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Little New Zealand stood up to nuclear bully USA

text-historyFlashback: When David stood up to Goliath New Zealand, 9 Feb 13, The Dominion Post, TOM HUNT  ”,,,,,It may have soured our relationship with Washington and provided a dramatic end to a paradisiacal trip to Tokelau, but it certainly set Lange up as New Zealand’s David versus America’s Goliath.

N.ZealandFebruary 4, 1985 was the day the New Zealand Government backed overwhelming public anti-nuclear sentiment and effectively became officially nuclear free – even if legislation was still two years away.

”I felt so proud,” long-standing anti-nuclear protester Barney Richards said this week.

”We stood up against the most powerful nation in the world. And we had a major victory.”

He remembers a reporter travelling all the way from Britain ”to see for himself the little country that snubbed its nose to the world”.

Two years before, Mr Richards had spent three freezing nights on the Wellington wharves protesting the arrival of nuclear-powered cruiser USS Texas.

Unions refused to dock the cruiser, which ended up having to anchor in Wellington Harbour. Crews had to row to shore, where they were greeted by protesters. ”The Americans would say ‘we are here to save you from the Communists’ and we would just burst out laughing,” Mr Richards said.

One protester boarded the USS Texas and placed an anti-nuclear banner on the railing, prompting the taunting chant: ”We climbed up your chain, and then we climbed back down again.”

That same trip saw school children marching to the wharf in protest. Two years later, on February 4, 1985, it was these pupils Mr Richards felt the proudest for.

Margaret Wilson was Labour Party President in 1985 and remembers the party executive meeting and urging Caucus that the anti-nuclear stance was not just about nuclear weapons but nuclear power as well.

”This was the litmus test issue that a lot of people felt strongly about.” That urging, taken to Caucus by acting Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, worked.

Public sentiment was about 70 per cent anti-nuclear, the party was anti-nuclear, and now the Government officially was too.

It was hardly new ground for New Zealand. Many local authorities were already nuclear free, and as far back as 1973 Norman Kirk’s Labour Government had sent a frigate to Mururoa to protest French nuclear testing.

Though expected, February 4, 1985 prompted talk of being punished by the Americans with the likes of trade sanctions.

There was also a mass of correspondence from around the world supporting New Zealand’s stance.

On February 6, just two days after the stance – though quite a few days after it was obviously coming – The Dominion reported more than 2000 letters of support flooded into Lange’s office…… The stoush not only shored up Labour Party support for Lange but also propelled him to the world stage.

The next month he was in the Oxford debating chamber famously arguing that nuclear weapons were morally indefensible and uttering arguably the most famous retort by a New Zealand politician: ”I can smell the uranium on [your breath] as you lean forward.”

Lange was known around the world. ..


February 9, 2013 - Posted by | history, New Zealand

1 Comment »

  1. […] Little New Zealand stood up to nuclear bully USA ( […]

    Pingback by ‘Nuclear Weapons are Morally Indefensible’. | Speak for Yourself | March 18, 2013 | Reply

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