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12 June 2007
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Motions — Nuclear-Free Legislation—20th Anniversary

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Motions

Nuclear-Free Legislation—20th Anniversary

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control) : I move, That this House note that 8 June 2007 is the 20th anniversary of the passing by this House of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 and resolve that New Zealand should continue to work for a nuclear weapon – free world; and that, in striving for a world free of nuclear weapons, the House call for: the implementation and strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the unequivocal undertaking made by nuclear weapon States in 2000 to move towards the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals; the expansion and strengthening of nuclear weapon – free zones and a nuclear weapon – free Southern Hemisphere; the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; the enactment of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty; and the universal implementation of nuclear non-proliferation instruments such as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.

Twenty years ago this month, on 8 June 1987, the fourth Labour Government passed through this House legislation that committed New Zealand to being nuclear-free. In moving the third reading of the legislation, Prime Minister David Lange said that it represented “a fundamental reassessment of what constitutes our security.” He said that nuclear weapons did not guarantee New Zealand’s security but were detrimental to it.

The legislation at the time was controversial. It was bitterly opposed by the National Opposition. National leader Jim Bolger called it “an exercise in futility”. Periodically since then, political parties opposed to being nuclear-free, or political parties that adopt a non-nuclear stance as an opportunistic position rather than an article of faith, have attempted to challenge the legislation. But Lange was prophetic when he stated that “The bill will not allow any successive New Zealand Government to reverse that policy without first going through the test of democratic opinion at the general election and, secondly, without subjecting its legislative process for repeal to the scrutiny of an informed House of Representatives and the general public.” With the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders supporting this country’s nuclear-free status, our being clean, green, and non-nuclear has become an essential part of our identity. The policy has stayed—it was Don Brash who was gone by lunchtime.

The Labour Party opposition to nuclear weapons is, of course, longstanding. At the height of the cold war in 1959 the then Prime Minister Walter Nash, at the United Nations, stood apart from our ANZUS partners to support a treaty to ban nuclear testing. In 1973 Norman Kirk proudly sent a frigate up to the testing zone at Mururoa to protest at French nuclear testing. Martyn Finlay took a case to the International Court of Justice to end atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons—and shortly thereafter that testing did indeed cease.

The fourth Labour Government passed the legislation we are commemorating today—the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act—to set out in statute a prohibition on nuclear weapons in New Zealand and visits by nuclear-powered ships. It was the strongest way we could express our view that far from providing security, the nuclear arms race posed a threat to humanity. Human history, of course, has been marked by conflict, but never before had human beings possessed the ability to entirely destroy their own planet and, with it, humanity—an ability we gained with the possession of nuclear weapons.

This legislation showed two things. First, it showed that New Zealand was prepared to lead the world in opposition to the existence and the build up of nuclear arms. Secondly, it showed our readiness as a small but proudly independent nation to speak out for the values we believed in. In that sense, the nuclear-free legislation has come not only to embody our strong opposition to weapons of mass destruction but also to represent the assertion of our right to promote our firmly held beliefs, without the need first to seek the concurrence of stronger friends or allies.

Twenty years on, is this legislation still relevant and necessary? The answer, I believe, is an unequivocal “Yes”. There continues to be the need for New Zealand to provide a strong voice for nuclear disarmament and against proliferation. The cold war may be over, with some reduction in stockpiles of nuclear weapons, but we have not yet achieved the elimination of those weapons. Indeed, today there is still a stockpile of over 27,000 nuclear warheads, each with an explosive force between eight and 40 times greater than that of the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.

Just last week, in response to the United States’ plans for a nuclear missile defence shield, Russia tested new long-range missiles. President Putin went as far as declaring that the nuclear arms race had restarted. This year China fired a missile into space to destroy a satellite, and progress has not yet been made on preventing the extension of an arms race into outer space. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty has still not come into effect, negotiations have not even begun on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, and the conference on disarmament in Geneva has not progressed for more than a decade. Thousands of nuclear weapons remain on a hair-trigger alert. There would be little time to prevent retaliation if a missile were fired by accident or miscalculation.

The number of countries possessing nuclear weapons has increased by at least three—India, Pakistan, and North Korea—and probably four, with Israel as well. Just 4 years ago two of those countries, India and Pakistan, were on the brink of a conflict that could have become a nuclear conflict. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 30 more countries are capable of going nuclear in a short period. Iran has given the international community grounds for believing that it is seeking nuclear weapons capability, which adds new dangers to an already volatile region, given its hostile relationship with Israel. Terrorist groups are openly acknowledging that their quest is for weapons of mass destruction, thereby creating new nightmare scenarios in the post- 9/11 environment.

Not only does our nuclear-free legislation remain relevant but the leadership stance that New Zealand took in 1987 continues to be necessary. Together with likeminded countries—Ireland, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Egypt—New Zealand makes up the New Agenda Coalition, which continues to push initiatives in vital multilateral negotiations, such as the non-proliferation treaty. With Brazil we are at the forefront of a push to bring nuclear weapon – free zones together into a Southern Hemisphere nuclear weapon – free zone. We strongly support efforts to stop proliferation through active participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative. Under the G8 global partnership we have contributed to projects to destroy chemical weapons in Russia, and to close down the last plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in Siberia. This year we are embarking on a new project to help stop the smuggling of fissile material across the Russia-Ukraine border.

New Zealand contributes to and implements the policies of all export control groups, designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear goods and technologies. We comply with all United Nations Security Council and International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions relating to weapons of mass destruction. We also acknowledge that conventional weapons have killed literally tens of millions of people since the Second World War, in localised conflicts. As Kofi Annan has said, their effect has been to act as weapons of mass destruction. We have played a key role in opposition to landmines and cluster munitions, and in support of an arms trade treaty.

