Too far, Fran

Written By: - Date published: 10:36 am, January 16th, 2010 - 42 comments
Categories: energy, Environment, International, law, Media - Tags:

Despite almost never agreeing with Fran O’Sullivan, I have respect for her. She comes from the ACT-right and her pieces reflect that but she argues honestly and intelligently, the latter in particular being in short supply in this country’s political discourse.

So, I’m a bit saddened by her piece this morning:

If Wellington was devastated by an earthquake of the 7.3 magnitude that has reduced the Haitian capital of Port au Prince to ruins, would Kiwis embrace help from the US Navy?

News reports indicated the US aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was expected to arrive in Haiti yesterday, spearheading the major relief mission President Barack Obama has ordered to deliver humanitarian relief to shocked earthquake survivors.

It should not escape notice that the Carl Vinson is a vessel of the Nimitz class – the fleet of nuclear-powered ships which are the pride of the US Navy.

Nuclear-powered ships are banned from entering New Zealand waters under the anti-nukes legislation that David Lange’s Labour Government introduced in the 1980s.

I’m betting that the John Mintos of this world, who were poised to air their ageing vocal cords this weekend against the planned visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to New Zealand, would still be pig-headed enough to form a picket line outside the US Consulate office in Auckland if any US nuclear-powered carrier deployed our way for humanitarian reasons

…If a major disaster strikes here, would we cock a snoot at US help – however it might be delivered?

We know she is fiercely pro-American and sees the nuclear-free legislation as a barrier to a free trade deal but it is completely inappropriate for O’Sullivan to take advantage of the Haitian people’s suffering to further her own political ends.

Further, it’s a silly, fallacious argument. The government has to actively decide to refuse permission for a ship to enter if it may be nuclear-powered and the Attorney-General has to power to decide if there should be a prosecution. They would obviously look the other way or decide it counts as ‘innocent passage’. To paraphrase an American term, the law isn’t a suicide pact.

No-one is going to object to aid from a nuclear-powered ship in the event of a catastrophe. The “John Mintos of this world” (and most of us are a lot younger than you, Fran) would be too busy trying to help people in need to worry about the propulsion of a ship coming to our aid.

I was expecting someone to try to make this point but I thought it would be Slater or some no-name right-wing blog, even Farrar would have the judgement to steer clear. I wouldn’t have thought O’Sullivan could be so coarse.

42 comments on “Too far, Fran”

  1. big bruv 1

    It is a very well thought out piece from Fran, as per usual she is dead right.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      As per usual she lets her ideology blind her.

    • logie97 1.2

      How many times over the years has Fran uttered the words that we are a tiny nation. Well in this case it is a huge factor. Devastating earthquakes become disasters in densely populated cities. Not a possible scenario in New Zealand. We would manage it well. Try again Fran.

      • logie97 1.2.1

        And I am sure we would have leaders dotted around well away from an epicentre, ready to take over – one might be at home in Dipton, while another might be up in Helensville.

        • Eddie

          .. probably out of country 😉

        • Macro

          Parnell more likely.
          As for the Beehive I have had a role in civil defence exercises in the the CD control centre in the past – it is built to withstand much greater shakes than 7.3 So Fran can rest assured.

  2. Mach1 2

    But is the Wellington harbour even navigable by those behemoths because they’d be useful for SWF hove to a kilometre or more offshore in the channel.

    • zelda 2.1

      Exactly .
      No US nuclear carriers could enter NZ ports because they are too big ( maybe Marsen Pt but that is only used for tankers so couldnt off laod anything.
      The US has quite a few smaller carriers and ships which can carry vehicles , troops and supplies.
      Not something a nuclear carrier normally can do.

      • RascallyRabbit 2.1.1

        I know that the Kitty-Hawk class of super-carriers visited Wellington with reasonable regularity during the Vietnam war – however the Kitty-Hawk class is conventionally powered and about 20% smaller than the Nimitz class that Fran is talking about.

        It also appears that the USS Enterprise – a single class vessel – but the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier in the world and still currently the longest (though not the biggest in terms of displacement) visited Wellington more than once also – the first during ‘Operation sea orbit’ which was a US Navy mission to circumnavigate the globe in 3 all-nuclear powered vessels.

        These ships can certainly call at ports in New Zealand if required but they have little reason too even if there was no anti-nuclear legislation.

        • zelda

          Kitty Hawk class – all gone.( non nuclear)
          They are all nuclear powered now.

          The Enterprise only passed through Cook Strait. It cant enter the harbour entrance which is of course shallower than the harbour proper.
          The harbour entrance has a depth of 11m while the Enterprise is 12m !!!
          Did you say you wanted a nuclear carrier to come into Wellington ?
          Other nuclear carriers are very similar

  3. BLiP 3

    I wonder what is not for sale in Franland.

    • burt 3.1

      Her principles. Not being a lefty means she actually thinks for herself.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        No, not being a lefty means that she has no principals (they’ve already been sold) and couldn’t think to save herself.

      • Chris 3.1.2

        I used to read Fran, many many moons ago til I realised that she had no morals, no ideas, no principles and simply rehashed arguments heard from Zombie Douglas and Mad Dog Prebble.

