Friday 17 September 2021

Keep New Zealand Nuclear-Free – Stay Out of AUKUS!

Playing With The Big Boys' Toys: The US faces an array of enemies it is no longer certain it can beat – not without destroying itself at the same time. Equipping the Aussies with nuclear submarines (and other things) represents the moment in the Western movie when the grizzled old wagon-master reluctantly places a six-gun in the eager hands of a twelve-year-old. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t think of it, but there are “Injuns” out there, and the wagon train needs every gun it’s got.

THANK GOD New Zealand is not a member of the new “AUKUS” alliance. Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States have joined forces in a military pact that has only one purpose: the intimidation and restraint of China. The price of admission to this latest demonstration of Anglo-Saxon hegemony is a willingness to “go nuclear”. Not a problem for the US and the UK, both of which have possessed nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered vessels for decades. It is, however, a very big, and potentially disastrous, step for Australia, which once boasted a nuclear-free movement every bit as noisy (remember Midnight Oil?) as New Zealand’s.

Indeed, had the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, not been a highly valued CIA asset of long-standing, it is possible – even likely – that both Australia and New Zealand would have ended up declaring themselves “Nuclear Free”.

The consequences of such a double declaration would have been profound. Not to be outdone by these far-flung antipodeans, the Nordic countries may well have followed suit. In time, the whole of the Southern Hemisphere may have rejected the madness of “mutual and assured destruction”. Seeing Reds, the Americans would certainly have had several pink fits. Not enough, though, to prevent the world from taking a slightly different course.

An intriguing counterfactual history, to be sure. What actually happened, of course, is that the Americans, having failed to “secure” David Lange as they had secured Bob Hawke, were taken completely off guard when the New Zealand Labour Party followed the breadcrumbs of sanity out of the nuclear forest. Washington was mightily pissed-off, naturally, but hey – at least it wasn’t Australia!

Certainly, Australia has never wavered in its determination to be the United States “Deputy-Sheriff” in what is now called the “Indo-Pacific” region. Ever since Japanese bombers, in about the same time it took them to get their bomb-bays open, sank HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales – and with them all the illusions of an overstretched British Empire – Canberra has tossed all its diplomatic and military chips into Washington’s pot. It does not intend to be caught out ever again as it was in December 1941. Henceforth, Australia would be right there in the room when the strategic decisions were being made – not 12,000 miles away. When your enemies are close, says Canberra, keep your friends closer.

The only alternative to taking up residence in Uncle Sam’s rectum, as far as the national security boffins and senior military brass were concerned, was for Australia to develop its own atomic bomb. Nuts? Maybe, but for a much longer period than one might have thought possible (1961-1973) the Australian right-wing governments of Robert Menzies and his successors were willing to give it a go. That they never quite managed to build an Aussie bomb was due largely to the refusal of the Brits and the Yanks to supply them with the wherewithal to do so. Anglo-Saxon imperialism may have been pretty crazy, but it wasn’t that crazy!

Fifty years on, and how things have changed. Washington is now willing to lease a dozen or more Los-Angeles-class nuclear-powered submarines to the Australian Navy. Why? Because, almost certainly, the secret protocols of the AUKUS Pact make it clear that, along with the nuclear-powered attack submarines, Australia will be given access to the “technology” it has always craved. Finally, Canberra will have what it takes to wipe the smirks off the faces of the Generals of the Peoples Liberation Army. Very soon America’s Deputy-Sheriff will be packing nuclear pistols.

If all this sounds like one of those paranoid Aussie television series, then it only goes to show that if you want to tell the truth – write fiction. AUKUS is proof positive that the Anglo-Saxon world has lost its nerve. It is the twenty-first century equivalent of circling the wagons against the Native Americans. The US faces an array of enemies it is no longer certain it can beat – not without destroying itself at the same time. Equipping the Aussies with nuclear submarines (and other things) represents the moment in the Western movie when the grizzled old wagon-master reluctantly places a six-gun in the eager hands of a twelve-year-old. Ordinarily, he wouldn’t think of it, but there are “Injuns” out there, and the wagon train needs every gun it’s got.

The New Zealand Government, its Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs especially, will happily stay as far away from this lunacy as possible – and the country’s anti-nuclear legislation gives them the perfect excuse. Moreover, with its paltry team of five million and its disturbing unwillingness to beat the war drum as enthusiastically as its much larger and more co-operative neighbour, New Zealand is dispensable. For the moment, Washington is perfectly happy to have the Kiwis cooling their heels outside the room where the big strategic decisions are being made.