I believe that New Zealand can be proud of its role in disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the specific legislation we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of in the House today. Our greatest challenge may be that having survived six decades with nuclear weapons, the world has become complacent about the dangers they pose. I believe that Albert Einstein’s warning remains relevant. He said: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

It is with real pride that I stand up as part of a Government that has followed on from our predecessor fourth Labour Government, which passed legislation that made New Zealand a leader in the area of opposing the madness of the stockpiling of nuclear weapons and proliferation. We believed it then; we have believed it ever since. We will continue until we achieve the goal of the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, and most particularly of those weapons that are nuclear weapons. Thank you.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays) : The National Party endorses and supports the motion moved by the honourable Minister of Defence today. The fact that both major political parties represented in this Parliament are able to support such a resolution should be, and, I believe, will be, welcomed by the vast majority of New Zealanders. We are a small country with vital interests to advance in relation to trade, security, and international affairs. Where possible, we should speak with one voice on the international stage. I therefore welcome the fact that this motion will enjoy the overwhelming support of the House today.

I take this opportunity to reflect not just on the wider challenges outlined by the Minister’s motion but also on the unresolved issues that remain as a consequence of the legislation that was passed 20 years ago. Few in this House will disagree with the assertion in the motion to “resolve that New Zealand should continue to work for a nuclear weapon free world;”.

The nuclear-free legislation emerged a generation ago from New Zealanders’ concerns over the cold war nuclear arms race. It was a terrifying thought that two nuclear superpowers, the United States and the former Soviet Union, engaged in an arms race seemingly without end, could make a frightful miscalculation with unimaginable consequences for the future of mankind. Only recently there has been some minor skirmishing around that theme, in the lead-up to the recent G8 summit. But only a complete pessimist could survey the stated US-Russia strategic relations today and reach any conclusion other than that we seem to have decisively moved in the right direction. The threat of nuclear holocaust, although still there, has been vastly reduced over the last 15 to 20 years, and we should all celebrate that.

However, the threat of nuclear weaponry has not gone away; it has simply changed its face. Indeed, a rather different agenda of nuclear issues now occupies centre stage—what the pundits call “horizontal proliferation”, or the acquiring of nuclear weapons and nuclear-capable delivery mechanisms by an increasing number of States. Some of these States are deeply unstable. There is, therefore, widespread support in this House for New Zealand’s role in promoting the non-proliferation cause. Domestically, there is agreement between the two major political parties in this House that the nuclear-free legislation passed 20 years ago should be retained. Some would argue that we have come full circle, to the era of largely bipartisan foreign policy of 25 years ago. Certainly, there is very substantial room for us now to find a way forward that allows this country to chart its own foreign policy course, and pursue its interests in trade, security, and defence in a manner that is bipartisan, durable, principled, and worthy of international respect.

It is important, as the House pauses to note the passing of this legislation 20 years ago, that we use this opportunity to look forward. The people of New Zealand did not elect this Parliament to wallow in the memories of the past 20 years, but rather to establish a framework of relationships and understandings that will serve our national interest for the next 20 years.

The New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 was created 20 years ago in a somewhat controversial circumstance. Students of history have recounted in some detail the events that led to the passing of the 1987 Act. It would be fair to say that the Act, however awkward or maladroit its origins, now enjoys the support of the majority of New Zealanders as a central plank of our foreign policy. At the heart of this issue lies the fact that the legislation passed 20 years ago was the first significant assertion of an independent foreign policy by this country. It spelt the end of our participation in the ANZUS alliance, which had, until that time, been the cornerstone of our defence and foreign policy approach. The 1987 legislation is often referred to as iconic. I believe that this is not just because of its specific content but because of the independence of thought and judgment that it asserts for our young country.

My own party, the National Party, which had seen the ANZUS Treaty as the cornerstone of this country’s security arrangements for 50 years, did not easily embrace the nuclear-free legislation. However, the Bolger administration in the 1990s endorsed it, and for 9 years of a National-led Government the legislation was retained. The National Party today endorses the legislation and pledges to retain it. John Key, in the first days of his leadership of the National Party, made that commitment clear.

There is acceptance on both sides, I believe, that a cost is attached to the maintenance of the legislation. That is a simple fact of life. The presidential directive of 20 years ago that responded to New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation with restrictions on the access of New Zealand forces to US intelligence, technology, and joint training opportunities remains in force today. New Zealand does not have a free-trade agreement with the United States, unlike our nearest neighbour, Australia, which, 3 years into the implementation of its free-trade agreement, will provide an increasingly powerful magnet for New Zealand capital and skill. There is a cost associated with the New Zealand policy. It is a cost that New Zealanders are, in the significant majority, happy to bear, but it is also a cost they look to their political leaders to minimise through skilful diplomacy, forceful advocacy, and the exercise of good judgment.

So the retention of this legislation that is called iconic, and that is symbolic of our independence of thought and judgment in international affairs, is not in question. What is in question is how we might best deal with the challenges that remain as a consequence of its somewhat tortured history, and how we might best re-establish the relationships, especially in the vital areas of trade and security, that a country with our heritage, our language, our history of shared sacrifice, and our outlook should be able to have with those who were once our allies and who are nominally—but not quite yet in the fullest operational sense—our very, very good friends. That is the unfinished business of the nuclear-free debate.

For those reasons, the National Party has sought to work with the Government to improve our relationship with the United States. Our previous leader, Dr Brash, Mr Groser, and I were in Washington last year for the United States - New Zealand Partnership Forum, along with Mr Goff, and we took the opportunity to emphasise the bipartisanship of our approach. We have pledged to do what we can to achieve a free-trade agreement between this country and the United States. We have pledged to do what we can to see modification—and, over time, possibly more than modification—of the presidential directive of 20 years ago, which restricts the capacity of New Zealand forces to train with US forces or to have access to high-level technology and intelligence. We have supported the Minister of Defence in his assertion that it is hardly right that New Zealand and US forces should work together in some of the trouble spots of the world, yet be restricted in their ability to train together.

