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David Lange's speech notes March 1 1985 | Oct 14, 2004 17:51

[Handwritten note, top of document: VIF NUCLEAR WEAPONS NZ]




There is no moral case for nuclear weapons. The best defence which can be made of their existence and the threat of their use is that they are a necessary evil, an abhorrent means to a desirable end.

I hold that the character of nuclear weapons is such that their existence corrupts the best of intentions; that the means in fact perverts the end. I hold that their character is such that they have brought us to the greatest of all perversions, the belief that this evil is necessary when in fact it is not.

I make my case against nuclear weapons the more vigorously because I distinguish between them and all other forms of coercive or deterrent power. I have no case to make against the policeman's truncheon. I accept that the state must arm itself with military force to protect its citizens against aggression or to defend the weak and helpless against aggression.

I do not accept that the state must for those reasons arm itself with nuclear weapons. That is a case I do not easily or lightly make in Europe where governments have held it their duty to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. I do not doubt for one moment the quality of the intention which led to that decision.

I freely acknowledge that the nuclear deterrent is maintained in good conscience with the honourable intention of preserving the life and freedom of the people of Western Europe. Those governments are faced with the close presence of an alien and relentlessly oppressive regime and feel it their duty to prepare for their own defence by membership in a nuclear alliance. That is an assessment I understand and respect. I do not argue here or anywhere else for unilateral disarmament.

If I make that acknowledgement, I must then deal with the argument that it is the intention which determines the moral character of the action. My contention is that the character of nuclear weapons is such that it is demonstrably the case that they subvert the best of intentions.

There is a quality of irrationality about nuclear weapons which does not sit well with good intentions. A system of defence serves its purpose if it guarantees the security of those it protects. A system of nuclear defence guarantees only insecurity. The means of defence terrorise as much as the threat of attack. In Europe, it is impossible to be unaware of the intensity of military preparedness. In New Zealand, the visitor must make an effort to find a military installation or indeed any sign of military activity, although it exists. There is no imperative in New Zealand to prepare for war; the result is that I feel safer in Wellington than I ever could do in London or New York.

Europe and the United States are ringed around with nuclear weapons, and your people have never been more at risk. There is only one thing as terrifying as the nuclear weapon pointed in your direction and that is the nuclear weapon pointed in your enemy's direction: the outcome of their use would be the same in either case, and that is the annihilation of you and all of us. That is a defence which is no defence; it is a defence which disturbs far more than it reassures. The intention of those who for honourable motives use nuclear weapons to deter is to enhance security; they succeed only in enhancing insecurity. The machine has perverted the motive. The weapon has installed mass destruction as the objective of the best-intentioned.

The weapon has its own relentless logic, and it is unhuman. It is the logic of escalation, the logic of the arms race. Nuclear weapons make us insecure, and to compensate for our insecurity we build and deploy more nuclear weapons … we know that we are seized by irrationality, and yet we persist.

We all of us know that it is wholly without logic or reason to possess the power to destroy ourselves many times over; and yet in spite of that knowledge the nuclear powers continue to refine their capacity to inflict destruction on each other and all the rest of us. Every new development, whatever its strategic or tactical significance, has only one result, and that is to add to an arsenal which is already beyond reason.

There is an argument in defence of the possession of nuclear weapons which holds that the terror created by the existence of nuclear weapons is in itself the fulfilment of a peaceful purpose: that the fear they inspire will prevent their use. I pass over here the preparations which are constantly being made for the winnable or even survivable nuclear war; I would ignore those and wholeheartedly embrace the logic of the unthinkable war if it could be established that the damage which would result from the collapse of that logic would be confined to the nuclear weapon states. Unfortunately and demonstrably it would not. We in New Zealand used to be able to think that we could sit comfortably while the rest of the world destroyed itself; not we know that if the nuclear winter comes we shall join all the rest of you. It is a strange and dubious moral purpose which holds the whole world to ransom.

There is another assertion of the good moral character of nuclear weapons which holds that they are the armour of good against evil. It is the argument of the Crusaders: the evil which cannot be defeated by persuasion or example is to be subdued by threat of annihilation. The obvious difficulty here is that evil has declined to be subdued; it will not accept annihilation; every attempt to subdue it strengthens its resolve to arm itself further. The will of the good is corrupted by the terrible force of the weapon into the will of the evil.

