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Nukes and Nats a Real Risk to Public Safety
was Jeanette’s message in Question Time on Wednesday 16 June.
Green Party questions in the House today have confirmed that the National Party is out of step with international thinking on the safety of nuclear-propelled ships.
Jeanette asked Foreign Minister Phil Goff if his Government was aware that nuclear ships are banned from a number of ports around the world – including New York, London and Sydney – and of the stockpiling of iodine anti-cancer tablets near British naval bases.
“National is actively misleading the public of New Zealand with its claims that there is little or no risk in having nuclear-propelled ships in our ports,” said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party’s Environment Spokesperson.
“The papers I tabled in the House today show that throughout the Western World there are concerns about the safety of the reactors on these ships.
and her question is below, in analysis.
No More Troops for Iraq
was the Green position expressed by Defence and Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke on 9 June.
Keith warned against the Government sending more troops to Iraq, following the adoption of the new resolution 1546 by the United Nations Security Council. “I hope the Government rejects any call for extra New Zealand troops following the UN vote,” he said.
“While the occupying force may be technically more legitimate under the new resolution, the Iraqi people will remain suspicious of it. It is unlikely that the unelected Iraqi Interim administration will exercise any real power over the US-led force. New Zealand should not be putting troops on the ground but pushing for a full transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis.
“It is fanciful to think that US troops are suddenly going to treat the local people with respect, or cancel the hundreds of millions dollars worth of business contracts unjustly handed out to American firms,” Keith said.
Auckland, Monday 21 June
, 7 p.m., 308 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn. ‘
Challenges to Civil Liberties in the ‘War on Terrorism
‘ – the inaugural Green Forum. All welcome.
, Green Human Rights Spokesperson, speaking about how legislative changes have given police and intelligence agencies greater powers to do such things as intercept our communications or clamp down on protesters in the name of counter-terrorism;
Rodney Harrison QC
, lead barrister in current Ahmed Zaoui and Tongan media rights case, who will give an overview of the current difficulties; and
, editor of the New Zealand Civil Rights handbook and chair of the Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, who recently helped organise the “Big Brother” awards to those threatening our privacy. He will concentrate mainly on privacy issues.
Auckland, Saturday, 26 June
, 10-30am to 12 noon, Room 018, Clock Tower Building, 22 Princes Street, Building No 105 – ‘
Together against Torture
‘ – a seminar in recognition of the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
Issues to be covered include: what international law is in place protecting people from torture and how effective has the 1987 UN Convention against Torture been? the screening of asylum seekers and the assessment of their non- accidental injuries; treatment and services available for refugees suffering from post traumatic stress disorder; and refugees who have experienced torture will tell their stories. Organised by the Centre for Continuing Education, University of Auckland. Please register if you are planning on going, quoting course code G2.922, to register or for more info contact (09) 373 7599 x 87831 / 87832.
Wellington, Thursday, 24 June
, 7 p.m., St John’s Presbyterian Church Hall, corner Willis and Dixon Streets – public meeting on Palestine with Helen Te Hira (Nga Puhi, Te Rarawa).
Helen, a trade unionist and member of ARENA, has recently returned from Palestine where she visited the Union of Palestine Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) and met with youth and student organisations inside Israel and Palestine. The WPG works with ARENA to fund UPMRC primary health care projects in the Occupied Territories. Catch up with the latest developments and put the plight of the Palestinians back into focus. Organised by the Wellington Palestine Group.
The Budget and Security – Too Much and Not Enough
was Keith Locke’s message in his speech on the budget yesterday. It is reproduced below:
I want to address whether this Budget will give New Zealanders a greater sense of security. In one sense it will. Significant financial assistance is to go to poorer people to make them feel more secure, and that is good.
But do we not also have a duty to help make poorer people throughout the world feel more secure? The Budget fails to meet their needs by giving only $15 million a year extra in overseas development assistance, which only keeps up with inflation. New Zealand’s aid spending has increased from only 0.23 percent to 0.24 percent of gross national income (GNI), a far cry from the longstanding international standard of 0.7 percent of GNI.
The Government is spending extra money on international security; it is just that the money is going in largely the wrong direction – to increase the intelligence and military capacity of the rich Western countries to keep rebellion in the poorer countries in check.
Iraq is a case in point. Iraqis have rebelled in one way or another since the Americans occupied their country and asserted control over their economy. The New Zealand response has not been all bad, in that we have given some reconstruction assistance post the war. But New Zealand has also legitimised the US-led occupation force – much to the expressed pleasure of the Bush administration – by embedding our army engineers in a British military unit.