Both of those objectives—in trade and in security—are very much in our national interest. We cannot afford to leave their fortunes to the vagaries of the domestic political cycle. New Zealanders are entitled to see that their elected representatives, regardless of political allegiance, will work together in these matters to serve the national interest. In the spirit of serving that national interest, National members join in supporting the resolution that is before the House today.

PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) : I listened to that speech from the Hon Murray McCully with interest. He did not even crack a smile, and he certainly said it as if he believed what he was saying. But the National Party, if I am correct—and I am sure somebody will correct me if I am wrong—opposed this legislation in 1987. Then National came to power in 1990 and stuck with the legislation. Yet when it got into Opposition in 1999, it said it would be gone by lunch time. Is this not the legislation that the National Party was talking about? Am I correct?

Hon Members: Yes.

PETER BROWN: Now, National members are saying they will stick with it. But I thought the Hon Murray McCully was hinting that they might go the other way because he was saying there was a cost—but at the moment New Zealanders are prepared to bear that cost.

New Zealand First supports this motion. There is reference to it among our 15 founding principles. In fact, there is the statement: “New Zealanders’ desire for a non-nuclear future will be respected.” That has been in our 15 founding principles since the day this party started. We have never departed from that position over the past 14 years, as I say, since our inception, and we remain committed to it today.

There is absolutely no doubt that the vast majority of New Zealand people continue to endorse the view reflected in this legislation; they want New Zealand to remain nuclear-free. Fortunately, our nuclear-free legislation is now being seen by the world for what it actually is. It was never an attempt to thumb our noses at the world but rather an opportunity to express a deeply held sentiment. It did mean that the Government of the time—and New Zealand as a whole—had to paddle its own canoe on the world stage. I thought that the Rt Hon David Lange at that time did a magnificent job. I will never forget that Oxford Union debate. It is impressed on my memory, and I thought he represented his country exceedingly well.

This is core legislation and it is about taking a step to a more idealistic world. New Zealand had the courage, under Prime Minister Lange, to take that step and to make it a reality. New Zealand First supports this motion and firmly supports New Zealand staying nuclear-free.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) : The Green Party strongly supports this motion. Twenty years ago New Zealand became a world power—not a world power in size, not a world power in economic terms, but a world power in moral strength. We spoke out for the majority of humanity who lived—and still live—in fear of nuclear war. We said to the most powerful nuclear-armed State—America—“No, we will not allow your nuclear ships in our ports; these are an unacceptable danger to us and a danger to the world, and we will set an example, a nuclear-free example, for other countries to follow.”

Perhaps the Government of the time did not present it in quite such bold terms, but that was the sentiment of the people. That was the sentiment among the thousands of New Zealanders who had campaigned, petitioned, and marched for the previous 25 years since the formation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1959. There were people like Phil Amos, a Minister in Norm Kirk’s Government, who is being buried in Auckland this afternoon. Phil not only supported Norman Kirk in sending a frigate to Mururoa to protest French nuclear testing but in October 1976, a year after Labour lost power, he also skippered one of the small protest boats that blocked the path of the American nuclear warship, the USS Long Beach, as it tried to enter Auckland Harbour. He was arrested and convicted of obstruction but managed to win on appeal, partly because he was helped by a good lawyer—one David Lange. That was the same man who as Prime Minister later shepherded the antinuclear law through our Parliament.

New Zealanders are rightly proud of our antinuclear status and we want our Government to remain a leading campaigner for nuclear disarmament. We could do a lot more. We have to be more like how we were back in 1987 when we were the mouse that roared—the small nation standing up to the superpower America. Today the main barrier to nuclear disarmament is still the same United States Government. It not only possesses a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons but is escalating the nuclear arms race through “Star Wars” and the building of a so-called missile defence shield. Clearly such a shield will only encourage other nuclear States to increase their nuclear arsenals, so that they are less disadvantaged in any future nuclear confrontation. The nuclear disarmament process has largely stalled, as existing nuclear States go back on their promises, under the non-proliferation treaty, to get rid of all their weapons.

New Zealand has done well in promoting disarmament resolutions as part of the new agenda coalition alongside Sweden, Ireland, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and Egypt. But we need to be more at the forefront of promoting a nuclear weapons convention where all nuclear weapons States buy into a staged process of ceasing production of fissile material and any new bombs, and step by step—but completely—disarming under a tight inspection regime. Unfortunately, New Zealand has yet to take up the offer of Costa Rica and Malaysia to support their nuclear weapons convention proposal in the General Assembly this October. The concept involved is not that radical today. Even former war hawks like George Shultz, who as US Secretary of State in 1985 tried to keep us in the pro-nuclear ANZUS alliance, and Henry Kissinger now say that “Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures towards achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage.” We could also play a more active leadership role in linking up the nuclear-free zones in the South Pacific, South-east Asia, Latin America, and Africa into a southern hemisphere and adjacent areas nuclear-free zone.

Although being firmly against the proliferation of nuclear weapons to new countries, we should not adopt the Bush administration’s biased view of where the main dangers come from. Surely the danger comes more from Israel—secretly nuclear-armed and often engaged in warfare with its neighbours—or the nuclear-armed Pakistani dictatorship than from Iran, which we are not yet even sure wants to acquire nuclear weapons.

New Zealand has done many creditable things since it became nuclear-free. One highlight was the successful campaign that resulted in 1996 in the World Court declaring that the use, or threat of use, of nuclear weapons was generally illegal. That campaign started with a Christchurch magistrate, Harold Evans, expanded to an active New Zealand peace group—the World Court Project—and later gained New Zealand Government backing. It was a fantastic achievement for New Zealand and shows just what we can achieve if we stick to our antinuclear principles and actually try to lead the world. Thank you.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) : I want to honour the countless thousands of New Zealanders over a generation who brought about the 1987 New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act. I note in passing that the Act covers not just nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament—which, of course, is the most important part—but also nuclear energy generation, with the recognition that there is a close connection between the proliferation of nuclear energy and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and that the technologies are quite closely connected.

