Take two actions for peace and climate justice this week

This week, we encourage you to sign two petitions and help build a culture of peace and a powerful movement for climate justice.

  • A fair go for a family in danger
    Seven months ago we learned about a family who attempted to seek asylum in Aotearoa New Zealand by boat. This petition calls on the New Zealand government to offer resettlement to this family: three adults and three children. They left Sri Lanka and boarded a ship in Indonesia in 2015, bound for New Zealand. Their ship, the Andika, was seaworthy and would have made it here, but they were intercepted in a ‘turnback’ operation that forced them off their ship and seriously endangered their lives. Six years later, they remain in an Indonesian detention centre, hoping that our government might give them their fair chance to claim asylum— claims they are legally entitled to make.
  • Read more & sign the petition
  • End fossil fuel permits
    We are in a climate emergency – the heat waves, deaths and wildfires in Canada are just a taste of what we will see without drastic immediate action. We need to transition off fossil fuels urgently. The current accepted notion of being carbon neutral by 2050 is far too late. This petition calls on the Government to ban any new oil and gas prospecting, exploration and mining permits including extensions of existing permits in Taranaki and to ban any new coal mines or expansion of existing coal mines in Aotearoa by 2022.

Petitions are one way you can take action. Getting involved in regular organising is another. If you are interested in working as part of Peace Action Wellington, contact us on peacewellington@riseup.net or via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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ACTION ALERT: Submit on the new terrorism law

The government has recently introduced a new counter-terrorism bill in response to the Christchurch massacre. Addressing white supremacist terrorism is a good thing, however this new law will not make us safer and could target political activists

We encourage people to submit opposing this legislation. Submissions are due on 25 June and can be made here.

This material can be used in your submission.

  • Lack of oversight 

The Bill includes no provision for an independent monitor to review how counter-terrorism laws are operated in New Zealand and to ensure they are not abused. John Ip, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Auckland, argues the Bill should include the establishment of an equivalent of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom, or the Independent National Security Monitor in Australia. This would mean an expert is appointed to constantly review the operation of New Zealand’s terrorism legislation. The monitor’s reports would provide a ready source of reliable information for MPs, civil society groups and the public to use when calling out abuses of counter-terrorist legislation.  

Submitters should urge that IF this legislation is passed, that an independent monitor should also be created.  

  • The definition of a “terrorist act” (Clause 6 – New terrorist act defined)

    The government is actually expanding the definition of a terrorist act here. Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council sums up the problem in her recent article for The Spinoff:

“The proposed legislation broadens the definition of terrorism. Instead of defining it as the inducement of “terror in a civilian population” it is now simply “fear in a population”, a less stringent definition which lowers the mens rea, the intention of committing a crime. Where before the definition of a terrorist act was one done “to unduly compel” a government or organisation to carry out (or abstain from) an action, now it just “to coerce”. This broadens the definition of terrorism, giving wider power to the state. It’s difficult to see the justification for doing so. These new powers would not have helped to prevent the Christchurch mosque attacks. The issue wasn’t that the laws weren’t broad enough to prosecute the terrorist prior to the atrocities he committed.” 

  • Create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act

    It is already illegal to plan and prepare to do illegal and/or violent things: murder, robbery, arson etc. are already crimes for which you can be charged with ‘conspiracy to commit’.

    The expansion of the law could make targeting political activists who are planning an action more likely. The potential for activists being targeted has always existed under the Terrorism Suppression Act, and this widening of the definition may make that easier.
  • Creates a new offence to criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training

    Communities organising against racist violence and attacks may organise self-defence training activities. Enforcement agencies steeped in institutional bias may interpret this type of community organising as terrorist preparation. For example, many gyms offer ‘combat style’ training activities. 

    Use of firearms and restricted weapons is already tightly regulated in New Zealand with the use of “reverse onus” in the Arms Act. That means that a person who is found to have guns or restricted weapons (like a crossbow or molotov cocktail) has to prove that they have “lawful, proper and sufficient purpose” in having the firearm – this is very different from most NZ law where a person is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. So a person can have lawful possession (they have a gun license) but if using the gun to rob a store then the possession is not proper or sufficient, and therefore illegal. It is not necessary to criminalise weapons training for terrorist purposes because it is already illegal to carry out a terrorist act. Therefore, possession of weapons in training for that purpose would be illegal under the Arms Act.
  • Create a new offence for international travel to carry out terrorist activities AND expand the criminal offence of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support

    Both of these justifications by the government overlook the racist and biased nature such decision-making of who “terrorist entities” are. As Anjum Rahman again writes: 

“United Nations Security Council’s designated sanctions list of terrorist entities..does not include a single white supremacist, white nationalist, alt-right or neo-Nazi organisation. Even though there have been so many mass shootings by these groups, the definitions of terrorism used by the UN means that these organisations can often continue to elude authorities. This is symptomatic of an international bias that also impacts us here in Aotearoa.”

