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PM In Rome While The World Trade Centre Burns

PM In Rome While The World Trade Centre Burns

Friday, September 14 2001 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, CBE

to New Zealand/British Trade Council

Canterbury Club, Christchurch

12.30pm on Friday, 14 September 2001

This week we witnessed via television, as part of the global village, the creation of a new world order. Our world will never be the same as it was on Monday.

The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon have achieve far more than their goals.

I agree with the remarks of New Zealand's former Ambassador to the United Nations, Neil Keating, the man who served New Zealand's term on the Security Council.

The terrorists' aims may have been to kill Americans, to strike at the symbol of capitalism - the World Trade Centre, to strike at the symbol of American military might - the Pentagon, and strike at the leader of the free world - President Bush.

What they have actually done is mobilise American public opinion and mobilise the greatest nation on earth, the world's only genuine super power.

As the Japanese discovered, Pearl Harbour's very success was Japan's undoing. American's wrath will be frightening to witness.

Is there anyone who doubts President Bush's declaration that America will find those responsible and punish them. We also noted America's statement that they will not distinguish between those who did the act, and those who harboured them. The condemnation of the terrorists by state after state in the Middle East is recognition that siding with those terrorists is bad for your health.

President Arafat quickly decided to give one pint of blood - not eight. The Palestinians who celebrated in the streets of Jerusalem committed one of the worst PR blunders in history. No US President will support their cause.

Perhaps because we saw it live on television. Perhaps because we now live in a global economy, this act of using civilian aircraft as bombs has horrified the world.

In my own case, I was phoned by my campaign manager, who is in London, who simply said - "there is a terrorist attack on New York - switch on your TV." I witnessed live the World Trade Towers collapse. I saw people jumping to their death.

I felt like a voyeur. I have been to New York many times. I was in that city in January. I like the city - it's larger than life. When you are there, you feels you are in the world's capital.

The United Nations, which I was attending, is the closest we have to the world's parliament.

I like New Yorkers. I know that it will take more than an act of terrorism to stop that city. I felt an empathy to those victims. I knew too, that there would be New Zealanders among the victims.

We did not close Parliament for Hitler, we did not close Parliament for Pearl Harbour - we will not close for those evil terrorists.

While the United States Congress was evacuated during the attacks, the US Congress did not close.

It would have looked bizarre if the first Parliament in the world had closed, but the Parliament in the city attacked stayed open.

MPs from all parties have thanked me for my stand and acknowledged that defiantly refusing to close was the right response.

The government's spin doctors in the Beehive have also run another line this week. We should not ask what those events mean. It is apparently OK for left-wing academics on TV to imply that America had it coming, but it's not OK for our Members of Parliament to ask what these events mean.

I do not agree. Let me start by saying I believe the acting Prime Minister, Jim Anderton, has handled the crisis well. As deputy Prime Minister he doesn't have the authorrrity of the Prime Minister, but overall he has done well. Phil Goff is without doubt the government's best minister.

Perhaps because I have a 95% recognition factor, I know how many Kiwis there are overseas. People let me know on aircraft, in hotel lobbies, on the street, that they too are New Zealanders by calling out - kia ora. I hear a lot of kia ora in New York.

Perhaps because I witnessed the destruction at 2am, I had a different view from most of my fellow MPs. They started work at 7am, heard the news and were stunned and in shock. Their first reaction was to close down our Parliament. I who had had five hours to consider the implications, said no. Parliament is a symbol of freedom and democracy.

I think the British Prime Minister Tony Blair has put it best. He said the terrorist attack was not just an attack on America. It was an attack on freedom, on democracy, on the values that our forefathers fought for. It was an attack on us all.

The terrorists, as I said, achieved something they did not intend. They asked a question of the world - Do you stand for freedom? Are you willing to pay the price that freedom demands?

At the United Nations many countries play a game - at America's expense. America is such a big country that a lot of the business, or rather the nonsense, at the United Nations is pulling feathers out of the American eagle.

As a democracy, a country that's so large it's a continent, America is too pre-occupied to respond. We in New Zealand have played that game. We are still playing it.

The Cold War is over. The United States has removed nuclear weapons from its ships. Yet we continue with the nonsense. Who doubts that our nuclear-free legislation is aimed at America? We remain suspended from ANZUS.

Our government tells us there are no security threats. We cancelled the F16, disbanded the Skyhawks, stopped ocean surveillance.

