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National decision on ship visits issue

Don Brash MP National Party Leader

22 June 2004

National decision on ship visits issue

The National Party caucus has decided to leave unchanged the anti-nuclear legislation banning visits to New Zealand of nuclear armed and nuclear powered ships.

National Party Leader Don Brash made the announcement following the National Party caucus meeting today. He pledged that there would be no change of policy under a National Government in future unless this had been approved by a referendum.

Dr Brash said National had not detected any strong desire to amend the legislation, so would preserve the status quo.

The referendum provision was being made in case it became clear in the future that an amendment was in New Zealand's national interest, he said. This was a responsible step for any major political party.

"But in any case, this is to a large extent an academic debate. US Navy surface ships do not carry nuclear weapons any more and have not done so for more than a decade, and the type of ships that would be sent here would not be nuclear powered."

Dr Brash said the debate within National's ranks showed that the Party had the courage to examine an issue that was clearly causing some friction between Wellington and both Canberra and Washington.

The debate followed a Party taskforce report which suggested the so-called 'Danish solution' on ship visits. This would have involved replacing the legislative ban on nuclear-propelled ships with a policy ban.

"We considered this, but there appeared to be little public enthusiasm for change so we will maintain the status quo."

Dr Brash said he particularly wanted to thank former National Party Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech for chairing the Party taskforce and for all those who took part in the lengthy review.

Ends

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