paint job.

"If they'd bombed it a few days earlier they would have saved me a lot of work."

"This is what happens when hippies grow up," he said, sitting under an anti-nuclear artwork he did when he was 15.

He still regards the attack on the Greenpeace vessel as "completely wrong", but said the French response to Isis was completely justified.

"Whenever you have a terror attack governments have to respond with force and something dramatic, and this is dramatic."

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Greenpeace standing in the way of the French nuclear testing in the Pacific can't be compared to France's reaction to the terrorist bombings in Paris, Gillespie said.

"What France did to me wasn't terrorism, it was a crime against humanity, but ... the French weren't going into Auckland cafes and machine gunning everyone."

France is at war with Isis, and so are we, he said.

"They already were at war with them. New Zealand is at war with them as well. By supporting the soldiers in Iraq we are doing exactly the same. We're not in Syria, but we're pretty close.

"We've been at war since [Prime Minister] John Key deployed troops."

Gillespie predicts New Zealand will end up in a United Nations (UN) Alliance against ISIS and said then the right move would be to fight, however it's taken him 30 years to reach that view.

"I used to be of the belief you could solve everything through talk. But sometimes I think in today's world there is evil out there. And there are just some very bad people, and you've got to be prepared to fight."

This would mean sidling up as an ally to France and Russia - which he said would be a bitter pill to swallow for some.

"If we aren't willing to work with Russia it's just going to get worse."

World powers who met in Vienna on the Syria crisis on November 15 have already agreed to push for political negotiations between opposition forces and representatives of President Bashar al-Assad's government by January 1, to be followed by an immediate, United Nations-monitored ceasefire.

"If the peace deal is made between Russia and the western allies and we can agree on what to do with Syria, then we will get a phone call to put proper soldiers on the ground, then people will have to really think about whether it's the right thing to do."

On the refugee crisis, Gillespie said New Zealand can, and should take more. He wants the quota to be increased from 750 per year to 1000, or even 2000 over the long term.

"Refugees are people who have no hope. As humans we have a responsibility to help as many as we can. 

"Rationally, we know 99 per cent of them are normal people who just want to get a job and have a family, but there's a a risk point one of one per cent are bad. People respond to the refugee crisis not in a rational way but in an emotional way."

While he never shies away from the big issues, these days Gillespie is only linked to one non-governmental organisation and a matter close to his heart - Surfers against Sewage.

"If you've ever surfed and you've seen a turd go past, you'll never do it again."

 - Stuff

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