All of us everywhere, wherever we are, whatever we believe, live in fear of nuclear weapons. That is a community of interest which binds us all; it is common ground enough for all of us to wish to see the elimination of all nuclear weapons; yet nuclear weapons proliferate. They govern us. Their existence diverts attention from the fact that there are other ways of resolving the difficulties and tensions which will always abound in the world. Nuclear weapons are not needed. All the arguments which can be brought forward in support of this evil come to nothing in the fact of its ultimate irrelevance. I do not make that assertion because I have some simple answer to the existence of nuclear weapons: all of you in Europe know that negotiating an end to nuclear weapons could hardly be more difficult, just as all of you know that we cannot negotiate control of them while the nuclear powers embrace the logic of escalation.

In New Zealand it is easy to accept that there is no need for nuclear weapons. The collisions and confrontations which take place in Europe are very far away from us. New Zealand is remote; it faces no threat; our close neighbours are like-minded states. We have been to war several times in this century, but never because we were attacked. It makes no sense for a country which faces no threat to seek to surround itself with nuclear weapons. It makes no sense for that country to ask its allies to deter enemies which do not yet exist with the threat of nuclear weapons. It makes not sense for a region which is the most stable in the world to allow itself to become a strategic arena for the nuclear powers. Having considered all this, the people of New Zealand reached a straightforward conclusion: the nuclear weapons which defended them caused them more alarm than any which threatened them, and it was accordingly pointless to be defended by them.

In the South Pacific, it is not difficult to achieve the balance of force which allows you cheerfully to dispense with nuclear weapons. If you remove the nuclear weapons of your friends and allies you put all the nuclear powers on the same footing. The South Pacific is not the North Atlantic. Nuclear weapons cannot be removed from Europe simply by dismantling the NATO arsenal; do that, and the other nuclear arsenal will still be here. But in the South Pacific there is at this moment the chance to turn away from the inhuman logic of nuclear weapons, to stand aside from the irrationality of the arms race and the doctrines of nuclear confrontation.

The government of New Zealand has excluded nuclear weapons from New Zealand; more than that, I hope that it and other governments in the South Pacific will shortly ask all the nuclear powers to honour a South Pacific Nuclear [Free] Zone. New Zealand has done that while honouring its longstanding commitment to the conventional defence of the South Pacific; to the economic and social development of the South Pacific; and to the security of South East Asia.

What has happened to New Zealand since the Labour Government was elected last year and began to implement its long-established policy is itself a commentary on the way in which nuclear weapons have assumed a moral life of their own.

New Zealand is not and has never been part of the strategic defences of the West. The nuclear weapons which our allies have in the past brought to New Zealand are tactical weapons. It is our view in New Zealand that being part of somebody else's tactical nuclear battle is as undesirable as being part of somebody else's strategic nuclear battle; but my point is that the decision of the New Zealand Government in no way weakened the deterrent power of the Western alliance. Yet we have been accused of undermining the West and giving comfort to the Soviet bloc. We have been told by officials in the United States Administration that our decision is not, as they put it, to be cost-free; that in fact we are to be made to pay for our action. Not by our enemies, but by our friends. We are to be made an example of; we are to be ostracised and anathematised until we are compelled to resume our seat in the dress circle of the nuclear theatre. We have been told that because others in the West carry the fearful burden of a defence which terrorises as much as the threat, we too must carry that burden. We are actually told that New Zealanders cannot decide for themselves how to defend New Zealand but are obliged to adopt the methods which others use to defend themselves.

Lord Carrington, the Secretary-General of NATO, made a case in Copenhagen recently against the creation of nuclear weapon free zones. He argued that if the people of the United States found themselves bearing the burden alone, they would tire of bearing it. That is exactly the point. Genuine agreements about the control of nuclear weapons do not cede the advantage to one side or the other: they enhance security, they do not diminish it. If such arrangements can be made, and such agreements reached, then those who remain outside those arrangements might well and truly tire of their insecurity. They will reject the logic of the wapon and assert their essential humanity. They will look for arms control agreements which are real and verifiable.

There is no humanity in the logic which holds that my country must be obliged to play host to nuclear weapons because others in the West are playing host to nuclear weapons. That is the logic which refuses to admit that there is any alternative to nuclear weapons, which plainly there is.

It is self-defeating logic, just as the weapons themselves are self-defeating: to compel an ally to accept nuclear weapons against the wishes of that ally is to take the moral position of totalitarianism, which allows for no self-determination. Any claim to a moral justification for the West's possession of nuclear weapons is thereby eliminated. We are no better than they are.

