People power – WORD Christchurch

Cover of Peace, power, and politicsMaire Leadbeater was a spokesperson for Auckland CND in the 1980s. She is the daughter of local Canterbury hero Elsie Locke, who was renowned for her fiction, and also for her role as a peace campaigner. Elsie wrote the book Peace People on the peace movement up until 1975. Maire’s new book Peace, Power & Politics How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free – more than five years in the making – is a continuation.

People Power saw Maire was in conversation with investigative journalist Nicky Hager. It was a brilliant, potent discussion of politics, peace and power. The near-full room had many listeners who had been part of the peace movement with both Maire and Nicky – it was a place of people who respected each other and were keen to listen.

Peace, power, and politics

The book has a strong photographic element, and the session began with a slideshow of images. Maire said:

There is no better way to describe a demonstration than with a photo.

The discussion ranged through the 1980s:

  • The visit of Dr Helen Caldicott in 1983. She raised such topics as If the bomb dropped in Cathedral Square, how many people would be incinerated.
  • The 1984 Labour Government’s commitment to nuclear-freee and hwow
  • The USS Buchanan refused entry in 1985 (Maire named this “the peak of our nuclear free story).
  • Women’s centrality to the movement. The selling of 250,000 nuclear free stickers was dubbed a “girlcott”.
  • The first Waihopai demonstration – 153 days of a peace camp in the middle of winter.
  • Gaining an “unambiguous nuclear free policy”.

Foreign policy

Maire Leadbeater: People PowerMaire had a lot of interesting observations on foreign policy. Her highlight was when New Zealand helped with Bougainville in 1997. In that case, New Zealand used its independent image to very good effect – we should do it more often.

Foreign affairs should be subject to democratic input … It is so important to be exposed to what is going on.

She also wrote about East Timor. Negligent Neighbour: New Zealand’s Complicity in the Invasion and Occupation of Timor-Leste charted the hypocrisy of New Zealand’s support of Indonesia, using the OIA a lot to get access to documents and information.

Maire wished New Zealand foreign policy focused more on the self determination of nations, instead of constantly looking at World War One and Two and battles.

Writing the book – and researching the next

Peace, power, and politics took around five years to write. Maire interviewed people from peace movements all over the country. She made use of “wonderful libraries” like the Macmilla n Brown and Alexander Turnbull.

I love being in the archives and finding things out.

She is already researching her next book on MFAT and West Papua. The documents are “shocking” and are not redacted as those obtained under the OIA are.

“Thank goodness for people who get to the truth”

Luke Harding was in the audience, and asked about surveillance and infiltration. Maire said the Philippines Solidarity Network was being watched by the SIS. But “it doesn’t stop you doing what you’re doing”:

Thank goodness for people who get to the truth … keep pushing and pushing.

Nicky Hager and Maire Leadbeater
Nicky Hager and Maire Leadbeater

One thought on “People power – WORD Christchurch

  1. bibliobishi 30 August 2014 / 3:25 pm

    It was a very informative conversation I agree. Your blog captures it nicely.

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