Similarly, the New Zealand government’s list of designated terrorist entities did not include any white supermacist or far right entities, until the Christchurch shooter was designated in September 2020.  Those travelling to Syria or Iraq who have joined ISIS are clearly targetted by the new Bill, but people travelling to the US or Australia that join neo-Nazi organisations are not.

This new clause is also a problem because national liberation groups, fighting repressive regimes, are being designated as terrorist entities by Western governments, including New Zealand. New Zealand designates the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA).  This could impact people in New Zealand wishing to provide financial or other support to Kurdish organisations in Turkey or left-leaning activist groups in the Philippines struggling for human rights — especially if the New Zealand authorities accepted their Turkish and Philippine counterparts’ word that a large range of progressive Kurdish and Philippine activist groups, political parties and trade unions are PKK or CPP/NPA front groups. 

Through extending the definition of a terrorist act, the Bill means even more groups resisting repressive regimes could be designated as terrorist entities.  This is concerning because New Zealand’s terrorist designations of liberation groups already encourage further state repression by abusive regimes.  Cameron Walker, a legal academic at the University of Auckland, notes New Zealand’s terrorist designation of the CPP/NPA is regularly cited in press releases by the notoriously abusive Duterte Administration, justifying state violence, including extra judicial killings, against activists.  

  • Expand control orders to include people who have finished a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence

    This clause is unnecessary. The Parole Act already allows for a long list of special conditions to be imposed on people leaving prison:
  • Conditions relating to place of residence (including that they must reside at a particular place)
    • Conditions to not associate with any person 
    • Conditions prohibiting the person from entering or remaining in specified places or areas, at specified times, or at all times
    • Electronic monitoring

More reading on the proposed new terrorism law:

Make your opposition known. Make your voice heard. Make your submission today.

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Peace Action Calls for Radical Change on ANZAC Day 2021

Peace Action Wellington is hosting an Anzac-weekend peace event called The Climate of War: white supremacy, climate justice and militarism that challenges the meaning and purpose of Anzac Day. The free, public event will be held on Saturday, 24 April from 1-5pm at the Wellington Central Baptist Church at 46 Boulcott Street.

“This event is about making the links between the current climate crisis, war and structural racism,” said Peace Action Wellington member Valerie Morse.

“We are told that Anzac Day is about remembrance, and on the face of it we remember that people died and suffered. But New Zealand has not yet engaged in real, ethical remembering of the past. In terms of World War 1, that would require the government to acknowledge that it was a racist war to strengthen imperialist control over much of the world’s oil resources, where millions of people died pointlessly, and which set the stage for the slaughter of 50+ million people in World War Two.”

“Ethical remembering requires that we learn from our history to create a different future. World War One is not detached from contemporary world affairs. It was a profoundly important time that secured much of the oil of the Middle East, including in Iraq and Iran, into the hands of the British Empire with the help of New Zealand troops.”

An impressive line-up of speakers will explore the effects of this history and connections to the climate crisis from diverse lenses – from the impacts for Tangata Whenua and the peoples of Moana-nui-a-Kiwa/the Pacific, to the stories of refugees and migrants.

On Saturday, we have a line up of speakers that includes:
Te Ao Pritchard (Pacific Panthers) and Nate Rew (Te Ara Whatu): Tangata Whenua and Indigenous perspectives on Climate Justice and War
Pacific Climate Warriors workshop: Retelling Pasifika stories and claiming Pasifika agency
Nadia Abu-Shanab (Palestinian, teacher and unionist) and Byron Clark (researcher): The uses of history and ethical remembering for a transformative future
Gayaal Iddamalgoda (Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaigner, Unionist) and Adriana Che Ismail (Secretary at VicMuslims Club and Campaigns Manager for the Wellington Community Justice Project’s Asylum Seeker Equality Project) – Disrupting the narrative: open borders, migrant stories of war, and challenging islamophobia

“We invite the public to engage in this critical space for learning and unpacking the past in order that we can build a radically different and just future.”

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Trade for all? Peace groups question the NZ trade strategy of investment in a homegrown weapons industry

From 2015 until 2018, peace groups spent a considerable amount of time working to shut down New Zealand’s annual weapons expo, an event sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms dealer. In 2018, in spite of a reported $250,000 security budget and a gargantuan police operation including a two-metre high blackout security fence and public ‘no-go’ zones of dubious legality around the Palmerston North event venue, the local war industry held the last of its in-person conferences.