The great strength of the West lies not in force of arms but in its free and democratic systems of government.

That is why, in spite of all the difficulties New Zealand has got into with our friends and allies, I am not disheartened. I came to Great Britain by way of the United States, where I put my case to the American people through the news media without any kind of hindrance from the United States Administration. Members of Her Majesty's Government have made it plain to me that they do not hold the views I hold, but nonetheless I am here and I can say freely whatever I please; just as any member of Her Majesty's Government would be welcome in New Zealand to expound any line of argument in any forum she cared to use. That is the true strength of the West.

It is a strength which is threatened, not defended, by nuclear weapons. The appalling character of those weapons has robbed us of our right to determine our destiny and has subordinated our humanity to their manic logic. They have subordinated reason to irrationality and placed our very will to live in hostage. Rejecting the logic of nuclear weapons does not mean surrendering to evil; evil must still be guarded against. Rejecting nuclear weapons is to assert what is human over the evil nature of the weapon; it is to restore to humanity the power of the decision; it is to allow true moral force to reign supreme.

These notes were retyped from official speech notes supplied by the New Zealand Parliamentary lirbrary. Thanks are due to Felicity Rashbrooke of the library and Melanie Stassen of Infofind.

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The Last Post | Sep 20, 2002 11:18

HARD NEWS 20/09/02 - The Last Post

HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

This issue of HARD NEWS is also available in MP3 form at and in text form at You can subscribe to the 95bFM Hard News mailing list at

GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... this is the last Hard News in its current form.

Most Friday mornings for the past 11 years, day job or not, I have got up early on Friday mornings, bashed out a script - on a good week, I would have made some notes - driven to 95bFM and done the broadcast. At a conservative estimate of 40 weeks a year that's around 450 times. It sounds a *lot* when you put it that way.

But I paused for a rest last month, and when I tried to come back, I discovered it just wasn't there any more. To be honest, I don't fully understand how I did it. It certainly wasn't about the money, because there pretty much wasn't any.

Hard News isn't going away, it is changing, but this is an opportune time to look back. I recall well how it was born. It was about this time of year in 1991, and I was not long back from Britain and editing a magazine called Planet.

I was at an exhibition of Flying Nun art and I ran into Graeme Hill, who was then programme director and breakfast host at bFM. I had recently heard a particularly witless drivetime news broadcast, and I told Graeme he needed to get some decent news comment on his station.

"When can you start?" he said.

Next week, as it happened, on a Friday morning. I brought along some soundbites from a mad, rambling interview with Mike Moore that I'd done for Planet. The format soon settled down to something very similar to what it has been since. "Good morning mediaphiles" soon became "Good day mediaphiles", so it could be replayed on Drive.

Oh yes: "mediaphiles". I didn't invent the word. I pinched it from Barb Sumner, who used it to describe her customers back when she ran the original Magazzino store. Ta, Barb.

But much has changed since 1991. When I started Hard News, I felt that the views of people like me were barely heard in the media, at least not saying anything of substance. I was 29, a new father, and basically working for the dole editing Planet. Before I came back from Britain, I had told myself that there would be cool work in New Zealand, just little or no money for doing it. It was ever thus.

But gradually, it began to dawn on me that some of the people I was describing in robust language - media types, mostly - were actually listening. This came as something of a shock, but it prompted an improvement in the content. I still like a bit of well-worked abuse - apart from anything else, it's not defamatory - but I began to feel a responsibility to have a properly argued opinion.

Apart from anything else, people started depending on it. It has always made me uneasy when people say that Hard News is the only news they listen to - despite the name, it's not news, it's opinion - but they do say it.

The fact that there is a Hard News public out there has meant I have continued with it a lot longer than I might have. I have always been surprised by the sheer variety of people who talk to me about Hard News. I have always had more response to it than I have to any of my paying gigs. I am amused by how many of my Hard News punter encounters happen at about 1am in clubland. People get loved-up, they see me and they come over to tell me how much they like Hard News. That's nice. Each and every time.

And, yes, I do go out, and I will continue to do so for so long as I enjoy it. Being 40 doesn't mean you have to stay home and watch DVDs and go to bed early. I still love music and I'm still going to talk about gigs. And the prat who emailed me this year to inform me it was all a pose to make me appear to be down with the kids can get lost.

