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Editors need to understand the facts on Nancy Wake

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry, Associate Minister of Health, Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

Progressive Leader

15 June 2006 Media release

Editors need to understand the facts on Nancy Wake

Jim Anderton said today that stories raising the issue of Second World War heroine Nancy Wake not receiving a New Zealand honour have National Party fingerprints all over them.

"It is a political beat-up led by the National Party, cynically using Nancy Wake in an attempt to discredit the Government. Well meaning people have also entered the fray. This story has soaked up a lot of column space in major and community newspapers," Jim Anderton said.

"I first put out a statement on this matter in February 2006 following accusations by National Opposition M P Judith Collins that I did not appreciate the magnificent war-time service of the 'White Mouse', Nancy Wake. I am taking this opportunity – one last time - to set out the facts and urge newspaper editors to relay this factual information to their readers.

"There are twelve Ministers on the Cabinet Honours Committee but I seem to be in the firing line on this, judging from media stories around New Zealand. This came about, I presume, because I gave a full response, in good faith, by way of a letter to Thames resident, Reverend Dalton, who wrote to me as leader of the Progressive Party seeking my views on an official honour for Nancy Wake. My letter subsequently got into the hands of Judith Collins, who took up the issue with a statement to the effect that I was antagonistic to recognition of the wartime service of Miss Wake. This is a serious misrepresentation of my position.

These are the facts.

"Nancy Wake’s wartime service was recognised by the British government at the end of the war, when she was presented with the George medal. New Zealand was, at that time, a part of the British system of honours. Because Miss Wake was honoured by this system, New Zealand could not follow suit, even if we had wanted to, because that would have entailed what is known as ‘double medalling’, which is not permitted.

"It should be noted in that connection that the same constraint applied to Australia, of which Miss Wake is a citizen by choice and naturalisation, and they too have never decorated Miss Wake for her war service. She has subsequently been given a Companion of the Order of Australia, a civilian order. The Honours Secretariat (which is a public service group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet which deals with such matters) understands this was for services other than her wartime service.

"In 1949 the monarch (then George VI) in whose name all decorations are given, ruled that no further awards should be made for wartime service. That has effectively blocked any recognition of Miss Wake’s wartime service by the New Zealand government since that time – as well as a number of other significant new Zealand wartime heroes.

"There is no question of Miss Wake’s heroism in World War II, and I have said so from the outset. In light of the above I have similarly, from the outset, urged those pressing Miss Wake’s case to seek some other means of recognising her heroism, as I have myself successfully done through my campaign to recognise the Gallipoli contribution of Colonel William Malone.

The following points should also be noted.

"Subsequently, the NZRSA has awarded Miss Wake their gold badge to recognise her wartime service. I am on the record as welcoming this. I have also subsequently been advised that another organisation, the King’s Empire Veterans, had previously awarded Miss Wake some formal recognition. This I also welcome.

"A number of commentators have confused the Honours Secretariat with the Appointments and Honours Committee. The APH is a Cabinet Committee of which I am a member, and which makes the final decisions on the recommendation of honours to the monarch but which does so in the light of advice from the Secretariat.

"I have checked with the Secretariat and they advise me that there has only been one MP to have ever recommended Miss Wake for an honour and this MP was, I am advised, not a member of the National Party. This raises the issue for me of the sincerity of those involved in repeatedly raising this matter," Jim Anderton said today.


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