In addition, New Zealand has put a frigate and an Orion in the Gulf as part of an American-led Western effort to assert dominance over the seas around the Arabian Peninsula. Of course, our Government says that the frigate and Orion are there to fight terrorism – not that they have discovered any terrorists, or are ever likely to – and it uses the same anti-terrorist excuse for sending our SAS, at considerable expense, to fight with American forces in Afghanistan.
Actually, it is exactly the American policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and towards the Israel-Palestine situation that is, unfortunately, producing a terrorist response. Of course, no sane person would support in any way the terrorist acts against innocent people that have occurred in some Islamic countries recently. But by operating alongside the American military in the Middle East, New Zealand is actually contributing to the terrorist problem rather than being part of a solution.
Instead of providing more overseas aid, which would be part of the solution, the Budget increases spending on fighting what the Government calls “international terrorism’. In fact, it achieves just the opposite. The budgets of the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau have gone up by a whopping 28 percent. The police get an extra $14.8 million to form dedicated national security teams to counter terrorism. Three million dollars a year is being dedicated to a Pacific security fund as part of a silly campaign to have the island nations waste scarce resources on anti-terrorist measures, when the chances of finding a terrorist amongst the coconut palms is virtually zilch.
There is also a smorgasbord of other so-called security measures that the Government is spending money on, allegedly to make things tougher for international terrorists but in reality, and mainly, undermining our civil liberties and privacy.
These include granting the police and intelligence agencies new surveillance powers to intercept our emails, to hack into our computers, to put biometric identifiers on our passports, and, in relation to passports, even to give the State the power to take away our passports on vague national security grounds. The Government is adapting to the mean-spirited, anti-foreigner paranoia so promoted by Winston Peters.
The latest example is putting traffic police on tracking down overstayers – a move likely to lead to racial targeting and the antagonism of ethnic communities towards the police, which will only make it more difficult to solve real crimes.
Ahmed Zaoui is the most prominent victim of anti- foreign sentiment. Mr Zaoui’ s case shows how extra spending on intelligence services can produce exactly the wrong result. The Algerian Government has branded its democratic opponents, including Mr Zaoui, as terrorists. The French Government, with big interests in Algerian oil, supports the repressive Algerian Government and has helped smear Mr Zaoui internationally. Our small SIS does not like to buck its big brothers overseas, including the French intelligence service, so it wants to do the French service’s bidding and get rid of Mr Zaoui. Instead of New Zealand contributing to the democratisation and development of Algeria, and thereby reducing the danger of terrorism, it is in effect helping the Algerian generals and French oil interests by detaining Mr Zaoui for what is now 18 months.
The Green Party says that this is not the way to a more secure New Zealand and a more secure and just world.
Greens do not Join Tributes to Ronald Reagan
. In choosing not to pay tribute to the former president in Parliament on 15 June, the Greens were mindful of his record in office. Some of the things to be concerned about were outlined by Filipino professor Walden Bello, of Focus on the Global South, on 10 June:
“Ronald Reagan: a View from the Global South
One thing you can say about Ronald Reagan: he knew when to cut and run. When a suicide bomber took the lives of 241 US marines in Lebanon in 1983, he withdrew the US intervention force without batting an eyelash, keen to avoid what he and his advisers feared was a morass that could compromise the US strategically. His stubborn ideological successor at the White House could take a few lessons from him on when to retreat.
The Lebanon withdrawal, however, is the one positive element that this writer sees in the Reagan record.
His strategic policy was scary: to get Washington to achieve decisive nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union and prepare it for the possibility of a “limited nuclear war” with the Soviets. Détente was abandoned and the number of potential targets in the Soviet Union was raised from 25,000 to an astounding 50,000 sites by his nuclear war planners.
It was actually in the Third World, however, that Reagan waged war, and he did it with the gusto of a playground bully where and when he could get away with it. Early on, he invaded minuscule Grenada and ousted its left-leaning government, with his diplomats manufacturing a “request” for intervention from the little known Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Also brazen in its violation of international law was his mining of Nicaragua’s harbors and his financing and arming of mercenaries- the “contras”- to try to bring down the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Then there was the 1986 bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi – an effort to murder Muammar Khaddafy via the use of “surgical” airpower that instead ended up killing, the Libyan strongman’s daughter and scores of innocent Libyan civilians.
