Red Alert

Smile and Wave goes to Washington

Posted by on April 6th, 2010

John Key is heading off to Washington this week for President Obama’s nuclear security summit.  DC’s  cherry blossoms are peaking about now but I doubt ‘Smile and Wave’ will have much time to enjoy them, what with all the bilaterals he is planning,  lobbying on the Trans-Pacific free trade deal, and then heading up to Ottawa for talks with Canadian PM Stephen Harper.

It is great John Key is attending the nuclear security summit. But rather than signifying a major policy commitment on the nuclear issue, I can’t help thinking it was motivated by the flattery of a personal invitation from his new mate Barack.

The summit’s aim is to work out ways to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. That is an important issue in itself and it is particularly important for Obama that he gets other nations to buy in to the US agenda on this one if he wants domestic support for the bigger disarmament initiatives.

But if the Prime Minister is serious about NZ amping up its nuclear disarmament activism, then he’d be better waiting a month and heading to New York in May for the review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This is the mother of international anti-nuclear treaties and it is up for its five-yearly review. The last review ended in acrimony and progress on nuclear disarmament ground to a halt during the dark years of the Bush White House.

Obama has staked a huge amount on getting progress on nuclear disarmament. His speech in Prague a year ago raised expectations sky high. His  deal with the Russians last week will see cuts to both countries’ nuclear arsenals. He is planning to take the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the Senate for ratification some time soon. It is widely agreed that now is the best chance in a generation to get progress on disarmament, and the NPT is the most important of all these initiatives.

And that is where there could be a role for New Zealand.  If countries had followed through on their commitments under the NPT over the last 40 years there would be no nuclear weapons left. But progress has been stalled by a stand-off between the founding club who want to hold on to their nukes (US, Russia, China, France and UK), and the outsiders (India, Pakistan, Israel) who resent being excluded from the club but have their nukes anyway.

What is needed is a global movement to get behind Obama, press ahead with the various initiatives under way, but more importantly lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive approach.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has put forward a 5-Point Plan to pursue this. It includes a draft Nuclear Weapons Convention for the global prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons under an international system of verification and enforcement.

Credible non-nuclear weapons states with a history of disarmament activism need to step up. They can bridge the gap between the nuclear club and the rest, and build a solid middle ground which another nations can support. Sadly there is no indication this Government has any appetite for the task in spite of this country having the most comprehensive anti-nuclear legislation in the world with strong popular backing. And in spite of the fact that our anti-nuclear policy is the very thing the PM’s new friend Barack seems so keen on.

21 Responses to “Smile and Wave goes to Washington”

  1. Martin says:

    Smile and wave also big noted at the Burnside High School reunion this weekend as most famous old-boy and none in the media mentioned the irony that he helped the closure of his primary school Aorangi not far away.

  2. Tracey says:

    Given the large number of protections within the states especially in farming, is there much point in a free trade deal?

    Speaking of reunions, Bil English was invited to the Centenary celebrations of the University Rugby Club in Dunedin last year. I assume he used to play for them? He came with his minders, and the Club had to pay for he and his minders to attend. It was a charity event, raising money. I just wonder, is this howit works for all politicians that attend such events, they and their minders are paid for by the event?

  3. Axis says:

    Wonder if John Key has sold his shares in that uranium company yet?

    Not digging it up might be a way to stop terrorists from getting their hands on it.

  4. jennifer says:

    I note that Key said on Sunrise this morning ‘yeah, I will be meeting Obama.’ Can anyone imagine the President on national TV refer to the Prime Minister of New Zealand as “Key”. Johnboy has no style, what-so-ever. A child doing a grown-up’s job.

  5. Tracey says:

    In fairness if he had calle dhim “Barrack” he would have been accuse dof being to familiar and pal-sy,

  6. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    So far all of Keys ‘meetings’ with Obama have been the ‘grip and grin’ variety.
    Not yet a chance to walk ( grovel ?)on the carpet at the White House?

  7. jennifer says:

    Tracey, what’s wrong with calling him President Obama? All other leaders do so, in public. For him to do otherwise is simply disrespectful, and demeans the relationship.

  8. James Caygill says:


    you’re absolutely right. I’d love to see New Zealand publicly working closely with the Swedes on championing the NWC.

    Although one thing I think we’ve glossed over in the past and should more openly accept in any future framework is the almost certain commitment globally for the peaceful spread of nuclear power.

    Not that we should have it here, just that that’s the quid pro quo for ending programmes that have potential military uses.

    Hans Blix’s recent (ie the last couple of years) writings in the area are well worth reading.

  9. Tracey says:

    c’mon jennifer H Clark was labelled disrespectful tot he Queen, this is small fry criticism surely.

  10. Unpleasantly Odouriferous says:

    Do you think giving your parliamentary colleagues epithets is necessary or helpful? I know you guys are trying to find your feet in this blogging space, and I think it’s great. But the silly little epithets like “smile and wave” sort of undermine your seriousness a bit. It’s a small quibble, in the grand scheme of things, but I just think that in the process of defining a space for yourself in the blogosphere, being like that truly awful character, Cameron Slater, is not the role modelling you ought to be doing.

  11. doug says:

    Offensive. You are warned. Clare

  12. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Wearing a trouser suit was disrespectful to the Queen ???
    Maybe by the dress standards of the 1950s.Anyway it was just a UK press( Daily Telegraph) beatup . The Queen is far more accommodating than that

  13. Andrew D says:

    It IS great to see Obama attempting to make good on his Prague speech which seemed to have fallen down his “To Do” list. The outcomes of the US Nuclear Posture Review, which appear to be leaking right now , will probably give some indication of how much success Obama is having with this agenda domestically and, given the compromises involved, could also be a major obstacle to future international agreements.

  14. Tracey says:

    ghostwalker, and a cellphone thingy went on. I dont find either actionoffensive, the Clark things or the Key calling him Obama. THAT was my point.

  15. James Caygill says:

    Nice catch Andrew. There’s lots of potential for good moves in the right direction in the NPR – a pity if the article is right about retaining first strike, although not all that suprising, nor all bad if other changes are made.

  16. Axeman says:

    Unpleasantly Odouriferous. Even the Whale calls Key “Smile and Wave” sometimes. Just like he calls Simon Power FIGJAM when he is criticising him.

    Epithets for everyone. Nothing really wrong with that

  17. jennifer says:

    Tracey, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. For the record, it might be ‘small fry’ but in my view, it is disrespectful for a head of government to refer to a head of state by their surname in public. When it does occur, it is often construed, or misconstrued, as a perjorative reference. He would hardly talk about “Rudd” or “Brown” in similar circumstances, but it seems to be okay to call the President of the United States “Obama” on national TV. I’m sure that should he do so when in DC, someone will have a quiet word.

  18. Anne says:

    Jennifer is right. It showed a lack of good manners and dis-respect for President Obama’s status. I wonder how Key would like it if he was referred to as simply ‘Key’ by foreign dignitaries. As for the claim that Helen Clark was disrespectful to the Queen, that was b——t. I have seen the film clip where Helen Clark welcomes the Queen several times, and she could not have been more gracious and respectful of Queen Elizabeth. It was nothing but the usual media tripe – trying to create a perception out of nothing.

  19. Spud says:

    Yeah, I couldn’t imagine Helen being rude to the Queen.

  20. Inventory2 says:

    @ Jennifer (10.36am) – a touch ironic, don’t you think, where an Opposition MP has headed up this post with the PM’s nickname, not his name. Common coutesies cut both ways.

  21. beepee of auckland says:

    [You are warned. PT]