It’s great to hear Phil Twyford celebrating a success. Not a personal ministerial success, it’s fair to say, but a success nevertheless related to arms control.
The arms on which Twyford is focused, it should be noted, will make quite a mess if they are triggered. They tend to be nuclear ones.
Police Minister Poto Williams is similarly focused on arms control.
The arms in this case are not in the same big-bang league as those embraced by Twyford’s portfolio, but their potential to kill is plain enough and inevitably they became a political issue in the aftermath of the mosque massacre in Christchurch last year.
Williams yesterday announced the next steps in the Government’s firearms reform programme, a three-month amnesty aims to remove further firearms and arms items that were prohibited and restricted through the Arms Legislation Act 2020.
The Government has allocated $15.5 million for compensation and administrative costs.
Among other new announcements –
- Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, starting at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland on Monday and then other dual-use Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities in Wellington and Christchurch.
- The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities. Sixteen organisations will receive funding for initiatives that help disabled people to access support, be independent and keep in touch with their friends and families “in innovative and sustainable ways”.
But it was Twyford’s celebratory speech that most interested us here at Point of Order.
We remember some of the highlights of his ministerial performance in the previous three-year term, when –
- On 24 May 2018, he was dismissed from his Civil Aviation portfolio after making an unauthorised phone call on a domestic flight as the plane was taking off in violation of national civil aviation laws.
- On 23 January 2019, he admitted the government would not meet its first target of building 1,000 KiwiBuild homes by 1 July 2019, stating that only 300 homes would be built by then. In June that year, the PM shuffled him out as Housing Minister and he became Minister of Economic Development.
- He was the Minister of Transport responsible for the Auckland light rail project, which Labour promised at the 2017 general election would be built to Mount Roskill by 2021. In 2019 Twyford conceded there would be no “spades in the ground in 2020” and last year New Zealand First refused to sign off on the project before the election. .
After the 2020 general election the PM dropped Twyford from her Cabinet but gave him the Disarmament and Arms Control and Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth portfolios as a Minister outside of cabinet.
As Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control Twyord’s responsibilities include leading New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance and the implementation of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987.
Support for the portfolio is provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
And yesterday, the disarmament team had something to celebrate.
In his speech Twyford enthused –
It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion – the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
This is a moment many feared would never come, but would rather remain forever an aspirational goal to be pursued by future generations of dreamers and idealists.
It is a moment for celebration, for reflection and, above all, for hope.
Mind you, Twyford could not claim this as a personal triumph and he did have the good grace to acknowledge this:
Today is the culmination of efforts across generations; efforts which have spanned the globe. It is a reward for the activists, academics, religious leaders, politicians and officials who never lost faith in the promise of a world without nuclear weapons.
Many, if not all, of you in this room have been involved in the campaign against nuclear weapons – some of you for decades. Today is your celebration fully as much as it is for those 50-plus governments whose ratification of the Treaty has now brought life to it.
Twyford recalled that the leadership role NZ plays on nuclear disarmament has its foundation in the groundswell of public opposition to nuclear weapons, triggered by nuclear testing in the Pacific.
Flotillas of private vessels had sailed to disrupt the French at Mururoa; tens of thousands of signatures were put to petitions presented to parliament by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (NZ); and declarations of nuclear-weapon-free zones proliferated around the country.
Labour PM Norman Kirk’s had dispatched HMNZS Otago to French Polynesia in 1973; the first of NZ’s cases against France was heard at the International Court of Justice in the same year; the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 “seared anti-nuclear sentiment into the Kiwi psyche”; a nuclear-free South Pacific was declared in 1987, the same year as the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act was passed.
Twyford’s speech mentioned NZ’s taking France to the International Court, our continued advocacy for nuclear disarmament at the UN, and our strong support for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty adopted in 1996.
And then he could mention his own contribution: just last month he had spoken (virtually) at the first ever meeting of Parties to the Treaty of Rarotonga to reinforce New Zealand’s staunch commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Our work on nuclear disarmament is far from over, Twyford somewhat ominsouly noted.
There are still more than 13,000 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of nine states – with the US and Russia accounting for approximately 12,000 of them. That’s more than enough to end life on this planet many times over. Reductions in the stockpile have slowed; and in a concerning trend, some nuclear powers are now increasing the size of their arsenals.
Nuclear risks are widely understood to be increasing, alongside the deterioration of the global security environment and the ongoing threats to multilateral institutions and the international rules-based order.
Twyford was encouraged by the Biden Administration announcing it is seeking a five year extension of the New START treaty with Russia. Without this the treaty would have lapsed in February, removing any limit on the number of Russian and US nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and missiles, with all the consequences that would have for a nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament.
As for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it provides the legal framing for a nuclear weapon-free world.
Twyford’s speech included a brief outline of some key provisions .
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22 JANUARY 2021