Upon news of Reagan’s election, the right wing in El Salvador celebrated with firecrackers. They were not to be disappointed. Neither was Ferdinand Marcos, to whom Reagan’s emissary George H.W. Bush offered the following toast in Manila in a 1981 visit: “We love you, sir! We love your adherence to democratic rights and processes.” It took tremendous pressure on the part of State Department pragmatists like then Undersecretary Michael Armacost to get Reagan to abandon Marcos during the People’s Power Uprising in 1986. But while giving in to political realities, Reagan made sure to ensconce his good friend Ferdinand comfortably in exile in Hawaii.
Reagan and his ideological partner Margaret Thatcher initiated the neoliberal free-market revolution that ended the post-war compromise between management and labor in the North and swept away development-oriented policies in the global South.
It is said that Reagan did not believe in income redistribution. He did, so long as it was in favor of the rich. In the North, anti-union policies, indiscriminate layoffs, tight budgets, and social security cuts gutted the income of the working masses. The statistics are telling: Between 1979 and 1989 in the US, the hourly wages of 80 per cent of the work force declined, with the wage of the typical (or median) worker falling by nearly 5 per cent in real terms. By the end of the Republican era in 1992, the bottom 60 per cent of the population had the lowest share, and the top 20 per cent the highest share, of total income ever recorded. And indeed, among the top 20 per cent, wealth gains were concentrated among the top one per cent, which captured 53 per cent of the total income growth among all families.
Reagan’s Treasury Department took advantage of third world countries’ massive indebtedness to US commercial banks to push them to adopt radical programs of trade liberalization, deregulation, and privatization that were administered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank under the rubric of “structural adjustment.” For most of the developing world, the 1980s came to be known as the “Lost Decade.”
In Latin America, owing to structural adjustment, the number of people living in poverty rose from 130 million in 1980 to 180 million by the beginning of the 1990s. In most countries, the burden of adjustment policies fell disproportionately on low-income and middle-income groups while the top five per cent of the population in most countries retained or increased its income share. By the beginning of the nineties, the top 20 per cent of the continent’s population was earning 20 times that earned by the poorest 20 per cent.
In Africa, structural adjustment was one of the key factors that led to an astonishing drop in per capita income by over two per cent per year in the 1980s, so that at the end of the decade, per capita income had plunged to its level at the time of independence in the 1960s and some 200 of the region’s 690 million people were classified as poor by the World Bank. Surveying the devastated landscape created by free-market programs, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa admitted: “We did not think that the human costs of these programs could be so great, and the economic gains so slow in coming.”
Even key US allies in the Cold War felt the Reagan sting. Demanding more liberal terms for the entry of US goods and investments into the “Newly Industrializing Countries” (NICs) of East Asia, a Reagan subordinate warned: “Although the NICs may be regarded as tigers because they are strong, ferocious traders, the analogy has a darker side. Tigers live in the jungle and by the law of the jungle. They are a shrinking population.” Trade warfare was waged against South Korea, so that in the space of four years, the US’ massive trade deficit with that country was turned into a trade surplus. Washington also forced Tokyo to drastically raise the value of the yen relative to the dollar, to reduce imports from Japan and increase exports there; this was one of the factors that eventually led to that country’s long recession in the 1990s.
If I were asked what epitaph I would write for Ronald Reagan, it would be “Here lies a man who was good for the upper 20 per cent of his fellow Americans and his rich and powerful buddies elsewhere, but bad for the rest of us.”
Oh yes, Reagan gave this left-wing exile political asylum in the US in 1985, but that, I have been assured, was the result of a bureaucratic foul-up. But, thank you anyway, Mr. Reagan, and do rest in peace.”
Nukes and Nats a Real Risk to Public Safety
was the message Jeanette followed up through Parliamentary questions yesterday.
(Co-Leader-Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Has he received any information that would cause him to review the Government’s policy of excluding nuclear-propelled ships from New Zealand waters?
Hon Phil Goff
(Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): No. The policies pursued by successive Governments since 1987 that have kept New Zealand nuclear-free have consistently been supported by an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders. I believe that New Zealand has benefited from its clean, green image in a lot of different ways, and I believe that it is respected for making its own decisions as an independent and a sovereign country, rather than simply falling into line with what others may tell it to do, as the ACT and National parties would obviously like us to do.
: Is the Minister aware that Britain has banned its own nuclear-powered submarines from entering the Port of London and all other British commercial ports because of the safety risk posed by their nuclear reactors, and what would he say to those who want to expose the citizens of Auckland and Wellington to such a risk?