I honour those people who wrote submissions, marched on countless marches in the street, wrote to and met with politicians, passed motions at Labour Party conferences for 10 years before the Act was passed, and sailed their little boats and even their windsurfers into the paths of visiting nuclear submarines and ships—and even stopped one in its tracks in Auckland harbour. I honour those who took part in the royal commission on nuclear power and managed to defer a technology that was about to be built, and those who organised the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Campaign for Non-Nuclear Futures . I honour Greenpeace, and those who organised Campaign Half Million and collected a third of a million signatures—the largest petition in New Zealand’s history at that stage—at street stalls, by door-knocking, in schools, in churches, in sports clubs, and in businesses.

I note in passing that that organising work was done by the Values Party in the 1970s, the ancestor of the Green Party. It was done anonymously so that the important work would not be contaminated with a political label. Nevertheless, that is where the leadership in those days came from. I want to honour those who designed posters, researched leaflets, and advocated sustainable energy alternatives.

I returned to New Zealand in 1974 after 7 years in Europe to find New Zealand in the midst of a decision as to precisely where to site New Zealand’s first nuclear power station. The citizens of New Zealand stopped that. This was a genuine citizens’ movement that compelled Parliament to act. So I commend not just Parliament and the Government of that time, whose actions were crucial, but the citizens who made it happen.

I remember that in 1983 Helen Caldicott had been visiting and lecturing around the country about how close we were to the imminent risk of nuclear war. The Union of Concerned Scientists had moved its doomsday clock to 4 minutes to midnight. On 6 August 1983, Hiroshima Day , Aotea Square at the end of Queen Street in Auckland was crammed with people preparing to march up Queen Street. A woman turned to me and said: “What a good idea to have a march on Hiroshima Day.”, and I said: “Yes, there are certainly more people than we’ve had for the past 20 years.” She said: “Oh, do you mean people have done this before?”. It was a moment in history when the work of people for decades came together and fired the public imagination.

I also recall that in 1997, on the tenth anniversary of the legislation, as a new member of Parliament I introduced, as a member’s bill, the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill, which set out to fill the gaps in the 1987 legislation. There are some gaps. Not many people realise that although nuclear weapons are prohibited from our 12-mile zone, one can actually station and fire a nuclear weapon 13 miles off the coast of New Zealand, or that although nuclear-powered ships are prohibited from our harbours they are not prohibited from cruising along our coast a very short distance out. We have a responsibility to protect 200 miles of our economic zone, to protect our fisheries, and to protect the environment in that area. Unfortunately, the Government at the time did not proceed with the bill, although it did allow the bill to go to a select committee, and we had an intense debate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which hauled out all its big guns and managed to kill the bill that would have filled those gaps.

Hon Phil Goff: It had something to do with UNCLOS. It’s international law, Jeanette.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS: There were many different ways of reading the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and we had very good legal advice from international lawyers that the convention was compatible with the bill.

So there is a lot of work to do to eliminate nuclear weapons, to implement the test-ban treaty, to disinvest our superannuation savings from nuclear weapons production, and to finish the job of protecting our economic zone.

HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau) :Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Tēnātātou te Whare . I am proud to stand here today on behalf of the Māori Party to honour all those who worked so hard to make Aotearoa nuclear-free many years ago. In doing so I wish to start by honouring Labour Cabinet Minister and Tai Tokerau MP, the Hon Matiu Rata , who sailed with a fleet of yachts to Mururoa to protest against French nuclear-testing in the Pacific. A Cabinet Minister, and a Māori one at that, sailed into a nuclear-testing zone. Me mihi ki a ia.

I express my thanks to my Pacific cousins for their strength and their support dating back more than 30 years to the Conference for a Nuclear Free Pacific in Fiji in 1975 and in Ponape in 1978. I also remember the sterling efforts of people like my mum and others who fought to broaden the scope of those conferences so that by 1983 the conference in Vanuatu produced The Peoples’ Charter for a Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, which stated: “We, the people of the Pacific have been victimised too long by foreign powers. The western imperialistic and colonial powers invaded our defenceless region, they took over our lands and subjugated our people to their whims. This form of alien colonial political and military domination unfortunately persists as an evil cancer in some of our native territories such as Tahiti, New Caledonia, Australia, New Zealand. Our environment continues to be despoiled by foreign powers developing nuclear weapons for a strategy of warfare that has no winners, no liberators and imperils the survival of all humankind. We note in particular the recent racist roots of the world’s nuclear powers and we call for an immediate end to the oppression, exploitation and subordination of the indigenous people of the Pacific.”

I am also reminded that the call for a nuclear-free Pacific came at the same time as the Maori Land March of 1975—a natural connection arising out of colonisation, land confiscation, environmental destruction, and nuclear war. I note that Māori have always had a strong presence in the fight for a nuclear-free Aotearoa, including Matiu Rata, NgānekoMinhinnick, Pauline Tangiora, Grace and Sharon Robertson, and indeed my own wife Hilda Halkyard amongst many others. Indeed, it was not long after the first national black women’s hui held in Tau Henare’s home town of Ōtara in 1980 that the Pacific People’s Anti-Nuclear Action Committee was set up by Hilda Halkyard-Harawira and Grace Robertson. They had no money but their own, no resources save those they could appropriate, a tiny office at Kōkiri te Rāhuitanga ki Ōtara, and attitude to burn. The committee’s goals were based on The Peoples’ Charter for a Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific, and in 1980 the committee hosted Te Hui Oranga o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, at TātaiHono Marae in Auckland. At that time, TātaiHono was the home base to the notorious Anglican activist, the Rev. Hone Kaa; the stay-over for people involved in Bastion Point occupations; the launching pad for He Taua, the War Party, that in 60 seconds ended decades of racist abuse at Auckland University; the theatre for indigenous performances like Maranga Mai; the debating chamber for the Waitangi Action Committee; the meeting place for the Patu squad during the Springbok Tour trials; the breeding ground for independent Māori thought; and a seething hotbed of Māori radicalism.

