Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labour values

Today is the fortieth anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Norman Kirk, leader of the Third Labour Government. The values he espoused, as quoted in the piece above put out today by the New Zealand Labour Party, are still Labour Party values.

His time in office was remarkable, even though he was only Prime Minister for a little over 20 months before his death. One of Kirk’s first acts was to withdraw New Zealand troops from Vietnam, where they’d been involved for eight years. He also abolished compulsory military service, and the New Zealand Defence Force has been all-volunteer ever since.

Kirk criticised US foreign policy, and in a speech to the United Nations spoke specifically of the US Government’s role in the 1973 Pinochet coup in Chile. None of which endeared him to the Nixon Administration. This fact, along with his sudden, unexpected death, led to rumours that the CIA had poisoned Kirk, but that notion has been pretty much dismissed by historians.

For many Kiwis, his best-known action was sending two frigates, HMNZS Canterbury and HMNZS Otago to Mururoa Atoll to protest French nuclear bomb tests. He also banned the apartheid-era South African national rugby team, the Springboks, because the team wasn’t racially integrated.

Kirk is still remembered for his belief in a fair and just society, one in which everyone matters. Those values—summed up in that Norman Kirk quote above—are still at the heart of the NZ Labour Party.

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