All of New Zealand’s recent history, however, suggests that not being in the room is a situation which the New Zealand Defence Force will deem intolerable. It is also highly likely that a significant number of senior bureaucrats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be equally disturbed by our “no show” at the AUKUS party. They will be worried that Beijing, observing these developments from afar, will see a gap just large enough to accommodate a big, fat Chinese diplomatic lever. The “Deep State” (the military, key players in the state bureaucracy, and the national security apparatus) is unlikely to tolerate New Zealand being separated from its “traditional allies” for too long.

New Zealand’s prime minister, and her nuclear-free team of five million, should fasten their seat-belts: the next few months look set to give them all a very bumpy ride. As if fighting Covid-19 wasn’t enough, Jacinda should prepare for her very own anti-nuclear moment.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 17 September 2021.


greywarbler said...

This is something we could second to put the cat among the stool pigeons.

Glenn Webster said...

Sorry to have to disagree but nuclear power generation might be the best possible answer to the race's needs.
Not joining this treaty means that we have an increased probability of being a part of the CCP empire.
The original "nuclear-free" was meant to be "nuclear-weapons-free" until idiots took off with it.

Trev1 said...

Utter boomer bullshit. Nuclear power is the only plausible response to the climate catastrophe you are so concerned about.

Nick J said...

There is a bizarre lack of logic to a weapons deployment that is pointless. Nobody can win a nuclear war. Even having no nukes or not responding will save attacked or attacker. Nuclear winter and radiation poisoning will result, "winner" dies too.

Given that nuclear power stations create long term waste storage problems for hundreds of future generations maybe to save us we pay that price and burn the weapons grade uranium. Best of a bad deal.

DS said...

We successfully sat out Iraq. No-one in New Zealand is chomping at the bit for nuclear submarines, simply because New Zealand has never shared Australia's illusions.

All New Zealand's policy makers care about is having a nice, big export market for milk-powder... and China suffices for that just fine. Fonterra's importance goes double in an era without international tourism.

The Barron said...

China must look at Britain's role as an old drug dealer trying to move back to the hood.

Nick J said...

Further to the nuclear quandry we find ourselves in we are awash in weapons grade material in the thousands of pointless bombs in the worlds arsenals.

If we were to burn it in nuclear power plants we remove one problem but end up with a second pointless problem. Ten thousand years of spent fuel storage.

Trev1 advocates nuclear, good one Trev, we will store the waste at your place and task the next 400 generations of Trevs to look after it.

Bit tongue in cheek I know, but we have a nuclear problem that we seem incapable of recognising. Without recognising it how can we even begin to solve it?

RedLogix said...

Although I often appreciate Chris's long view on NZ politics, it must be a tough sometimes seeing some of your most cherished causes from the 80's crumble before your eyes. It turned out that an apartheid free SA didn't become a place you'd want to live in, and that if we hadn't closed the door on nuclear power 40yrs ago we probably wouldn't be fretting about climate change.

And worst of all discovering that the nice happy place the hobbits enjoyed in their far-off corner of the South Pacific, was being quietly protected by those imperialist Yanks you hated so much.

David George said...

Yes Trev, not sure that the anti nuclear powered angle is very smart. While nuclear's advantages for submarines is obvious, absent any hitherto unknown discovery or development, it will be the go-to technology for shipping generally; there is simply no other viable technology to replace oil burning ships.
As oil reserves deplete (and what's left becomes increasingly expensive to extract), and nuclear powered shipping becomes common will we be willing to refuse shipping to our shores and suffer the massive collapse in our standard of living that would result.

I suspect the nuke powered subs thing is just an excuse for an anti American rant but it's pretty obvious that Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Indonesia and all of our neighbours in the Pacific have serious and justified concerns over a rampant, bullying China with a massively expansionist military policy.

Wayne Mapp said...

New Zealand might well want to stay out of AUKUS. But that does not mean there are no implications for us. Australia is our only formal ally. This has both advantages and obligations. Australia , Canada and the UK are all replacing their ageing frigates with a common UK design, the Type 26 frigate. New Zealand is not part of this arrangement, even though our two ANZAC frigates are of the same age as the frigates of the other three nations.

