Audrey Young 's Opinion

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young: Wrong audience for Bolger tirade

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Speech dwelling on Anzus rift misreads celebratory mood.

HMNZS Te Mana docks at the US base on Guam on May 31. Photo / Department of Defence
HMNZS Te Mana docks at the US base on Guam on May 31. Photo / Department of Defence

As a former Prime Minister and a man very firm in his views, Jim Bolger has always been a bit stroppy.

But after his performance in Washington last night at a reception for the US NZ Partnership Forum, someone may be asking him to tone it down a bit.

He used his speech as chairman of the NZ US Council to dwell on the Anzus rift over New Zealand's anti-nuclear laws, which was perplexing to those who wanted to celebrate and move on now the rift is over.

On Friday next week HMNZS Te Mana will be the first NZ frigate to dock at a US naval base, in Guam, in almost 30 years.

Last night the Royal New Zealand Air Force band and the United States Air Force band symbolically played in perfect harmony at the Institute of Peace.

Mr Bolger was clearly not in the zone, however.

Not only did he canvass the pain of the rift and his part in the healing, he used the occasion to vent about the perils of deregulation leading to the global financial crisis in 2008, on multinationals making billions and paying little tax, and the responsibility of free traders to be focused on people.

He was playing to an audience that wasn't there, that was obvious from the eye-rolling going on at the reception and the murmurs about it afterwards.

Mr Bolger recapped the moments of history that changed the NZ-US relationship forever, the 1984 election, how he had stood firm on the anti-nuclear law going into Government in 1990, how many Americans were hurt and couldn't quite understand us, how he had approached President Bill Clinton on a boat outing at Apec in 1993 and had said: "Mr President, I think we need to talk."

And how that was the start of how the US and New Zealand became great friends again - seven years after the rift began; 14 years before Helen Clark's major breakthrough; 17 years before National's Wellington Declaration when normal transmission was resumed.

Mr Bolger eventually brought it back to the present, although it hardly seemed the occasion to remind the Americans we were right all along.

"Maybe after the bluster of the last few weeks from North Korea," Mr Bolger continued "we might reflect a lot more positively on countries saying they won't accept nuclear weapons."

The US NZ Partnership Forum is expected to talk a lot about free trade, with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement now doing what many have dreamed of: an FTA between New Zealand and the US, albeit with 10 others.

Lest anyone get too sentimental, Mr Bolger brought them back to reality talking about the 1027 deaths in a Bangladeshi factory through a building collapse.

"My question is whether such tragedies move large corporates to demand proper standards, proper conditions for workers to get a lousy 58c a shirt for their work."

He was a committed passionate supporter of free trade "but we shouldn't do it at the expense of people".

Good luck to the person delegated to tell Mr Bolger that he might want to lighten up a little on his cocktail party speeches.

Security push by NZ companies

Ten New Zealand companies with expertise in security and intelligence technology will spend several days at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington this week collaborating in a bid to expand their work with United States government agencies and companies.

Among them is the Hamilton-based Gallagher company, which has a US base in Kansas City, Missouri, and already does $34 million business a year in North America - but is better known for electric fences.

It expanded into perimeter fencing security work including for prisons. It is now meeting high-tech standards for card access control systems for US government departments set after September 11.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is organising the embassy programme starting tomorrow after the US-NZ Partnership Forum finishes in Washington.

Its aim is to position New Zealand as a leader in security and intelligence technology.

The other companies taking part are Tait Communications, Wynyard, Endace, Pingar, Montech, SurveyLab, RocketLab, Zephyr and Traceplus.

Three of them, Gallagher, Wynyard and Tait, are already part of what they call a Security Technology Alliance aimed at getting contracts in the national intelligence and public safety sectors.

Gallagher founder and chief executive Sir William Gallagher said it was important to keep ahead in development.

The global general manager of his security division, Curtis Edgecombe, has been in Washington to collect a top award for the company's Personnel Identity Verification System, which fits the US standard for access control developed after September 11, the Federal Identity Protocol Standard.

- NZ Herald

Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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