ACT to Introduce Nuclear Free Ammendment Bill
ACT To Introduce A Bill to Amend the Nuclear Free Legislation
Extract from Richard Prebble's Address to Upper South Regional Conference 1 pm, Sunday 17 November 2002, Elms Hotel, Papanui Rd, Christchurch.
We liberals believe in the power of ideas. We support open debate because we believe in the good sense of the electorate and, over time, like Rachel Hunters hair, good ideas will prevail. (It won't happen overnight, but it will happen!)
Never underestimate our influence. ACT has had more influence on the Labour government than the Alliance, the Greens, United and National combined. Look how far Labour has moved from its programme in 1996. Who would have thought that the Labour government lead by Helen Clark would meet President Bush in the White House, have troops in Afghanistan, this week to keep open the possibility of New Zealand being part of an Australian/US free trade agreement would reposition a warship to the Gulf, and refuse to rule out assistance to a US, UN sanctioned attack on Iraq.
Not one idea from the Left.
The Employment Relations Act as passed was extensively amended, mostly as a result of ACT's well reasoned arguments. ACC re-nationalisation was also watered down. Now Labour says its concerned about business compliance costs - a concern that in 1996 never furrowed their brows.
The government's economic policy goal of 4% growth and to return to the top half of the OECD is all ACT inspired. I do not want to overstate our influence because I believe that much of Labour's programme is just rhetoric. Goals without substance.
The government foreign policy is flawed because Helen Clark refuses to confront the reality that New Zealand cannot go it alone. This week New Zealand has suffered one of the most significant foreign policy defeats in our history. On the 8th October the Future Knowledge Wave Trust put out a document saying "... an FTA with the US is a clear priority. The impact of Australia succeeding in securing a FREE TRADE AGREEMENT without NZ will be of similar impact to the UK entering the European Union in 1973."
This country is still suffering the effects of Britain's entry to the EC.
It has been ACT alone that has the courage to say that the ban on nuclear powered ships is nonsense. A Special Committee on Nuclear Propulsion chaired by High Court judge Rt Hon Edward Somers and comprising professors Bergquist, Elms and Poletti, produced the independent Somers report which found that Auckland Hospital everyday puts out more radioactivity than the whole US fleet in a year. The occasional visit by a nuclear powered warship would in no way alter New Zealand's nuclear weapons free status, or in any way create a measurable risk.
A US / New Zealand free trade agreement would have almost no effect on the US economy. The Americans don't need the agreement. A free trade agreement will have a great impact on the New Zealand economy.
As my geography teacher at school said nearly 40 years ago - "if we ever got a free trade agreement with the USA, boys, the dairy industry would have such a boom that they'd have cows in the grounds of parliament".
The stakes are huge. A free trade agreement would assure 4% growth, a growth rate that sees the average New Zealand family double its wealth in just 18 years. A doubling of economic wealth in a generation is not just "Two cars in every garage" - the benefit to the New Zealand family is world class health services, access to the best education, and security in retirement. People who say they're willing to pay an economic sacrifice to prevent the occasional visit of a nuclear powered ship have a duty to spell out what the price that they're asking us all to pay is: long hospital waiting lists, an education system that's slipped out of the first world, and no security in retirement for our elderly. That's a very high price to pay to prevent an event that our best scientists say has virtually no public risk
Helen Clark is right, not being at the starting point of the free trade talks is not a disaster, but if we are not at the finish line with Australia then it will be. New Zealand firms will have to move to Australia to export to the US. Our grandchildren will be Australians.
Some say that the United States should change its position on the nuclear issue. There is a number of answers.
New Zealand's nuclear free legislation was introduced not to stop nuclear powered ships that are not a risk, but to stop ships carrying nuclear weapons coming to New Zealand. I speak with authority because I introduced the first nuclear free New Zealand bill. I am still opposed to having nuclear weapons in this country.
America has changed its position. President George Bush Senior, the current president's father, took all nuclear weapons off US ships. We won the issue.
It is New Zealand that has pretended that the cold war is still on and refused to acknowledge that our own ban makes no sense.
Why should America change its position?
Nuclear powered naval ships make sense. It's an economical way to power an aircraft carrier. The US navy is not going to return to conventional power just to suit New Zealand.
As I have said America does not need a free trade agreement with New Zealand. Such an agreement will cause the US administration to lose some of the votes of American farmers.
Robert B Zoellick, the US chief negotiator, and a friend of this country, in his letter to the US senate this week, threw us a lifeline by not ruling out including New Zealand in the Australia/US free trade agreement.
We know what we have to do. Amend our nuclear free legislation to acknowledge that the United States of America has removed nuclear weapons from its ships and to acknowledge nuclear propulsion is not a safety threat.
ACT will introduce a private members bill to allow nuclear power warships, without nuclear weapons to visit New Zealand. At our post-election caucus retreat, the ACT MPs agreed that ACT's deputy leader Hon Ken Shirley will introduce a private members bill to amend the Nuclear Free New Zealand Act.
This is an issue that is crying out for a bi-partisan approach. Senior members of parliament on both sides know that our stand on nuclear powered shipping makes no sense at all. Dr Hon Lockwood Smith, the former trade minister has publicly called for debate on the issue. Dr Michael Cullen, the finance minister, publicly admitted a few weeks ago, that New Zealand's ban on nuclear powered shipping was the obstacle to achieving a free trade agreement.
Senior members of parliament know that what ACT has been saying on this issue is correct.
It is time both the old parties were up front and told it like it is to the NZ public.
Tell the people, trust the people!
We have a small window of opportunity to achieve a very significant economic benefit to every New Zealander and I believe the cost is minimal.
We can then rejoin the ANZUS Alliance of which our membership is only suspended.
Nearly twenty years outside ANZUS has shown that the defence advice given to successive governments by our own chiefs of staff is correct.
New Zealand is too small to go it alone. When the Bali bombing occurred we could not even get a plane to Bali. Our ancient airforce literally broke down.
The Australians have warned us repeatedly that our irrational position on nuclear ships would result in economic disaster.
The former Deputy of the Liberal party and former Defence Minister, Hon Phillip Lynch spoke at ACT's annual conference and warned us that this day was coming.
Prime Minister Howard bluntly told Helen Clark that New Zealand will never get a free trade agreement with the USA until we amend the ban on nuclear powered ships and that's why Australia was going it alone.
John Howard is no enemy of New Zealand.
This is an issue crying out for leadership - some thing our two old parties refuse to do.
Once again, it is ACT that is providing the leadership.