I believe that a particular consequence of AUKUS is that the current New Zealand government will be expected to indicate how it intends to replace the two ANZAC frigates, which are already 24 and 22 years old. AUKUS shows that the three nations are stepping up their defence capability. As an ally of Australia, New Zealand will need to recognise these changed circumstances. It seems to me that there will be real pressure on the New Zealand government, before the next election, to indicate how it intends to replace the ANZAC frigates. This was always going to be the most difficult decision among the three big defence procurement decisions of replacing the Orion maritime patrol aircraft, the Hercules transport aircraft and the ANZAC frigates. Ron Mark in the Labour NZF government made the first two decisions. It looks like the most difficult of the three decisions will fall upon the shoulders of Minister Peeni Henare.

The Type 26 is a large and expensive frigate. The Australian have budgeted $35 billion for nine ships, almost $4 billion per ship. Possibly too expensive for New Zealand. However, the UK is also building the Type 31 frigate, which is about the same size as the ANZAC frigates. They come in either a high level variant or a low level variant. The cost ranges from $1 billion to $2 billion depending on the variant. A combination of both variants could replace the two ANZAC frigates and the two Offshore Patrol Vessels, with a fair amount of the construction being done in New Zealand. Given AUKUS, it probably makes sense to stick with a UK designed ship, just as Australia and Canada have done.

On a broader issue, quite clearly AUKUS is one of the outcomes of Brexit. The UK is now more independently engaged than it was when it was part of the EU. As it happens, they are reverting to traditional relationships. I expect the UK will also become part of the Quadrilateral Dialogue (Australia, Japan, India and the US). Especially given the growing importance of India.

On a final point, I think it is highly unlikely that Australia will lease twelve Los Angeles submarines. These are already quite old and are going out of service, being replaced by the Virginia class submarine. Though it is possible Australia may get, say, two Los Angeles submarines later this decade to build skills in operating nuclear submarines. Alternatively, Australian submariners will be posted onboard on British and American submarines. The long term plan is for Australia to build nuclear submarines, though obviously they will get the nuclear plant from either the UK or the US. The indications are that Australia may go for the British Astute class as opposed to the American Virginia class. Time will tell which choice the Australians make.

Ricardo said...

As with most international dynamics geography plays a large part.

NZ can afford not to have any credible defence forces because anyone who would wish us ill has to come through Australia first. We can silently be grateful for Australian capability while parading our disaster relief and peace keeping abilities.

It is a real case of having your cake and eating it too. NZ has done very well out of AUKUS, we still are in 5 eyes, China will not be displeased (yay, have more milk powder and timber and meat), and the nuclear free domestic audience is content.

On another matter, what on God's green earth is the UK doing sailing a carrier around the South China Sea? Have the Brexiteers determined England is still an empire and Singapore was never lost? Can someone tell Boris the colonies are gone, the Raj is over, Hong Kong is a memory and crabs still crawl through the bombed hulls of the Repulse and Prince of Wales.

Or is it just an enhanced policy of being Uncle Sam's faithful horse handler?

greywarbler said...

Nuclear power might look a possibility in a model. But Iran can't be allowed to do much because there is a possibility they could build up to weapons level. I am sure it would be a poisoned chalice. The alternative? For electricity the government is still fiddling as I see Minister Megan Woods is agonising about some having better discounts than others. Bit late for Labour to attempt labour intellectually and practically.

Basic electricity needs met, enough for business, from solar arrays and personal dprovision with fair buy-back payments from the corps? Perhaps we will be supplied from Australia and make do with Palestine's ration allowed by Israel, their menacing neighbour.

greywarbler said...

'Or is it just an enhanced policy of being Uncle Sam's faithful horse handler?'
It seems that they are grooming themselves for this honour.

Tom Hunter said...

Stay Out of AUKUS!"

Heh. I really don't think there's any worry about that Chris. The majority Left in this country still passionately cling to the past glories of that part of the 1980's Fourth Labour government, focused on nuclear weapons it's true but with a substantial Green part against nuclear power.

Meanwhile the Right realise that we're utterly useless as a military power nowadays and see no point in throwing good money after bad, so will not push for much beyond cheap replacements for what we've got.

As far as the Yanks, Aussies and US are concerned, I'd bet that since they know all this they never gave us a second thought re AUKUS. We didn't even get a mention on the 70th anniversary of ANZUS.

So relax. The only bad news is that you likely won't be able to make this a campaign issue as before. You won. Enjoy it.

Shane McDowall said...

Ricardo. In WW-2 German auxiliary cruisers, at least two Japanese submarines, and U-862 bypassed Australia with ease.

The truth is the Australian armed forces could not defend Australia, let alone New Zealand, without massive US military aid.