It was the peace movement’s direct action tactics that brought an end to these “Defence Industry” events, but there has never been any wider social license for a homegrown military-industrial complex. As a general rule, people don’t think it is OK to profit from war. The furore – and demands for divestment – over shares held by the NZ Superfund and Kiwisaver funds into weapons businesses shows the strength of feeling across the country.

Yetthe recent release of a large cache of documents shows that development of a weapons industry is precisely the trade strategy currently being pursued by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), supported by the the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Force (NZDF).

These agencies along with the industry lobby group, the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA), have been promoting and working for the inclusion of New Zealand companies into Australian military projects. One of these projects, the construction of nine new warships, is being built by BAE Systems, a British arms company with a long history of corruption, that is supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia used in the war in Yemen, and that is producing components for nuclear weapons.

In 2018 and 2019, these NZ agencies joined forces, so to speak, to mount trade booths at two Australian arms fairs, hosted a lavish breakfast event at one, provided media tips and business advice, and set up meetings with large weapons dealers and military procurement personnel..

The Land Forces conference (2018) is a bi-annual “a showcase for manufacturers, systems integrators and maintenance and logistics specialists operating across the full spectrum of land warfare,” while the Indo-Pacific (2019) conference is a bi-annual trade show for naval armaments and maritime technologies.

On 31 August 2018, in advance of the Land Forces conference, a senior staffer at NZTE emailed NZDIA and NZDF staff attending the conference to say that “Tony from BAE will be at the stand about 12:30…(he) is a good advisor on how to access opportunities in BAE, particularly their shipbuilding programme.”

One senior NZTE staffer emailed the collaborating organisations following the 2018 Land Forces conference, saying “I would like to acknowledge the excellent collaboration around Land Forces last week. It was a great NZ team effort – government and industry pulling together to project New Zealand onto the stage in Adelaide. Our customers have benefited from the profile gained and have many business leads to follow up on. I was pleased by the very genuine level of interest shown by Primes and by ADF (Australian Defence Force) and ADOD (Australian Department of Defence) people who were at the show.”

Primes refers to “prime contractors”, the very large weapons companies that undertake to build whole weapons systems such as warships, fighter jets, bombs and missiles. These Primes – companies like BAE and Lockheed – typically sub-contract hundreds, even thousands, of other companies to supply component parts.

One NZ company, Tactical Solutions, got assistance with setting up meetings with an ADF Colonel to sell night vision, thermal imaging, weapon sighting systems.

At the Indo-Pacific 2019 conference in Sydney, Jon Finderup from the Ministry of Defence and Commander Murray Tuffin of the Navy were the speakers at the NZDIA lunch-hosted lunch. In appreciation NZDIA chair Jenny Vickers wrote, “thank you to NZDF and MOD. We are very appreciative of the level of engagement, and quality of support from NZDF and MOD to industry, which made New Zealand stand out.“ 

The cosy relationships between the weapons lobby group – the NZDIA – and government departments evidences the growing infrastructure of a military-industrial complex. While domestic production is of interest given the $20 billion military capital spend up started under the last National government, it is the much more lucrative overseas markets, particularly Australia and the US, that are of growing interest.

Yet in none of these documents does any ethical or even strategic consideration arise about what such a goal actually represents: a New Zealand government willingness to participate in a regional arms race; a strong endorsement of Australia’s military build up, and a complicity in strengthening the power of global weapons companies.

The Australian government has committed $90 billion for new shipbuilding alone. Their massive military build up is part of a wider Pacific arms race that is unfolding. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute notes that the region that received the largest volume of major arms supplies in 2015–19 was Asia and Oceania, accounting for 41 per cent of the total, and that it was second only to the Americas in global military spending, at $523 billion (27 per cent of world spending).

A Pacific arms race is not an abstract idea, but an already unfolding reality – one that New Zealand should be doing everything it can to stop. The US military Pacific “pivot” started in 2011. The Chinese government has embraced an aggressive plan of island building in the Pacific to host its naval fleet. Aotearoa and our Island neighbours will be at the epicenter of any Pacific war.

