"I am his mother" she whispered. Nothing else. I held her without a word. This is from Jo Wilding, a British peace activist and law student in Bagdhad in her daily email. The scene: a mother with her dying son after he had been hit in a missile strike. Cluster bombs too continue to kill and wound civilians for days and weeks after armies have moved on. This is the reality of the invasion of Iraq for its citizens.
And what an irony. Saddam Hussein and his party were imposed on Iraq in 1968 by violence, supported by the Western powers who proceeded to arm him and teach him the techniques of murderous repression. Now the very same powers have removed him with violence over the bodies of the people.
It is imperative that New Zealand work for reconstruction led by the United Nations under which the free will of the people can be expressed. And lets remember Palestine.
Visit of the Australian Defence Committee
Our Foreign Affairs select committee (yours truly is a member) met with our Australian counterparts recently. Sparks were expected to fly, by some, as we squared off on our respective defence positions. For National, the ineffable and egregious Dr Mapp went to extraordinary lengths to please the "traditional ally." But actually our Australian friends did not want a grovelling act, did not demand that we had to agree to the same defence and foreign policies, and guess what? With a multi-party delegation from a democracy they also had split views. Hopefully Dr Mapp learnt something.
The Not So Pacific
A recent UN Study Small Arms in the Pacific by Philip Alpers and Conor Twyford alerts us to the fact that the Pacific nations, including us, have a worrying amount of small arms - legal and illegal. New Zealand has 22 legal guns per 100 people, twice as many as Australia. The tiny Pacific nations are awash with guns with plenty of nations willing to sell them more. With unstable social and political systems, issues of corruption, ethnic rivalries and land disputes, guns, legal or illegal, are literally lethal. A small number of arms in a small population can be devastating. This is a crucial area for New Zealand leadership. Think of Tonga, corrupt and unstable with an army of almost 400 men, heavily armed and hostile to the democracy movement. I am glad that as Minister I was instrumental in stopping them receiving $10 million dollars worth of small arms. But I am told they are out shopping again.
Progressive achievements this week . . .
Jim Anderton announced $5.5 million in Budget 2003 support to address drug abuse and youth suicide. Sadly ACT MP Muriel Newman that day claimed we are doing nothing on drugs. See: www.progressive.org.nz/media/releases/pr20030409-ja-suicide-drugs-support.htm Getting Things Done: Budget 2003 on the front page of www.progressive.org.nz will feature announcements as they are made over the next month. We are making progress as a constructive coalition partner with Labour, in a way that parties outside Government are not. One more example of getting things done is removing asset testing on the elderly: http://www.progressive.org.nz/media/releases/pr20030402-ja-asset-testing.htm And the Herald printed an opinion piece on Four Weeks leave: http://www.progressive.org.nz/media/articles/ar20030408-mr-stress-productivity.htm
and around the country
On Wednesday night I met with 35 people in Porirua to talk about building the Progressives in their area. Saturday finds me in the Hutt Valley with local supporters, Sunday delivering a major foreign affairs speech (check www.progressive.org.nz on Monday) and Monday and Tuesday in Dunedin. To maintain a balance between work and life I will be heading to a quiet beach for the holiday weekend.
robson-on-politics will take a break for one, perhaps two, weeks of the Parliamentary recess and will then be back refreshed and revived.