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Release of Brash comments on nuclear issue

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

14 May 2004
Media statement

Release of Brash comments on nuclear issue

"Dr (Lockwood) Smith explained the current study being done by the National Party. If the study came to the same conclusion as it did in 1992, then National would look seriously at the nuclear legislation. …
It was here that Dr Brash made the throw-away comment 'If the National Party was in government today, we would get rid of the nuclear propulsion section today – by lunchtime, even."

*****

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today responded to a challenge by Dr Brash to release his comments made to a visiting United States delegation, asserting that a National government would repeal legislation banning the visits of nuclear powered ships.

"The matter of Dr Brash's comments behind closed doors to a Congressional delegation, inconsistent with his later stance to the New Zealand public, have become a matter of credibility in the media," Mr Goff said.

"I have been advised that nothing from reports of meetings of this nature comes within the scope of material which must be released under the Official Information Act.

"However Dr Brash has challenged the government to release details from the meeting.

"I do not intend to make public any comments made by US senators. It would be inappropriate to do so.

"The United States' official position on New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance is one of disagreement but that it is an internal matter for New Zealand to decide. The delegation's position during the visit was entirely consistent with this.

"Dr Brash himself made politically controversial statements at the time about what the delegation had allegedly told him. His subsequent claim that comments made in such meetings should remain private is therefore somewhat hypocritical.

"In response to Dr Brash's challenge, the following is the comment he was recorded as making at the meeting, and the context in which it was made:

Dr (Lockwood) Smith explained the current study being done by the National Party. If the study came to the same conclusion as it did in 1992, then National would look seriously at the nuclear legislation. …
It was here that Dr Brash made the throw-away comment 'If the National Party was in government today, we would get rid of the nuclear propulsion section today – by lunchtime, even.

"This comment was recorded by a non-partisan record taker at the meeting. It has been checked with that person for accuracy, and he confirms that he is certain that is what was said.

"Dr Brash has repeatedly declined to deny making these comments.

"On the Nine to Noon interview with Linda Clark on May 6, Dr Brash said consecutively: 'what I said to them (the delegation) precisely, I simply do not recall. It's more than four months ago', and 'I am not willing to discuss a private conversation I had with them'. And in answer to Linda Clark's challenge to put the issue to bed by 'simply saying you didn't say this to the US delegation', he said 'I am not willing to say that'.

"The critical issue is this: Dr Brash's secret comments to the delegation and his subsequent comments to the New Zealand public are inconsistent.

"Either he was not telling the truth to the delegation, or not telling the truth to the New Zealand public. New Zealanders have a right to know when a politician is speaking out of both sides of his mouth, and that appears to be deliberate deceit.

"Ironically, in the last 24 hours, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer expressed in an unguarded moment his own frustration at National politicians who said one thing in private to him on the nuclear issue and took a different stance in public," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

All Phil Goff’s media releases and speeches are posted at www.beehive.govt.nz

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