Green Party lunch revealed in Wikileaks cable

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 14:51 02/05/2011

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Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has angrily denied his party was seduced by America after Wikileaks released cables revealing a discreet diplomatic lunch in Washington.

"This article is disgraceful journalism," he wrote to Stuff after the meeting was reported on this site this morning.

Leaked American diplomatic cable reveals that a discreet diplomatic lunch, a free trip to Washington and assurance of "assistance" from the US Embassy in Wellington have been used to blunt the Green's "radical positions on many issues".

The Americans seduced Green co-leaders Metiria Turei and Norman, the latter with a free trip to Washington, and managed, over a lunch, to get a commitment from list MP Kennedy Graham "to turn (to the embassy) for any assistance he may need in the future."

Whistleblower Wikileaks over the weekend published around 1500 cables written by the US Embassy in Wellington.

In his reaction Mr Norman said he was not approached to comment and objected to the US cables being handled as if they were truth.

"The US Embassy invited me to go to US to look at renewable energy and climate change policy," Mr Norman said.

"This was after (President Barack) Obama was elected so I went and it was useful.

"I blogged about it at the time and I declared it in my 2010 Pecuniary Interests statement," he said.

"We haven't blunted our approach and we haven't been seduced.

"It is only the Green Party, for example, that is currently speaking out about the SAS handing over prisoners to be tortured by the US and Afghan forces."

Some of the more controversial cables were already leaked to media outlets but this is the first release of all of them on a single Wikileaks site.

On the July 15, 2009, lunch between Graham and US mission head David Keegan, the cable said:

"The overarching purpose of the July 15 lunch was to establish the beginnings of a warm and respectful relationship with Graham," Keegan cabled home. 

"By lunch's end, an open dialogue and a mature relationship with Graham going forward were highly probable."

He said Graham displayed an "extensive knowledge and understanding of global affairs", was "an evident multi-lateralist" and a "moderating influence on his frequently radical party."

Graham (brother of former Justice Minister Sir Doug Graham) "does not appear to be bogged down in the left-wing dogma which imbues many of his Green Party colleagues....

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"He revealed that he does not always subscribe to the majority view of his party's caucus.... Graham has the potential to be a moderating voice within the Green Party, synonymous with taking radical positions on many issues."

While the Greens had been a strong critic of US policy, Keegan said they had held "a highly successful call on the Green Party's new co-leader, Metiria Turei" and they had got Russel Norman into the US under its visitor programme.

Norman had reported on the "great value" he got out of going to the US.

In an earlier cable Keegan said the Labour Party needs to "revamp its current parliamentary list, which is replete with tried, tested, and largely defeated Labour Party stalwarts".

In April 2009, Keegan reported he had delivered "requested needs and specific asks" of New Zealand for Afghan forces. The cable did not list them.

He said New Zealand had been trying to get Japan to provide support "but to little avail". New Zealand believed "Japan's security forces lack self-confidence and worry they may not be able to perform adequately in international security operations".

But New Zealand had "shamed" Malaysia into contributing a warship for pirate patrols after China and Korea did so.

A month after his cable, Keegan filed Prime Minister John Key's announcement that the Special Air Service would return to Afghanistan.

ISLAMIC EXTREMISM 'BREEDING GROUND'

In 2006 US Ambassador Bill McCormick assessed the impact of Wahhabism on New Zealand's Muslim community. The 18th century doctrine is now the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia and is regarded by Washington as extremist.

The embassy said Saudi Arabia was funding Wahhabism in New Zealand.

An embassy official visited the Ponsonby Mosque in Auckland which, he said, provided a mixed picture.

"The imam wore traditional Arabic garb, sometimes indicative of Wahhabi leanings, but he followed orthodox, non-Wahhabi methods....

"However, of the approximately 300 worshippers attending the day's services, about 20 per cent, mainly young adults of Arab appearance, were following Wahhabi-style worship methods."

McCormick said recent migration had seen "immigrants with limited language and educational backgrounds" enter.

"If not carefully managed, this could lead to the kind of insulation seen in some Muslim populations in Europe that can potentially serve as a breeding ground for home-grown extremists."

US concern about the state drug-buying agency Pharmac featured throughout the cables and it was clear that Washington was under pressure from American drug companies to make the issue a central part of any free trade deal.

In 2004, US Ambassador Charles Swindells said the embassy was "attempting to make inroads against a government mindset that is hostile to the drug industry" and tried to "educate New Zealanders on the benefits of gaining access to a wider range of effective pharmaceuticals."

The embassy noted an unexpected side effect from Pharmac, which it said denied cutting-edge drugs to New Zealanders: "Ironically, New Zealand presents a small but optimal environment for clinical trials of pharmaceuticals because of its population's lack of exposure to newer medicines".

KAHUI FAMILY 'HID BEHIND MAORI GRIEVING CUSTOM'

The 2006 murders of infant twins Chris and Cru Kahui drew a cable for McCormick, saying it "highlighted the growing problem of welfare dependency, drug and alcohol addiction and child neglect within the Maori community".

He said the Kahui family had hid "behind a traditional Maori grieving custom" to stonewall police investigations.

McCormick noted Maori Party leader Pita Sharples expressed "open indignation at the actions of the Kahui family and his efforts to address social problems within Maori have broadened his political appeal."

The cables point to a high level and continuous New Zealand concern over Fiji ruled by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama who seized power in a coup in 2006.

Both Australia and New Zealand have tried to have Fiji troops removed from United Nations peacekeeping forces, but the cables showed "Washington's concern that parties not rush to remove Fiji's participation in UN peacekeeping operations, noting the importance of Fiji to UN peacekeeping operations in Baghdad and elsewhere."

In a cable written in February 2006, the US Ambassador in Suva, Larry Dinger wrote of meeting the New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji, Michael Green, who reported that Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters had met with Bainimarama.

"Green noted that Peters and Bainimarama know each other well, and had spent considerable time together in Wellington pubs during the Wellington Sevens rugby tournament a few years back," the cable said.

AUCKLANDERS SEEN AS 'MATERIALISTIC AND UNFRIENDLY'

The most bizarre assessment of New Zealand came in a 2006 cable by McCormick reporting on the proposal to build a stadium on the Auckland waterfront for this year's Rugby World Cup.

Written before Auckland became a single city, McCormick said the city has a "testy relationship" with New Zealand. 

"Auckland is wealthier, far larger, and much more multicultural than other NZ cities. 

"Aucklanders are seen as money-focused, materialistic and unfriendly and those who live outside Auckland believe the city absorbs more than its fair share of government resources."

But McCormick reported to Washington that "Aucklanders resent the tight-fistedness of their fellow countrymen, who seem willing  to fund prestigious but money-losing projects in other cities."

The New Zealand cables are available at www.wikileaks.ch/.

- Stuff

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