Meanwhile, Australia has become the fourth largest importer of weapons in the world, behind only Saudi Arabia, India and Egypt. In this environment, one NZTE senior staffer notes, “The New Zealand Government and our companies are proud to support Australia’s ambition to build a world-class defence industry.” There are numerous references within NZTE conference documents emphasising the long and strong Australia-New Zealand defence relationship. A 2.5 hour Auckland presentation by NZTE & Thales (a French nuclear weapons company) about business opportunities includes notes that this programme is intended, “To support a muscular approach to Australia’s interests in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Yet by helping to arm Australia, the NZ government compromises New Zealand’s own security and makes a confrontation and regional war more likely. It also gives tacit approval to the Australian government’s defence policy, which has included a brutal, militarised response to the arrival of refugees including forcing boats out of Australian waters to run aground on remote islands and detaining people to be imprisoned in offshore detention centres.

Perhaps most worrying is the lack of concern expressed by these agencies in seeking work for NZ businesses with global weapons companies. Companies like Lockheed Martin are not just passive suppliers to willing customers. Instead, these companies create demand for their products by lobbying for aggressive military policies and new wars.

In the US, UK and Australia, there is a revolving door for high-ranking military personnel in lucrative jobs at private arms companies. President-Elect Joe Biden’s new secretary of defence, retired four-star General Lloyd Austin joined the board of Raytheon Technologies, the fourth largest arms dealer in the world, in April 2016 after a career in the army. As of October 2020, his Raytheon stock holdings were worth roughly $500,000 and his compensation, including stock, totaled $1.4 million. Now he is returning to ‘public service’ directing US military policies and procurement.

More evidence of the role of weapons companies is that their stock prices frequently soar on news of potential wars. In early January 2020 as Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and threatened war, Lockheed Martin saw its stock price spike to over $416, a jump of seven percent almost overnight.

In recent statistics on actual military sales, SIPRI again notes “Nineteen of the top 25 arms companies increased their arms sales in 2019 compared with 2018. The largest absolute increase in arms revenue was registered by Lockheed Martin: $5.1 billion, equivalent to 11 per cent in real terms.”

For a government that is nominally committed to a ‘Trade for All agenda, the development of a home grown arms industry seems strikingly odd. ‘Trade for All’ is meant to replace the decades long, aggressive neo-liberal trade strategy of free trade deals, overseas investment and deregulation pursued by both Labour and National. This nicer, kinder, if you will, trade strategy resulting from consultations and discussions with Māori and communities across Aotearoa, reflects some of the real concerns, such as labour standards and climate change, of the many ordinary people who took to the streets repeatedly to protest the TPPA in the years leading up to Labour’s quick signing of that deal in 2017.

Along with those critically important concerns, we can be sure that the same NZ public would be deeply alarmed at trade that encourages militarisation of the region and that supports the growth of the global weapons giants.

These same weapons fairs are being held in 2021 and 2022 respectively. We know that our friends in the Australian peace movement are working to stop these events from happening.  We don’t yet known if these New Zealand agencies will again host booths to promote New Zealand involvement in the Australian arms industry.

A transformative government, a government seeking ‘trade for all’ and other positive social outcomes, should not be banking upon the lucrative world of weapons dealing for New Zealand’s future prosperity. Trade for all cannot reasonably include profit for those who trade in death and human misery, and benefit from the waging of wars.

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Air New Zealand assisting war crimes in Yemen

“The shocking revelations that Air New Zealand has been assisting the Saudi military in the war on Yemen must prompt a wider inquiry into the Crown’s involvement in the arms trade,” said Peace Action Wellington member Valerie Morse.

“It is absolutely not credible for the Minister of Finance to say that this is an operational matter. This is a national security and foreign affairs issue, and the government cannot avoid taking responsibility for it solely by blaming Air New Zealand.”

“The war on Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Our national airline is implicated in a naval blockade that has led to the mass starvation of millions of people. It is beyond comprehension. At the same time, that the government was unaware that a company in which they are the majority shareholder is undertaking this kind of work shows a level of negligence which is unacceptable in the extreme.”

“While the actions of Air New Zealand are shocking, they are not surprising to us. We know that the New Zealand government has been pursuing international weapons sales and services as a trade strategy for nearly two decades. There are other crown institutions and government agencies that are deeply involved in the international arms trade.” 

“It is time to put a stop to this. It is morally bankrupt and indefensible to profit from war, death and human misery. The New Zealand government should move to ban any and all contracts with militaries that commit human rights abuses. This is not hard.”

“We are calling for a wider inquiry into the actions of Air New Zealand and all crown institutions involved in the arms trade. At this stage we know that this includes New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Callaghan Innovation, University of Auckland Uniservices, the NZ Superfund, University of Canterbury Geospatial Research Institute and ACC. We are sure that there are more.”

Peace Action Wellington report Profiting from War on the New Zealand arms trade: https://peaceactionwellington.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/profiting-from-war-for-webprint.pdf

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