Fun fact: Geoff Palmer ordered two ANZAC frigates and was "gobsmacked" when the National Party did not order two more. It gets better, the frigates were not ordered because the nationalist conservative party,NZF, opposed the purchase. Once the fragile NZF-National alliance fell to pieces all hope of buying the frigates disappeared.

For the RNZN to have an effective combat force the minimum is three frigates. Two operational while the third undergoes repairs or refit.

Shane McDowall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trev1 said...

Nick J: concerns about nuclear waste are absurdly over-hyped, by the usual suspects. In the near future new nuclear reactors are likely to be able to further use existing waste in any case.

Odysseus said...

Well for many of us the "intimidation and restraint" of a totalitarian, fascistic and aggressive power such as China has become under Xi Xinping is a very good thing. Well done the Aussies, shame on New Zealand.

larry mitchell said...

New Zealand's wilful anti-nuclear "powered" (hardly nuclear "armed") ships stance, is wrong-headed, ideologically driven and illogical.

We will soon have to decide, either to provide a mooring for a Chinese aircraft carrier in the Hauraki Gulf or a berth at Devonport for an American-Australian nuclear-powered submarine. I know which one I'd prefer.

Call this realpolitick if you will. For mine the US/CCP dilemma is blindingly "obvious".

Ricardo said...

To Shane McDowall

I scarcely think submarines and merchant raiders signified any threat to NZ. To use your logic a Russian Bear Bomber flying near Scotland means the UK is directly exposed to Russian invasion.

While not a military expert credible talk of military threats constituting potential invasion must have a solid base of logistical and operational reality. At present China is as capable of invading northern Australia as Monaco is of invading Bangladesh.

In fact talk of invading Taiwan is still premature. The experts I have read say China would need to be able to transport 8 full brigades of the PLA Marines plus paratroopers plus regular resupply of the same to physically invade and occupy the island. This would take a shuttle service of at least 12 amphibious carriers plus all naval and air support. This would call for massive all services battlefield coordination while facing Taiwanese and US missiles, submarines, surface craft, stealth fighters, air superiority fighters, Taiwanese tanks etc with home ground advantage etc PLUS being able to defeat satellites, cyber counter attacks etc..

Any Chinese plan would have to involve pre-emptive attacks on US bases such as Guam and Okinawa plus long range DF missile strikes on selected key assets. Since Pearl Harbour and 9/11 the US factors in pre-emptive attacks and actively plans immediate responses. Plus any Chinese build up would be hard to disguise.

All in all too hard at present. So talk of military exposures at higher levels should always be taken with a grain of salt. Not to say of course that it cannot happen.

Nick J said...

Then we can safely store it at your place and with your people for the next ten millenia.

Shane McDowall said...

Australia was picked instead of France otherwise it would be FUKUS.

The Barron said...

Yep, Britain's Indo-Pacific is down to Pitcairn and Henderson in the Pacific, and is holding onto the British Indian Ocean Territories despite international adjudication to pass the Chagos Islands to Mauritius.
The nation the once ruled the waves now waives the rules.

Shane McDowall said...


You appear to have missed my point.

You wrote "NZ can afford not to have any credible defence forces because anyone who would wish us ill has to come through Australia first".

The Axis raiders proved that anyone intending us harm can sail straight passed Australia.

The only credible military threat to New Zealand is a the submarine. Our frigates and the Boeing P-8 provide a very credible threat to a hostile submarine.

Australian windbags love on expounding on their much loved "New Zealand as defence bludger" theme. Assuming that you are a New Zealander, I find it odd that you should join the chorus.

Nick J said...

Must grate with all anti imperialist and anti colonialists that they speak read write in English, and live with the legacy of British institutions and intellectual thought.

Like the Romans theyve buggered off, but what did they ever do for us? Nothing!!!

Nick J said...

Ricardo, I concur. The more obvious way for China to take Taiwan is non military, just quietly to buy up its companies that have any value, and undercut the rest of Taiwans exports. Sit, wait. The Chinese are very good at the long game.

Ricardo said...

To Nick J

It would be a huge call to launch a pre-emptive attack on the world's largest military. Everyone to date who has done it has suffered. It could galvanise the disunited States and make an overwhelming response politically advantageous.

If, and it is a big if, careful planning saw a quick invasion of Taiwan and then a defensive posture that would make retaking it hugely expensive and painful, combined with placatory gestures and a strong marketing campaign, then maybe. Endgame? Control of the South China sea and the first island ring. Free access outwards.

A quick invasion would require something akin to Germany's invasion of France in 1940. Radical new techniques and technology. What has China that could negate US satellite, coms and control technologies? You can't fight if you can't see.