There are, of course, people who get Hard News but have never heard it. Hard News has been available on the Internet since December 1995, and I like to think it's become part of the fabric. There are more than 5000 people on the main Hard News mailing list, and they are scattered through several dozen countries. There are government addresses, corporate addresses and, scarily, addresses at American military bases. For many of them, it's a connection with home.

Ah, the Internet. It's been good to me. I'd like to thank all the people who have helped get Hard News there: Mark Proffit, Michael Witbrock and Rob Cawte in the early days. The wonderful Alastair Thompson at Scoop, which is one of my favourite websites. Matthew Leigh, who helped with the current list. Chris and Jubt at Amplifier, who are forging new ground. And, of course, Matt Buchanan and Karl von Randow at CactusLab, who are two of the most talented people I know.

On the radio, I've seen a few breakfast hosts: Graeme, Marcus Lush, Mikey Havoc, Hugh, and their many temporary replacements. Breakfast producers: Steve Simpson, Renee Mundy and Bianca Zander amongst them. Thanks are due to them and everyone else at 95bFM, which might just be the best radio station in the world. As I said in Metro a while back, if I am any kind of Aucklander, it is a bFM listener.

My favourite Hard News story involves Doug Myers and Bill Ralston. People used to think I sounded a lot like Ralston on the radio - which I suppose I did at the time. So one night at some corporate do, Doug Myers rushed up to Ralston and exclaimed "You called me an arsehole!" Did I? Said Ralston. "Yes! On the radio!" Er, which radio? "That student radio!"

Yes, folks, it was me. I called Doug Myers an arsehole and I would cheerfully do so again. He had written a smug little essay about local government for the Herald, in which he declared that libraries were not a public good, and it didn't benefit him if some poor sod read a book for free. Coming, as it did, from someone who had never wanted for anything, I found that not only foolish, but unspeakably arrogant.

I recall a similar response when Alan Gibbs made a speech to a conference on the family in which he advanced the neo-Victorian view that poor people's problem wasn't so much a lack of money as a lack of morals. He even went so far as to blame the contraceptive pill for this moral decline. But only for the poor, presumably. Rich people can handle contraception, right? I used some stronger words than "arsehole" in that case.

While we're with the would-be great and good, Fay and Richwhite: arrest the bastards at the border, I say. They serially failed their shareholders and they damaged this country. This year, they bailed out of TranzRail - and what a tragedy that's been - just before a flood of bad news. I find it hard to believe that they had no idea what was coming.

I make no apologies for my politics, which ought to be blindingly obvious to anyone who has read or heard Hard News. What's the point of having your own gig if you can't say what you think? Within limits, I'm both pro-free trade and pro-trade union, I am suspicious of ideology and I tend to vote Labour. Deal with it.

"Predictable lefty tosser," was NBR's assessment of those politics, in a story that otherwise pressed pretty much all my vanity buttons. But it is true, what they say about "The Left": the people on it can be rather less tolerant of divergent opinions than their counterparts on the right.

This was demonstrated for me in the course of the GM stuff I did before the election. I came into contact with some really good folk in the anti-GM lobby, and I learned a lot. But there was also a steady trickle of creepy emails, from people who seemed to take the view that anyone with an opinion other than theirs, no matter how considered, was corrupt. I found that distasteful and unnerving.

On the other hand, the Life Sciences Network really irritates me sometimes too. It is good that there are cautionary voices, good that there is a debate, good that consumers are included. Who wants to emulate the awful American food industry? Organic food does generally taste better, but then, I'm flush enough to pay for it when I want it.

For the record, I'm not desperately keen to see the existing commercial GM crops planted here, although my concern relates mostly to commercial advantage rather than health risks.

In the end, we will stop treating it all as one thing and pick our applications, but market resistance to GM food will persist for a while. Pest-resistant Bt cotton will be the first to take off outside the US, because it seems to work well, it sharply cuts pesticide use and people don't have to put it in their mouths. Your Chinese-made t-shirt may already be GE, dude.

I think people have some serious misconceptions about the naturalness of many of our current feed crops. That non-GM corn is a flaky, patented, high-yielding hybrid that probably won't last past a generation.

On that score, I need to get in a correction that slipped out of a few bulletins. It came up in one of the interviews, and nobody seemed to know any better at the time.

