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Cablegate: New Zealand Opposition Party Backs Away From

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000539

SIPDIS

NOFORN

DEPT FOR EAP/ANP
NSC FOR GREEN, JONES

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL MNUC PARM NZ
SUBJECT: NEW ZEALAND OPPOSITION PARTY BACKS AWAY FROM
PRE-ELECTION CHANGE TO NUCLEAR LEGISLATION

REF: WELLINGTON 470

Classified By: ACTING DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, TIMOTHY P. ZUNIGA-BROWN
FOR REASONS 1.5(B,D)

1. (C/NF) Summary: New Zealand Opposition National Party
leader Don Brash has formally declared that his party would
not propose making changes to NZ's anti-nuclear legislation -
at least not until after 2005 Parliamentary election. Brash
said a future National Government would not change NZ's
anti-nuclear legislation without a national referendum
indicating strong public approval. Since early May National
has debated an internal party (Creech Commission) report that
recommends keeping NZ's anti-nuclear policy but amending NZ's
anti-nuclear legislation to allow nuclear-powered, but not
nuclear-armed, vessels to enter NZ waters. Brash's
announcement is an attempt to remove a controversial issue
from the pre-election agenda. Brash privately reiterated to
Ambassador that he remains personally committed to changing
the legislation. End Summary.

2. (SBU/NF) New Zealand Opposition National Party leader Don
Brash formally declared June 22 that his party would not
propose making changes to the anti-nuclear legislation - at
least not before 2005 Parliamentary election. Brash's
statement allowed that if National won the upcoming elections
in 2005 and formed a Government, it would seek improved
relations with the U.S. and Australia. He added that a
National government might commission a referendum on changing
the anti-nuclear legislation if it appeared that changing the
legislation would improve NZ's relationship with the U.S.
However, Brash noted that he was unable to fully "discuss the
issue with Canberra and Washington" while he was only leader
of the opposition. He added that it would be necessary for
any future National government to understand whether the
United States would be inclined to normalize bilateral
relations if NZ retained its no-nukes policy but amended NZ's
anti-nuclear legislation to allow nuclear-powered, but not
nuclear-armed, vessels to enter NZ waters. (Comment: This
was the key proposal contained in an internal National Party
(Creech Commission) report into NZ-US relations released in
May. End Comment.)

3. (SBU/NF) The Labour government's reaction to Brash's
statement was predictable - it accused Brash of raising and
then walking away from a sensitive "iconic" issue. However,
the author of the internal National party report, former
Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech, chimed in to express his
public dismay at Brash's announcement, fearing that members
of the National Party were more frightened over changes to
the anti-nuclear legislation than the general public. Creech
contested the notion that the legislation was "iconic" and
immutable, pointing to a recent independent poll (reftel)
that showed a proportionally larger number of New Zealanders
would support changes to the anti-nuclear legislation
provided the U.S. did not to send nuclear-powered ships to
New Zealand. Creech commented that as people became better
informed on the matter, their support for a change to the
legislation rose.

Comment
-------

4. (C/NF) With a paper-thin lead in the polls, Brash feels he
can ill afford to alienate any potential supporters over
hypothetical changes to New Zealand's nuclear legislation.
With this formal statement, Brash is trying to remove a
potentially damaging plank from his election platform.
However, he had been careful to leave open the option that
National will reexamine the issue if it returns to
Government. Brash told Ambassador privately on June 24 that
internal polling points to a slow shift in public opini

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