Te Hui Oranga was an extremely important hui for Māori because it dragged us, kicking and screaming, out of our own world and connected us to people facing similar issues in the Pacific. Te Hui Oranga attracted more than 120 people from all over the Pacific, who had gathered for a common purpose: “to speak of land rights movements throughout the Pacific in their broadest context, and the struggle of indigenous people everywhere to regain power over their lives and lands, and resist global military and economic interests.”

Te Hui Oranga was the first of its kind in Aotearoa, bringing four international leaders to the forum, including Charlie Ching, a Tahitian independence leader; Grace Smallwood and Mike Smith, Koori from north Queensland; and MariflorParpan of the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, and helping Māori to see their own plight as part of a global movement.

I also want to use this anniversary of the 1987 legislation to acknowledge others who helped shape that history; a history where Herbs expressed the nation’s anti-nuclear feelings through songs like “French Letter”, “No Nukes”, “Light of the Pacific”, and “Nuclear Waste”; a history that poet Hone Tuwhare captured in his own special ode to nuclear madness, “No Ordinary Sun”; a history that links us through the threat of nuclear destruction to the people of the Marshall Islands, who still suffer from American nuclear tests, the people of Bikini and Rongelap, evacuated and devastated by the surface testing of US nuclear weapons; our cousins from Tahiti Nui who have been killed and mutilated by French nuclear-testing on Mururoa and Fangataufa; New Zealand, Australian, and Pacific military used as guinea pigs in the British nuclear programmes on Malden Island and Christmas Island; the Koori people pushed out of the Maralinga desert for nuclear testing; the people of Kwajalein forced to host the Ronald Reagan missile test site; and the people of Guam and Hawaii who continued to enjoy the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, battleships, bombers, and military operations. It is a history that links the Pacific and a common resistance against the effects of colonisation—physical, cultural, spiritual, economic, nuclear, and military—and a history with a common struggle for self-determination and independence.

I want to acknowledge, too, the importance of the anti-nuclear protests during that time in helping to define a distinctive identity here in Aotearoa. Following on from the strident Viet Nam protests, there was the Maori Land March, the protests at Waitangi, the many land occupations throughout the country as Māori took their own place in the new world, and the protests against the Springbok Tour.

I also acknowledge the work of international organisations like Greenpeace, and I make special mention here of Fernando Pereira, whom my wife and I had the privilege to meet just hours before he was killed when the Rainbow Warrior was blown up by French agents and sunk in Auckland Harbour. I acknowledge, too, the efforts of ordinary Kiwis who raised their opposition to nuclear power, from 30 percent in 1978 to more than 90 percent by 1986.

I acknowledge Helen Clark for pushing the bill to make Aotearoa nuclear-free, when a lot of her own party were not particularly keen on it. I acknowledge Marilyn Waring, the National MP who voted with her conscience and supported the Opposition’s nuclear-free New Zealand bill, and brought down our own Government in the process.

I acknowledge David Lange for whopping Jerry Falwell on the public stage in Oxford in a debate, “That nuclear weapons are morally indefensible”, winning the debate, and earning international admiration for our position. I particularly acknowledge all New Zealanders for not allowing our Governments to cave in when the Yanks tried to force us to back down.

Our anti-nuclear status is now an integral part of our society, something we must never forget, and something we must always be prepared to step forward on. We must never forget the courage of those who fought for our country to be nuclear-free, and we must never forget those who continue to suffer ongoing problems from nuclear testing.

In closing, let me quote from the re-versioning of Hone Tuwhare’s poem “No Ordinary Sun” as it was re-presented by Maranga Mai all over the nation, as a warning to us all that this fight is nowhere near over.

Tree—let your arms fall; don’t raise them to the bright cloud

Soon, they will lack toughness

For this is no mere axe to blunt or fire to smother you

Your sap won’t rise again to the pull of the moon

Your ears bend to the winds talk or stir to the trickle of rain

Your branches won’t be wreathed with the delightful flight of birds

Or shield lovers from the bright sun.

Tree—let your arms fall; don’t raise them to the bright cloud

For this is no ordinary sun.

No ordinary sun.

And your end is written at last …

Kia ora tātou.

Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) : As a member of Parliament in 1987 I was proud to vote for New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation, and were similar legislation to come before the House today, I would be proud to support it again. But the real significance of that legislation has only in recent years dawned upon the New Zealand consciousness, and I want to return to that theme a little later on.

I think that if we go back to the 1960s, the 1970s, and the 1980s, we can see that the anti-nuclear call was as much about New Zealand asserting its identity in the world as it was about a commitment to a genuinely anti-nuclear future. When Norman Kirk sent the frigate Otago to Mururoa in 1973, and he stood on the wharf at Devonport and said: “We may only be a small nation but we send a message to the world by this act.”, most New Zealanders at that point said that that was absolutely right. That was a mark of our position in the world; that was our statement about where we stood.

Again, when Martyn Finlay stood up at the World Court and presented the case, with the reluctant Australians in tow, that was New Zealand asserting its position. A decade later, the Lange Government did the same. The cynics may say that the anti-nuclear mantle of that Government was a convenient cloak for the economic reforms that were going on in parallel time. There may be some truth in that, but I think it is a cynical view. But there is no doubt that, as with the Kirk era earlier, David Lange and his Government were able to take on that anti-nuclear role and shape a New Zealand identity around it.

I recall being a very young—and I stress that—MP in Washington when Mr Lange passed through on his way to the Oxford Union debate. What was extraordinary was watching the way in which the local television and news services reported his presence in the United States. “Prime Minister Lange is in town”, the stories said—not “Prime Minister Lange from New Zealand, that little country down at the end of the Pacific”.