Ricardo said...

to Shane McDowall

You cannot invade a country with a submarine.

There is a long-standing story, most probably apocryphal, that the US sailed a sub into and out of Wellington Harbour, submerged, during the eighties, just to make a point. Nuclear powered too the rumour goes.

The Barron said...

History is History, Nick.

The point is Britain under Johnson having a neo-imperial global view. AUKUS is part of this. I make the note of Britain's refusal to abide by international law in regard the Chagos, I think it is indefensible a North Sea nation claiming ownership over islands and people in the Indian Ocean, refusing compensation for mass removal of a defined people and their culture and defiance of international law regarding passing sovereignty to Mauritius. This is not historical, this is contemporary.

It is concerning that you would defend this unlawful international bullying by hiding it behind some view of 'legacy to which we should be grateful enough to ignore the plight of people today.

The Chagossians should not be consigned to History because of your nostalgic wish for a smudge if pink to remain on the map. International crime is just that. Try not to excuse it Nick.

Shane McDowall said...

To Ricardo.

So you can't invade a country with a submarine. Thank you for sharing this pearl of wisdom with us ignorant peasants.

Submarines could easily strangle New Zealand. Given the trend towards ever larger cargo ships using ever fewer ports, and the range of nuclear submarines, NZ is even more vulnerable than in WW-2.

According to urban legend, Soviet submarines used the Cook Strait cable for degaussing. And, they used fiordland to take on fresh water while submerged.

I suspect these tales are as likely as your apocryphal tale.

Nick J said...

Touch a nerve Barron? You have obviously never seen the Monty Python sketch on what the Romans did or didnt do for us. For your edification

If you can get your head around the concept the point is we all carry the compilation of history with us in our languages, cultures and institutions.
You dont get to choose the good nor bad, history is the past and you are the sum total embodied in the here and now. So when you or I start picking away in criticism of anothers culture, past, sexuality etc think of the Sermon on the Mounts great wisdom “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged.”

You've again jumped the gun on assuming somebodies position and made accusations. I said zip about the UK position on the Chagos, never heard of it before, and incidently think that if your information is correct, UK should slip off quietly back to the North Sea, where nostalgic pink smudges belong. Oh, excepting those pink smudges lurking in pretty much everybody in NZ along with all our other smudges from here there and everywhere.

Nick J said...

Sun Tzu is what China have, why fight when you can defeat your enemy by other means?

greywarbler said...

The Barrion at 23.24
I like. The nation [that] once ruled the waves now waives the rules.

Being small and having autonomy; I note that Australia has peremptorily taken autonomy from Norfolk Island and is taxing them more. Oz has the example of making NZ a profit-centre so now they are Sheriff they are leaving no loose ends untied.


2016 ttps://

Norfolk Island was a self-governing territory for 36 years until May 2015, when the Federal government abolished its nine-member parliament and replaced it with a local government administration – with NSW managing health and education services on the island in return for federal funding.25/06/2021
Qld govt to take over Norfolk Island services from NSW › qld-state-govt-to-take-over-norfolk-is...

Now -
Sept.2021 -

Ricardo said...

To Shane McDowall

Forget submarines Shane, NZ should fear the world going vegan. No amount of frigates can protect NZ against a plant-based diet eschewing meat and dairy.

The Barron said...

'Jumped the gun on assuming somebody's position', coming from you Nick, it is - I think the technical term is "prissy". It is of course your trademark.

Anyway, your reaction to my Chagos comment was expected and allowed the opportunity to note your hypocrisy.

In regard to history, I would have thought my 'history is history' note lined up with every post I have made, that history requires analysis. Whiggist history has no place, it has been mainstream and counterpoint balance this.

In regard to Monty Python, along with the Beatles it is Britain's greatest contribution to world culture.

The Barron said...

Anyway, Nick this isn't an argument, it's just contradiction

Nick J said...

I didnt expect you to understand, too subtle perhaps. Now Im hypocritical. Pots and kettles come to mind.

Also Whiggist history has no place? Edmund Burke, Paine et al damned. How very absolutist. Only history as you see it allowed?

The Barron said...

Oh dear, you think Whiggish history is the history of the Whigs. I think I will rest.

Nick J said...

Oh and I think weve had the full half hour. You are right, good comedy.

Nick J said...

Thanks Barron, I learn something. That said Whig historians or Whiggish history, who says that is off the table? That is too absolutist. Do you propose we shut down other schools of history such as Marxists?