WikiLeaks cable: Labour waves anti-American card in campaign

This is one of the diplomatic cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.

3 August, 2005

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

Classified By: Charge David R. Burnett, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: During Parliament's last "Question Time"
before election recess, Foreign Minister Phil Goff again
highlighted tidbits of Codel Nickles' January 2004 meeting
with National Party leadership to claim National has a hidden
agenda to lift the country's nuclear ban. No doubt in
response to the Embassy's protests after Minister Mallard
claimed US-interests were funding National's campaign, Goff
limited his criticism to remarks allegedly made to the Codel
by the Nat's foreign affairs spokesman, Lockwood Smith.
While quoting Senator Nickles' response, Goff characterized
it as "appropriate." The Embassy has not yet been asked to
comment on the latest outburst, but if we are we will reissue
our previous statement that the U.S. Government has neither
sought nor received assurances from any NZ political party.
Labour clearly believes that stirring up anti-American
sentiment is a vote-getter, and will continue to play the

card in the run up to September's elections. End

2. (SBU) During Parliament's final question and answer
session on August 2, Foreign Minister Goff claimed that Smith
had asked the visiting U.S. Senate delegation if assistance
from a United States think tank would be worthwhile for a
public campaign on New Zealand's nuclear-free policy. Once
again citing confidential minutes taken by an MFAT official
at the January 2004 meeting (reftel), Goff claimed that
delegation head Senator Don Nickles had responded that the
"(nuclear-free policy) was an internal issue for New Zealand,
and as such should be left to a New Zealand think tank."
Goff said that the United States recognized, as Smith had
not, that it was inappropriate for U.S. interests to
intervene in New Zealand's domestic affairs. ACT MP Rodney
Hide promptly duly remarked that this claim completely
contradicted Labour's previous innuendoes that Washington is
funding National's campaign. (Comment: We note that no one
in Parliament or the media has asked how much the Labour
government has spent lobbying the U.S. Congress for a Free
Trade Agreement. End Comment.)

3. (SBU) The new public allegation against Smith escalates
the Labour Party's effort to paint the National Party as
seeking to change the landmark legislation that bans nuclear
arms and nuclear-propelled vessels from New Zealand. The
story commanded top billing in New Zealand's print media and
led morning reports on radio. It therefore handily pushed to
the margins coverage of the trial that began this week in
Christchurch for 5 policemen and a civilian driver accused of
driving at speeds of up to 170 km to get Prime Minister Clark
to the airport in time to catch a flight to a rugby match
last July. (The PM will not be asked to testify: she claims
she was reading at the time and failed to notice the speed.)

4. (C) National has strongly denied the Government's claims,
but its unclear whether the response will resonate with the
public. During Goff's barrage, Smith hotly denied he had
made any proposal for a U.S.-funded campaign to change
anti-nuclear legislation. He challenged Goff to table the
entire transcript of the Codel meeting, which Goff refused to
do, arguing that he needed to protect the confidentiality of
the Senators' remarks. (Comment: Apparently, Goff believes
that former Senator Nickles' remarks are no longer covered by
that policy. End Comment.) In a radio interview this
morning, Smith said that what he was trying to address was a
need to bring enough information to the public that they can
make an informed decision about whether the legislation, and
the current problems in US-NZ relations, are in New Zealand's
interests. National Leader Don Brash told one TV journalist
yesterday evening that he could not recall if Smith made the
alleged comment, noting that it was a long time ago. The
Prime Minister, quipped Brash, cannot recall whether her
motorcade was speeding and that was only a year ago. He did
own that "it would be inappropriate for any foreign think
tank or lobby groups to be used to influence public opinion
in New Zealand." He reiterated -- often -- that National has
pledged not to alter the nuclear legislation without a
referendum. Brash left out (no doubt intentionally) that the
party has also previously said it might change the
legislation if elected on a platform that pledged to do so.

5. (C) In a supplementary question, Ken Shirley MP of the
ACT Party asked Goff if the anti-nuclear legislation banned
nuclear electricity generation or a small nuclear reactor
that has been operating in suburban Wellington since the
1960s. Goff responded that nothing in the legislation
"prohibits a nuclear power plant, but no party in this House
has ever been stupid enough to advocate that." Goff's
comment represents the Government's clearest acknowledgment
to date that there are notable exceptions to the New
Zealand's nuclear-free legislation and its associated


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