In that moment David Lange assumed a position on the world stage, in the way we talk about President Bush or Prime Minister Blair. They do not have be qualified in terms of where they are from. It was as though people knew it was Prime Minister Lange from New Zealand. Watching the way the American media reacted to this man—who was a strange man, really, because, after all, he was challenging all that was orthodox to them—their deference, respect, and curiosity made it very comforting, and made me feel very proud as a New Zealander that that was our leader, standing up for our country. It was still that identity issue.

Again, a decade later, when Jim Bolger sent not a frigate, as we did not have too many of those in those days, but a weather-research ship, or something of equivalent nature up to Mururoa, it was a part of the New Zealand story. I remember that Brian Neeson and Chris Carter drew lots to make sure they could be there together, and Mr Hodgson was there at one point, as well.

While all of those things were going on, and the anti-nuclear message was becoming implanted in the New Zealand conscience, and with it that sense of “clean, green” New Zealand and all of that spin-off, I think, if we are brutally honest, we were a little less aware of the broader global picture. The fact was that nuclear weapons were still being produced, nuclear weapons were still being targeted, and rogue States still existed—as they do today—with the capacity to inflict immense destruction with their indiscriminate and irresponsible use of such weapons. It has really only been in the years since 2000, I believe, that we have started to focus much more strongly on the international context and on the need to be active in asserting not so much New Zealand’s identity, important though that is, but the need for international agreements and limitations, and the move to disarmament.

That is why I believe the commemoration, and this resolution, is so timely. Yes, it is great to wallow in a bit of nostalgia, and a few of us did of that yesterday. We all looked considerably fresh and youthful—I know Mr Goff would agree with me, and Mr Anderton, as well—as we lined up for those photos. It was a sense of vigour, rediscovered.

That is important, in terms of history, for those of us who were there, but today the important thing is really to talk about what we do about those States that are still part of the nuclear club. Just in the last week or so we have had a reminder of how tense things are, with the byplay between Mr Putin and President Bush over whether we will have missiles relocated in parts of Europe and pointed in certain directions. It points out how fragile the international environment is. Although we can sit here, secure and confident in our status, there is still an almighty job to be done in the international community.

I remember going to the NATO headquarters in 1985, and thereby hangs a tale. I am the only New Zealander, and, I think, probably the only person ever, to have got into NATO without any form of identification, other than an old New Zealand driver’s licence—the ones that did not even have a photograph on them—but that was all I had with me. I remember the Secretary-General, a gentleman from Austria whose name temporarily escapes me, making a point somewhat sneeringly but I think truthfully. He said: “Oh, it is all very well for you in New Zealand. Of course, if we lived as far away from the scenes of international conflict as you do, we would be nuclear-free as well.”

That is the challenge. We have the luxury of isolation and we should hold on to that and the position of our nuclear-free status. But we need to be much more active, I believe, in pursuing disarmament issues internationally. I say that with no disrespect to the current Minister, but I really think the change that has occurred as a result of our anti-nuclear stand becoming mainstream is that the old mantra we used to chant about this being New Zealand’s policy and not for export—we were not trying to convince the world in those days—should be changed.

Maybe we should be trying to convince the world, and maybe we should be using that position of moral leadership more effectively than we have done over a long period of time. We used to say that this was just a New Zealander policy. We were proud of it, but we did not want to be promoting more broadly what others called the New Zealand disease. In that time we have seen Iran and Pakistan acquiring a nuclear capacity and a nuclear status, and there are ongoing questions about Israel and others.

There is a role for a country like New Zealand—that watching sentinel that Norman Kirk talked about all those years ago—to be in the forefront. We should be active in bringing other countries to account for their acquisition, maintenance, and upgrading of their nuclear arsenals. So I look on this resolution as not so much a celebration of our status and the fact that this legislation has endured for 20 years—and now has if not all-party support, most-party support—and will endure for the next 20 years and beyond, but much more a challenge of what we need to do to ensure that our children grow up in a peaceful and nuclear-free world. We can be satisfied about what we have achieved, and that is good, but the challenge from here is about what we need to do to ensure that the benefits we so confidently took upon ourselves are delivered for our children and our children’s children.

I think that the timeliness of this resolution is a reminder of what yet needs to be done, and I hope that in 20 years’ time Parliament—and maybe some of us might still be here; who knows, because we will be youthful enough—will be able to celebrate the achievements of the next 20 years. [Interruption] I am very positive! I know that Mr Anderton wants to be here in 20 years, and I am sure there will be a few of us here to help him along the way.

But, seriously, we can celebrate what we have done to ensure that our world is better, as a result of the moves initiated in New Zealand by successive generations of politicians. So I am very pleased to support the motion, and I look forward to what the next stage of this journey will be.

HEATHER ROY (Deputy Leader—ACT) : I rise on behalf of ACT New Zealand to support the Minister’s motion. ACT supports the fact that New Zealand should continue to work for a nuclear weapon – free world and strive for a world free of nuclear weapons.

I note that the motion also draws the House’s attention to the fact that last Friday, 8 June, was the 20th anniversary of the passing of the nuclear-free legislation. That legislation has in fact been a double-edged sword, and I think we should also look at other dates in history, in particular 8 June 1942 when Japanese submarines shelled the Australian cities of Sydney and Newcastle. That should act as a timely reminder that New Zealand, perilously close to Australia, is not immune to external threat, even today.

A little bit of history, I think, is important in this whole debate. The history of New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy is revealing. It began when the Labour Government, the Lange Government, in 1987 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act. The move was very popular within the Labour Party at the time, and I think that not much has been made of that today.

Many members of the Labour Party at that time were very angry about the free-market reforms being passed to deal with the economic mess that Lange had inherited in 1984. The anti-nuclear legislation gathered the left of the party around him—something that obviously was very desirable to him at that time. It is often forgotten that he initially sought to ban only nuclear weapons but was persuaded to ban all nuclear vessels from New Zealand shores at that time. It was not a big issue, because nuclear weapons were nuclear-armed. However, the cold war was about to end surprisingly quickly, and to end in favour of the democracies. One result was a significant de-escalation of nuclear tension. Nuclear weapons were removed from surface ships, including those that were nuclear-powered.

