Key on Sept 11

John Key has just delivered a very personal and very good speech to the US/NZ Partnership Forum.  I should have twigged with his former job, that 9/11 would have affected him:

This morning’s moving ceremony at Auckland Cathedral reminds us again that September 11, 2001 is an unforgettable and utterly defining day.

  

One of the characteristics of such rare days, whether they are days of tragedy or days of profound relief, is that they unite people. They unite people in their families and in their communities. They unite people of goodwill across countries and across political boundaries. 

 

On September 11, 2001 my thoughts were with the people of New York and, in particular, my former colleagues at Merrill Lynch. The Merrill offices in New York were just across the road from the World Trade Center, in what is known as the World Financial Center.

 

Not long before the attacks I had worked and lived there, on and off, for six years. Whenever I think of my time in New York, my mind is drawn to those two enormous towers across the street, now no longer standing.

 

My colleagues had experiences on September 11 that no person should have to suffer. Moreover, three Merrill employees died that day. Two were people I had personally hired, and one was my boss.

 

For New Zealanders as a whole, September 11 brought a surge of sympathy for and a sense of solidarity with the American people.

I remember even Yasser Arafat lining up to donate blood.

Today, hanging in a privileged position on the stairs of Parliament House is a battered New Zealand flag. This flag was found by some of the American heroes of September 11 in the rubble of the Twin Towers. It speaks to me of the deep friendship between the New Zealand and American people. This friendship, as ’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Murray McCully once put it, is the basic default position of New Zealanders.

 

That is the big picture in the United States/New Zealand relationship. Yet, accompanying that big picture has been the rift between our two countries over the nuclear issue, starting almost a quarter of a century ago.

 

I do not intend to dissect the history of that rift. There are many people in this room far better placed than me to do that, including our joint New Zealand chairs, former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger and Mike Moore.

 

They lived through, and were deeply involved in, the twists and turns of this often painful debate. Their presence no doubt tells you where they stand today on the importance to New Zealand of the United States relationship.

 

Independence on nuclear matters has become hard-wired into the New Zealand DNA. It is profoundly symbolic, and national symbols can be difficult for other countries to comprehend. But it is part of our collective psyche.

 

The first important announcement I made when I became Leader of the National Party was to confirm that under a future National Government there would be no change to New Zealand’s nuclear legislation.

 

A small country like New Zealand, which is so dependent on good international relations, cannot afford to have its key foreign policy settings changing with the political cycle. It is in New Zealand’s interest, and in the interest of those countries with which we enjoy close relations, to have a stable and durable platform on which to manage our relationships going forward.

 

I want to look to the future. I have little interest in debates, either economic or political, that simply re-litigate events of a quarter of a century ago.

Everytime I am in Parliament I look at the battered flag and reflect on what it represented – those New Zealanders who were in the Twin Towers the day of the attack.

 

I also like how Key puts the nuclear issue into the past a a quarter century old event, which should not affect the future.

 

The speech isn’t yet online but I guess it will be on National’s site soon.

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