Hon Phil Goff
: I am aware that it is the policy of the United Kingdom Government to keep nuclear-powered ships out of commercial ports, including the Port of London. I am further aware that the Australian Nuclear Safety Bureau does not allow nuclear ships into the Port of Sydney, and I am also informed that the United States Navy has a policy of keeping nuclear-propelled ships out of the port in New York. Clearly, if there were no risk, none of those policies would exist. There is a risk, and that risk has to be factored in. That is why we stay nuclear-free. There is no reason to have nuclear-propelled ships in our ports.
Hon Ken Shirley
: Is this Government’s continued ban on nuclear propulsion based on identified environmental risk; if not, what is the reason for the continued ban?
Hon Phil Goff
: The reasons that successive Governments have kept New Zealand nuclear-free are several. One of the factors is that there is a safety factor. One cannot rule out the question of an accident, and, what is more important, one cannot rule out the prospect of a nuclear-powered ship being a prime target for a terrorist attack. The United States Navy, with all its strength, was not able to stop a terrorist attack on the USS Cole. If there were a nuclear-powered ship in a harbour such as in Auckland and such an attack took place, obviously the consequences would be catastrophic.
: If, as he says, Australian ports are able to ban nuclear ships, British ports are able to ban nuclear ships, and indeed New York harbour itself bans nuclear ships, what is the problem with the relationship that New Zealand currently has with the US with regard to our current legislation?
Hon Phil Goff
: There is absolutely no problem with regard to the legislation, except the problem the National Party has in trying to make up its mind as to whether it will repeal it. Will it be gone by lunchtime, or will it be left in place? What did Dr Brash say to the Americans when he was asked that question?
: Is the Minister aware that the first nuclear-powered ship was an American merchant ship, NS Savannah, and that it was dispensed with after a relatively short life because of safety concerns; and will the Minister confirm that safety concerns are far greater now since September 11?
Hon Phil Goff
: I can confirm that the Savannah was totally unable to get any commercial insurance cover. The Opposition parties believe in the market, and the market believed that the risk was such that it would not insure that ship. That is probably why there are no merchant ships today that are nuclear-powered. The member is quite right that since September 11 the risk of terrorist attacks has brought a new dimension to the safety factors regarding nuclear-propelled vessels.
: Is the Minister aware that the city of Portsmouth in the UK has stockpiled iodine tablets to coincide with nuclear-powered submarine visits to the Portsmouth naval base, which are to be handed out to its citizens in the event of a nuclear accident; and what is his reaction to the prospect of Auckland schools being given piles of iodine tablets if we were to ever allow nuclear-powered ships to visit New Zealand?
Hon Phil Goff
: Indeed, I have a newspaper article from the United Kingdom dated 8 October 2003 that indicates that 160,000 anti-cancer pills were stockpiled for the local population, in case of an emergency on a nuclear submarine in the Portsmouth dockyard. That was probably taken as a sensible precaution. It indicates once again that while the risk may be low, if there was to be an accident or an attack, the consequences are huge. That is another good reason why we do not have nuclear ships in our harbours, and why two-thirds of New Zealanders agree with the Government’s stance on that issue.
: Has the Minister seen this pamphlet, produced by the Southampton City Council and the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and delivered to all residents within 2 kilometres of the Southampton naval base, which instructs them that in the event of an accident with a nuclear-powered vessel they should stay inside, not collect their children from school, and take iodine tablets; and is such a nuclear accident emergency plan part of his vision of a clean, green New Zealand?
Hon Phil Goff
: The answers to those two questions are yes and no. I have a copy of that booklet. It is produced by the Southampton City Council. Interestingly, it is paid for by the Ministry of Defence. While National and ACT MPs may say that there is no risk, clearly the British Ministry of Defence acknowledges that risk, and therefore takes precautions. Risk cannot be eliminated. That is the reason why we will not have ships here, and why we stand by our policy, as do the Greens in support of that policy.
‘The New American Century – What Lies Ahead?
Part 2: US Military Strategy as the 21st Century Begins’, is a new Centre for Peace Studies Working Paper by Robert E White. It includes sections on current US nuclear weapons policy, the National Security Strategy of the USA, the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, and ‘Missile of Empire: America’s 21st Century Global Legions’.
Copies of the paper are available from the Centre for Peace Studies, c/o Department of Physics, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland. Please include a cheque for $10 per copy (made payable to Centre for Peace Studies) with a note saying what the cheque is for, and your name and address.
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