Today, visiting warships, from whatever nation, are certain not to be nuclear-armed, but they are unwelcome in New Zealand waters anyway. This is most unfortunate, as the United States of America is New Zealand’s most important ally. Key in this debate is the fact that the issue of nuclear weapons has become confused with the issue of the peaceful use of radioactive fuel. There is an overwhelming agreement that New Zealand should not be used as a base for nuclear weapons—an agreement that ACT certainly supports—and this policy is consistent with international obligations to limit the spread of nuclear weaponry.

The use of nuclear propulsion, however, is a completely different issue and should be considered as a peaceful use of radioactive material. New Zealand is not nuclear-free. It already has a number of industries that use radioactive material. We import 3,000 radioactive material shipments each year. Kiwis have over 1 million dental x-rays and over 2 million medical x-rays every year. Radioactive material is used frequently for medical treatment, for scientific research, and in the sterilisation of food. In the energy debate, a significant minority favour nuclear power, and any informed debate would include this as an option. Even some high-profile Greens, including Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, advocate nuclear power as the environmentally acceptable power of the future.

The nuclear propulsion debate has become emotive and confused, preventing reasoned debate based on sound, scientific evidence—something that Minister Hodgson used to be in favour of, but not today, it would appear. A nuclear-powered ship’s reactor is simply a micro-reactor powering a turbine that in turn powers the ship.

Safety issues were certainly very well investigated and reported in the 1992 Somers report, a report commissioned by the Bolger Government to examine public safety and environmental concerns in relation to visits to New Zealand ports by nuclear-propelled ships. It is sad that National members did not see fit to mention that in their speeches today. Mr Bolger was keen to improve our relationship with the United States at that time, but was aware of the unpopularity of nuclear weapons. The Somers report found that no concerns justified the continuation of the legislative ban. These findings have been steadfastly ignored. I quote from the report: “The operational record of powered vessels of the United States and Britain is such that there has never been an accident to a propulsion reactor involving a significant release of radiation.”

One surprising statistic is that at the time of the writing of the report, more nuclear radiation was emitted from Auckland Hospital in one day than was emitted by the US Navy in that year. The Somers report is a very thorough investigation, well-constructed and easy to read, and I can recommend it to members of this House. It is well worth the effort for those who would like to be reliably informed.

Forgotten in this whole debate is the fact that no nuclear-propelled surface vessel carries nuclear weapons today. It is also a fact that no nuclear or conventionally powered foreign warship would ever visit New Zealand ports without the consent of the New Zealand Government. The current legislative ban is totally unnecessary and extremely offensive to our allies. Labour and National Governments, since legislation was enacted, have maintained that they want to preserve a good working relationship with our traditional allies, but the ban is akin to saying to friends: “Come for dinner, but I don’t like the sound of your car engine so don’t drive down my street.”

Former ACT MP Ken Shirley submitted a member’s bill before Parliament seeking to remove clause 11 of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act, which bans nuclear ships from entering New Zealand’s ports and territorial waters. Neither Labour nor National supported Mr Shirley’s bill. We need a reasoned debate based on sound science. Instead, we have political decisions based on hysteria and unfounded fear.

The fact is that Labour’s nuclear-free legislation has passed its use-by date. By clinging to it, we are allowing relations with our traditional allies to deteriorate. British and United States war ships, whether nuclear or conventionally powered, never visit New Zealand, and we are no longer privy to the high level of security intelligence or the joint training exercises that our defence force previously enjoyed. That has been the flipside of the nuclear legislation to this country.

New Zealand has made a huge contribution to international peace and freedom, but we have also been a recipient of foreign military assistance, particularly from the United States during the Pacific theatre of World War II. Clinging to this outdated legislation means that we may not be able to rely on such assistance ever again.

The main problem with the nuclear debate is that the anti-nuclear sentiment and the anti-American bias intrinsic within it reaches the feverish pitch of hysteria whenever the issue is raised. There is much confusion about the differences between nuclear propulsion, nuclear weapons, and nuclear power as an energy source, and the neo-pacifists find it politically convenient to deliberately blur the very clear lines of demarcation between them.

In Europe a significant core of green politicians are now promoting nuclear power as the cleanest and most efficient source of energy. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has been talking about the use of uranium in recent months. Can we now expect to see a backlash against these proponents of a safe and efficient means of energy production? I suspect not. Instead, there has been celebration of the 20th anniversary of a nuclear-free New Zealand. There will be no useful debate on our security measures for the future, no thought given to the assistance our allies have given us—such as the battle of the Coral Sea during World War II—and no discussion about how or why we enjoy the freedoms we do today.

Helen Clark has famously said that we live in a benign strategic environment. She is wrong. The reality is that New Zealand is at risk of external threats and can no longer rely on our allies to come to our aid when we have gone a long way towards alienating them. That said, ACT does support the motion before the House today. We realise that the repealing of this legislation is just a small part in this whole debate, and ACT, along with the other parties in this House, supports the motion before the House.

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive) : The Progressive party supports this resolution. I must say that I thought the ACT party supported it, but the previous speech must be the most amazingly half-hearted one in favour of the resolution and against nuclear proliferation that I have ever heard.

As an agricultural-based economy we need a nuclear accident like we need a hole in the head, and that was one of the driving forces originally in this legislation. The year 1987 was remarkable for New Zealand: KZ7 sailed for the America’s Cup, the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup, and our nuclear-free laws became part of New Zealand’s identity. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our nuclear laws, I hope we will hear echoes of the other great achievements of 1987 later this year. There is a lot to recall when we look back down the dusty roads and winding years that brought us to the nuclear-free law.

I recall that the law, for all its popularity today, was not easily won. I recall that Fernando Pereira died aboard the Rainbow Warrior, which had been campaigning in the Pacific against nuclear tests. I remember that public opinion took its time to come around to the antinuclear view—so did the National Party, I might say. I remember the opprobrium heaped on those of us on the front lines in the battle for this law, and I remember a list that contains the names of many of my parliamentary colleagues, including the Prime Minister in this Government. Marilyn Waring showed extraordinary courage in virtually bringing down a Government over the nuclear issue.

