Editorials 13 April 2010

The Herald warms up on nukes:

Who would have thought even a few short years ago that the New Zealand Prime Minister would be on the guest list for the nuclear security summit hosted by the President of the United States in Washington? John Key’s presence offers further evidence that the rift of the 1980s is all but mended. It may be too soon for a resumption of visits to New Zealand ports by American warships, but there is an undoubted resonance between this country’s anti-nuclear law and President Barack Obama’s long-time commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.

Indeed. And while I doubt we will ever rid the world of nuclear weapons, I will be glad to see a lot less of them.

A constant grievance of non-nuclear nations has been that, while the non-proliferation treaty denied them the right to acquire nuclear arms, those countries with such weaponry seemed to regard its retention as their right. The importance of President Obama’s initiatives, and those of Russia, is that they illustrate a change of attitude by the pair, which possess more than 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons between them. Their move towards disarmament provides, in turn, a greater moral authority to address examples of proliferation, real and potential, whether the likes of Iran’s nuclear programme or nuclear weaponry becoming part of the arsenal of terrorists.

In this area, I think Obama’s policies have been sound, It is hard to preach restraint to the rest of the world, while not doing anything to reduce your own arsenal.

President Obama said last week that nuclear terrorism posed a graver threat than the risk of war between nuclear nations. He is undoubtedly right, and the crafting of a pact to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of groups like al Qaeda will be a focus in Washington.

Stopping Iran from developing them would be a good start to that.

The Press also talks nuclear, but ore on ships:

Passage of the nuclear-free legislation in 1987 marked New Zealand as a nation prepared to take an independent stance on the world stage.

This stand did win friends, especially in Europe, but it also came at a cost. It led to a defence freeze with the United States, including an end to US navy ship visits. But with Prime Minister John Key now attending a nuclear summit in Washington, it is inevitable that a resumption of visits should be mooted, in this case by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, an architect of the nuclear-free law.

Renewed visits by US navy vessels would be a logical step in the thawing of the defence freeze with our former ally and would not require a change to the present anti-nuclear law.

Yep. No law change needed. Of course the Greens will still protest it, but they protest almost everything about the US.

It is possible that the nuclear propulsion issue will be revisited in the future. But this is likely to be in the context of nuclear power generation, especially if other electricity sources, such as hydro and wind turbines, continue to be beset by opposition to their location, and the security of power supply is seriously threatened.

Actually nuclear power is not particularly practical for New Zealand, but I agree it should be an option. Much better than coal!

The Dominion Post focuses on :

Justice,” a former lord chief justice of England said, “should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

Manifestly that has not been the case in the long-running, and convoluted, dispute between the former Wool Board and a group of woolgrowers that found its way to the Court of Appeal in 2007.

One of the judges who considered the case, Bill Wilson, was a close friend and business partner of Wool Board counsel Alan Galbraith, QC. Justice Wilson disclosed their shared ownership of a racehorse or racehorses to counsel for the woolgrowers and, if his recollections are accurate, their shared ownership of a horse stud. But for reasons that are now presumably costing him a great deal of sleep, he did not disclose that he owed Mr Galbraith almost $250,000. Nor did he disclose the debt to colleagues in the Supreme Court when they considered an appeal from the growers in March last year. In fact, he led the court to believe he was not beholden to Mr Galbraith in any way. …

Justice Wilson is a well-liked and well-regarded legal practitioner who has added a dose of common sense to the bench. However, in this instance his judgment has failed him completely.

By neglecting to fully inform the growers’ counsel of his links with Mr Galbraith, he has not only damaged his own reputation, but that of the highest court in the land.

The operation of the justice system relies upon public confidence in those who administer it. New Zealand is a small country. Inevitably, there will be friendships between judges and lawyers, and lawyers and lawyers. The public knows that lawyers who one day are verbally brawling in court may the next be arguing in support of each other and that, on other occasions, they may be observed enjoying each other’s company in social settings.

That is reasonable. Members of the legal profession are not expected to carry professional enmities over to private life and judges are not expected to sever all personal ties on being elevated to the bench. However, for public trust in the system to be maintained, all conflicts and potential conflicts of interest have to be properly disclosed.

And that lack of disclosure, especially to his Supreme Court colleagues, may extract a heavy price.

But such processes take time. In the meantime, the reputation of the judiciary is being compromised.

At the very least Justice Wilson should have stepped aside from his duties, when the case was referred to the judicial commissioner. When he did not do so, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias should have stood him down.

I disagree. A mere investigation by the JCC should not require a Judge to stand down. However if the JCC recommends a complaints panel be established, then a stand down would be appropriate.

And the ODT also talks nuclear:

A year ago, President Obama announced his plans for a world without nuclear weapons, expressing a hope rather than any rational expectation, but nevertheless a plea for disarmament that was widely welcomed.

This week he signed the “New Start” treaty with Russia, under which both powers will reduce their nuclear arsenals, while still deploying 1550 warheads each. …

Perhaps the true significance of these measures is to compare the situation with that which existed before 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed: at that time each side deployed more than 20,000 strategic warheads.

I remember those days well. At school we saw films about nuclear war, and around half of my generation though a global nuclear war was likely in our life time.

The collapse of the Soviet Empire was a wonderful thing.

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