Braeburn apples are mutagenic. But they're not the product of induced mutagenesis, which aims to produce new varieties by bombarding the plant genome with radiation or chemicals. Braeburns hail from a single mutant sport in a hedgerow. On the other hand, crops that have fed the world, such as dwarf rice, were developed by this method, which seems far more dicey to me than modern genetic modification.

I also recently had a polite email from Keith Locke, the Green MP, taking issue with my crack about him and Pol Pot - yes, he welcomed the new government in Cambodia in 1975, along with many other people here. He may have said some daft things in his time - I looked up some old Socialist Action League Stuff - but he never hailed Pol Pot or sought to excuse the genocide that followed. So sorry about that. You might say that what did happen there demonstrates the perils of "regime change".

Which brings us to the world right now. I am not much of a one for conspiracy theories. While I respect the work of NGOs, I find the ceaseless protest theatre of the anti-capitalist movement contradictory and irritating. While I think that the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF have all at times been blinded by ideology and made gross mistakes - the IMF's job on Argentina being a notable example - I am certain that if they did not exist we'd be obliged to invent all three.

But in the case of the current American leadership, I find my capacity to believe the worst has expanded considerably. This is not a Presidency, it is a court of malign actors, known corporate criminals and dangerous zealots.

The ideology behind the throne - American neoconservatism - has the dual and dubious distinction of being both banal and stupendously arrogant. As the White House made clear this week, the targeting of Iraq is not actually about weapons inspections.

These people provably harbour ideas of forcibly remodelling the Middle East to suit their needs, no matter what hell that might unleash. Then maybe a little beachhead in Asia. They see a world guided not by international law but by American exceptionalism. Congress this year passed a law giving the US the right to invade the Netherlands if an American is ever brought before the international court of justice in The Hague to answer war crimes charges.

Which brings to mind the Lewis Lapham essay I read just before September 11 last year: America as the New Rome. The several Hard News bulletins that followed that day were pretty memorable. They went everywhere: forwarded by email, posted on websites I'd never heard of.

I got more than 700 emails from all over the world: most appreciative, some angry, and I edited them up and sent them back out through the same channels. It was good. In truth, I'd have written the first one slightly differently, but its predictions were fairly accurate. American civil rights have been laid waste in the past year.

Many Americans, of course, know this. Not least the libertarian capitalists over at I don't always agree with the libs, but you can depend on them for a crisp argument. If you want a withering non-Left wing critique of the Bush government's mad foreign policy, they have one there: Operation Just Because, they call it. On this year's anniversary, they mourned not just for the dead, but for American traditions of open government, civil rights and privacy. I truly felt sad for them.

I don't begrudge Americans their grief. Last year's attacks tore a hole in thousands of ordinary families. They hurt New York and its people in a way we can't really know about. And I don't begrudge Americans the noisy affirmation of their nationhood - it's a natural response to trauma.

But I genuinely did think there might be some acknowledgement of the thousands of Afghani civilians who have died in the war in their country - a war for which there was a moral and practical case. Did they not, too, die in the name of freedom?

The denial of what war actually means is a by-product of picking tinpot villains and turning on them the mightiest military force in the world. Who dies in Iraq if it goes that far? Same as last time. Thousands of unwitting conscripts. Not the draft-dodgers in the White House and probably not even Saddam.

Americans are great: bright, bold and culturally bountiful. But their democracy is broken, and their government is a threat to the rest of us. I hope to hell they can see the need to fix.

But I'm an optimist. Always will be. I love living here: I love the food, the wine and the pot; the beaches, the music and the people. I love Auckland, even though its mayor is an idiot.

I never expected to wind up doing this thing for more than a quarter of my life, but it has been good for me. It has sharpened my writing, my radio skills and my research. It has opened career opportunities. It's been fun.

So what's next? Hard News will become a weblog; part of a small but tasty invitational community of weblogs, using locally-developed software.

So there will be more of it in some ways, just more manageably for me. I'll have more time for my day jobs, and to do some new things. I've been writing a bit for Real Groove - I don't have to, it's just fun.

There will also be radio or audio under the Hard News brand, but we haven't quite worked out what that will be yet. It'll be cool. I'm excited about change after so long.

The relaunch shouldn't be that far away: stay on the mailing list, read Scoop and, of course, keep on listening to 95bFM.

Finally, thanks and love to my family, who will no longer have to watch me effing and blinding, trying to eat toast, get dressed and shave at the same time so I can get out the door on a Friday morning. Phew. And, from this form of Hard News, G'bye!

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