Among the public there was more courage. I recall the sailors whom I joined, who took their boats on to our harbours in order to state their opposition. I recall going out on a 35-foot keeler when the nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarine Pintado came into the Waitematā Harbour. I was out there when the New Zealand Herald took a photo of a young kid on a windsurfer confronting its awesome size and power—just a kid against the might, power, and enormous black threat of a nuclear-armed submarine; just a person standing alone, saying no. The New Zealand Herald put the photo on its front page under the heading “The courage of peace”. In that same year I went to Canada and talked at the Vancouver centennial peace conference. I showed the audience that front page, and there was a spontaneous standing ovation from 80,000 people. Kids sent me cards from all over Canada thanking New Zealand for having the courage to say no to nuclear weapons.

When this law was passed, 20 years ago, I stood in this House and said that the passage of the law was the culmination of years of commitment, of an intelligent analysis of the issues involved, and of the courage on the part of thousands of New Zealanders who had protested against nuclear weapons from the time they were first used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I said that the bill was a tribute to all those New Zealanders who were loyal to their nation in their dissent, and that included tens of thousands of Labour Party members of the day, who were staunch in their opposition to nuclear weaponry. I continue to believe that the bill stands as a tribute to them today.

When we remember this bill we might remember that even inside the Labour Party at the time there were those who had to be strongly encouraged to support the law. I recollect going on television as president of the Labour Party the night after the 1984 election and insisting that this bill would be passed as a priority for the incoming Government. I recollect very clearly that a few of my colleagues thought that I should not have insisted on stating Labour policy so explicitly. David Lange rightly deserves special credit for championing New Zealand’s nuclear-free status, but I always said there was some irony in this, because his initial stance was less fulsomely opposed.

Attempts were made, of course, to bully New Zealand when we passed our legislation. I always have a strong personal regard for the way our Commonwealth cousins the Canadians respected and supported our right to make our own decisions. Many years later we have put aside the struggles of those days, and I welcome that. But the need for this law is as urgent as it ever was. The nuclear threat is as present and as desperate as it ever was. Last week we had the obscene threat of a new nuclear arms race in Europe. President Putin’s threat to aim nuclear weapons at Europe was a shameful deterioration from the brink of hope that we reached at the end of the cold war.

Just this week an international conference is under way in Miami discussing ways to prevent nuclear terrorism. The prospect that terrorists might get hold of nuclear weapons is deeply troubling, and it drives home the need to keep the pressure on against nuclear proliferation. The more nuclear weapons there are, the more certain it is that they will be used by someone, sometime. It is not only terrorists who pose a grave threat, however. When North Korea tested a nuclear bomb this year, we entered the age where nuclear weapons are in the hands of fanatics. This was a tragedy for New Zealand, too, because we had been part of the global effort to keep nuclear weapons out of North Korea’s hands.

Since our nuclear-free law was passed, the world has swooped dangerously close to nuclear confrontation. India and Pakistan came close to a conflict at the end of the 20th century. Of course, our nuclear legislation was never going to have an effect on confrontations like those, but what we could hope to do was to inspire others with the promise of peace. We can show that a country can walk outside the nuclear umbrella and still not be threatened or suffer economic pressure. It is sad for us that more countries have not followed New Zealand’s lead. Now Iran is developing a nuclear capacity. If it develops weapons, then others in that region will follow. I ask members to imagine nuclear-armed Israel being confronted by a nuclear-armed Hezbollah. If nuclear weapons proliferate, we will surely see them used again one day, and they will be used against masses of civilians. Civilisation is owed better than that.

New Zealand can stand only as a symbol of sanity. Our nuclear-free law is the best that we can offer the world. I never agreed with those who said our policy was not for export. I wanted other countries to be inspired by our example, and I saw many that were. I want the world to see that we do not need nuclear arms, that we can say no, and that we can do better. So I celebrate our nuclear-free law as the most profound contribution New Zealand can make to a more peaceful world.

When I spoke in the third reading debate on this legislation in June 1987, I said its passage through the House was a proud moment for New Zealand. It remains a proud moment today. Nuclear weapons made us rethink everything about war. We should never be afraid to rethink old ways. Today the world faces new challenges that we barely understood in 1987. The passage of the nuclear-free bill was a statement of our determination as a country to commit to the future of our planet and everyone and everything that lives on it. Our commitment to accepting the challenge of climate change is motivated by a comparable idealism, and we need equally far-sighted solutions.

The passing of this law stands as a great day in New Zealand’s modern history. I am proud of having been there to vote for it. I am proud of having fought for the policy inside this House and, earlier, inside the Labour Party, and on New Zealand streets and harbours. I believe that our confidence in the success of the law has been vindicated.

Many people all over the world, including Governments, recognise that New Zealand’s standing firm for the values of peace in a safer world is inherent in our antinuclear stance. I believe that the time will come when even our very, very good friends in the United States will thank New Zealanders for their antinuclear stance. We will see it having enhanced security in the world, including the United States itself. I believe that our friends will one day say: “Actually, you were right, and we thank you for your courage in standing firm.” That day will not come immediately but I believe it will come before the next 20th anniversary of the Act. Mr Dunne was kind enough to suggest that I might be here then; whether I should be here is another matter, of course—time will tell. But all New Zealanders will look forward to that day. In the meantime, we will continue to develop our relationships internationally and stand as people committed to the values of global peace and the progressive removal of weapons that threaten all humanity.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) : I seek leave to table a couple of documents that I referred to in my speech. The authors of the first document are George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn. It is entitled “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons”.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

KEITH LOCKE: The second document I seek leave to table is the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention document submitted by Costa Rica to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty conference in April and May of this year.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
  • Motion agreed to.