No Heart for Anzac Frigates

A protester was violently arrested at a pre-Anzac Day demonstration at the Ministry of Defence staged by Peace Action Wellington on Monday 18 April to mark the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

The peaceful protest highlighted the government’s recent invitation of US warships to Aotearoa, and spoke out against out against military spending.

As Anzac Day approaches, New Zealand’s defence industry continues to exploit the Anzac myth for the perpetuation of its war agenda. New Zealand has just recommitted its military presence in Iraq, and its ‘ANZAC class’ frigates are being upgraded in a $446 million contract won by the Canadian arm of global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin. The upgrade includes missile defence, communications and radar detection, torpedo decoys and an overall combat management system.

Lockheed Martin is chief sponsor of the NZ Defence Industry Association’s weapons conference, to be held in Auckland in November. The annual conference, which Peace Action protested in Wellington last year, is an opportunity for those who profit from war, to display their wares and woo government contracts.

“As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, Lockheed Martin’s role in the weapons conference and the Navy upgrade is contrary to the spirit of New Zealand’s nuclear free status, and an offense to the memory of those who died senselessly from war 100 years ago”, says Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Tim Bollinger.

The Auckland event will coincide with the New Zealand Navy 75th anniversary celebrations, which will see a large flotilla of foreign naval ships paraded in Auckland harbour. The government’s invitation to the world’s navies to attend the event is extended to vessels from both France and the United States, countries that have historically challenged New Zealand’s strong anti-nuclear position.

If the U.S. accepts the invitation, it will be the first visit to New Zealand from a US naval vessel, since our Nuclear Free legislation required them to drop their “neither confirm nor deny” policy on the presence of nuclear armaments on their ships in the late 1980s. They have never conceded.

Peace Action Wellington protested the Navy upgrade and the government’s position on US ships by delivering a cardboard US warship, named the USS Apocalypse to highlight its possible nuclear capability to the Ministry of Defence. Protesters asked to deliver the ship and their message of peace to Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee, Chief of Defence Force Tim Keating and Chief of Navy John Martin but police swiftly arrived. Whilst protesters were leaving, one demonstrator who has a pre-existing injury was violently arrested, worsening her condition.

“The spirit of the Anzacs should not be used for the glorification of the defence industry’s present day war agenda,” Tim Bollinger said. “The $446 million spent on the frigate upgrade could have paid for 7,824 heart operations. Peaceful protests highlighting these issues should not be met with arrest.

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