I witnessed live on the night of the terrorist attack a New York official being questioned by the press - " A civilian aircraft flying into the World Trade Centre is not something we had plans for" he said . "How can you protect yourself from that?" A very good question .

The experts are right. The best protection against terrorism is intelligence.

We have MPs from the Greens and the Alliance who say we don't need the SIS, we don't need the Government Intelligence Bureau. New Zealand should not be involved in intelligence gathering at Waihopai. The events of this week are the reason we need a security intelligence service.

I hope the Greens carefully reconsider their position because if the polls are correct, how could you form a government with a party that wants us to have no security intelligence services?

We now know that the authorities, by cellphone, were in contact with the fourth aircraft. It was clear that the hijackers' plan was for it also to be a bomb, aimed at President Bush. The passengers also knew of the earlier attacks and it appears they fought back.

It's one thing to be hijacked to Kabul - it's another to be an involuntary kamakase.

Who here doubts that the rumours are correct - the United States airforce would have shot down the fourth plane before it could have been a bomb.

One of the horrors of this week is that we know that human beings are copycats. One person hijacks a plane, we have an outbreak of hijacking. Make no mistake, someone will try to replicate what we have seen.

If American security is too tight, then they will try elsewhere. If someone was to hijack a Cessna and fly it into the Bank of New Zealand - there would be nothing a New Zealand government could do because, for the first time since World War Two, we have no air cover.

Helen Clark says we have no security threats. On Monday, the United States city official I quoted thought that continental America had no such threat.

I believe Helen Clark has completely misread world opinion and the significance of the events of this week.

Our Prime Minister says she saw the television pictures of New York on her stopover in Hong Kong, then casually boarded an aircraft for Rome.

What planet does Helen Clark live on? How could she fail to realise the significance of the events she was seeing?

We still do not know what the economic repercussions will be. Our Prime Minister voluntarily got on a plane and put herself out of contact for the next 12 hours.

NATO has for the first time invoked Article V - that states an act of war against one country is an act of war against them all.

The ANZUS Treaty has a similar clause - Clause IV.

A New Zealand Prime Minister who was not jet-lagged and out of contact in first class, flying over Asia, would have responded to those world-changing events.

Now she is trapped at Melbourne airport, picketed by angry Ansett workers who she has made redundant.

What Helen Clark should have done, and should still do, is this - telephone John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, and say: "New Zealand is still legally a member of ANZUS. This attack on America is an attack on freedom, on us all. New Zealand wants to call a meeting of the ANZUS council to invoke Article IV. "

The whole of America is watching its TV. Such a meeting would be reported on every news channel. As America takes stock of who its friends are, such an action will be remembered.

Instead, New Zealand is going to be a bizarre footnote. People will write about this week as events that shook the world. Historians will say - the whole world realised that we were watching an event that was changing our world forever.

The footnote will be '"Italian government officials were amazed when 12 hours after the terrorist attack, the New Zealand Prime Minister turned up in Rome expecting to see the Italian Prime Minister to discuss America's Cup yacht racing in the Pacific".

We have a government of ideological academics who have never managed a household, let alone a business, who have demonstrated yet again how out of touch they are.

I think Helen Clark was determined to be out of New Zealand when the bad news about Air New Zealand was announced.

While the media is blaming Jim Anderton for being opposed to Singapore Airlines lifting their share cap in Air New Zealand- in fact it was Helen Clark who led the ideological opposition.

Three months ago, the airline and Ansett could have been saved with no taxpayer money. Today Ansett's in receivership, Air New Zealand's share price has collapsed and $550 million of taxpayer money is at risk.

The Hon Trevor Mallard has conceded to me that Helen Clark was told over two months ago that the situation was urgent, that Ansett was losing over a $1 million a day.

As this Council is involved in trade, I do not have to tell you the importance of our national airline. Has there ever been a more incompetent government than this one?

We are all going to pay a very big price for Helen Clark's overseas trip this week.

Ms Clark suspended her judgement because she was so keen to attend a meeting of the so-called Third Way leaders in Norway, where she expected to receive a standing ovation for admitting 145 Afghan refugees.

While the Europeans may well have applauded her, they privately think she's nuts to have chosen to take such refugees.

Of course, while she was in the air, the so-called Third Way leaders had cancelled the conference, realising that this was not the time for such waffle. Tony Blair wouldn't think of going and if Helen Clark had applied any thought, she'd have cancelled her trip at Hong Kong and wouldn't be now trapped at Melbourne surrounded by angry picketers.


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