        I suggested once in a letter to the business editor that along with salmon pink wall paper, grey carpet and grey zip up shoes, she should be retired – but silly fools that they are, they believed in the 80s.

  4. lprent 4

    Wrong. A simple bit of clear thinking would have made that clear that her scenario is pure fantasy.

    Apart from anything else a 7.3 would probably do relatively little damage. After all the last decent sized earthquake around the Wellington area was at least 8.2 (and it is a log type scale). The building code for Wellington has always used that as a base.

    The nearest US navy ships are at least weeks away, they’re not just parked around the corner as they are in Haiti. The greatest benefit of putting military on the ground is within the first week to get the people and bodies dug out. So support from NZ would fly people in.

    In any case, there is absolutely no way that any ship commander would sail into the Wellington Harbour with after shocks being likely. The entrance to the harbour is a bit small and has a tendency to get blocked by geological events in the past.

    Fran is pushing a scenario that is simply ridiculous. Grade – idiot! (along with big bruv, who obviously didn’t think either)

    • burt 4.1

      Apart from anything else a 7.3 would probably do relatively little damage.

      That would depend on how long it went on for. You have studied this stuff, you know that a long 7.3 would have potential to destroy a lot of stuff even in NZ.

      • lprent 4.1.1

        Damage property – yes. Kill in large numbers – no.

        The building regs are there to protect people, not property. Usually there are repairs required after every quake.

        We’ve had 12 earthquakes at 7.3 or above in the last 100 years. Most recent was in 2006. Look them up at Quake Search

        Also look at recent quakes and see how many we have ongoing.

  5. Bill 5


    I’m not disagreeing with your sentiments, but it seems that both you and Fran are overlooking a central point. The US will move military and National Guard into Haiti and so called looters will be getting shot any day soon. Same as in New Orleans as the victims of a disaster transmogrify into the hated and feared enemy. And sliming on n on the back of the ‘military relief’ effort … the corporates.

    They see the disaster as an opportunity for them to further and lock in their corporate agenda.

    Naomi Kline calls it ‘Disaster Capitalism’. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend that you do.

    It’s not about aid arriving aboard military vessels (nuclear or otherwise). Its about the same old white mofo’s using the effects of disaster as leverage to claim title over the remnants and control over the future.

    • Bill 5.1

      Just heard on Radio NZ that ‘Bands of machete wielding thugs’ are roaming the streets of Port au Prince in the same breathe as it’s announced that US troops are expected to hit the ground come Monday.

      The killing’s about to begin.

  6. Seti 6

    Apart from anything else a 7.3 would probably do relatively little damage.

    What tosh! The Kobe temblor in 1995 was a 6.8, 16km deep, and caused US$100bn in damages, not to mention the more 6,000 dead.

    Fran rightly raises the potential of idealogues to undermine any aid effort. Should such a catastrophe stike and nuke powered ships play any assisting role whatsoever then the nuke ship policy would indeed be ‘gone before luchtime’…permanently.

    • lprent 6.1

      Firstly – Did you miss the words designed for. Japan doesn’t have a particularly good record on building. Most of their failures were in the older building that were done before they put rigorous building standards in.

      Secondly – Did you miss the point about the ships being too damn far away to be of any use.

      Thirdly – show me a case of your hysterical scenario of ‘ideologues’ ever stopping aid efforts?

      Fourthly – well you (and Fran) sound like a bloody idiot postulating a weird ideologically driven scenario and then attempting to derive policy from it.

  7. randal 7

    frankly I dont give a fig about the nuclear thingamybob. when we stop buying goods from any country that uses nuclear power in their grid then I might take some notice.
    and it should not escape notice that before the break up of the USSR when there was an accicdent in antarctica a very large nuclear powered icebreaker tied up at the wharf in wellington and nobody made a peep.

    • zelda 7.1

      Nonsense. The russains are the only ones with nuclear powered icebrekers, other countries have conventional ships. The Russians have never sent an nuclear icebreaker to the Antarctic but only the conventional ones . Apparently they cant cross the warmer tropical waters due to the seawater cooling for the turbines

  8. Being of a suspicious mind ,especially when Right-Wing people are concerned I am wondering if the O’Sullivan article is the start of a covert campaign to make USA ships acceptable. The cosying up to US millitary personal by this National Government has me twitchy.
    We know that (dispite Keys smilling “acceptance ” of Labour nuclear policy) the Nats would love to open the gates to not only nuclear ships but nuclear power. Lets keep an eye on this lot,

  9. Just as you are digusted by Fran’s comments, I still feel sick to my stomach with what “Peace Action New Zealand” did two days after 9/11, at a Christchurch memorial, ripping off notes that said “Our Prays are with you America” and replacing them with

    “This is all America’s fault” and “No sympathy for the USA”

    What kind of vile mentally ill person would do that?

    Back to Fran, Im guessing she is not far wrong with John Minto.

    People’s idealogy make them do stupid things.

    Anyway its good to see the world is helping Hatai.

    • felix 9.1

      Brett you’re a retard.

      You’ve had it explained to you over and over again that it wasn’t the group you thought it was. You’ve had it explained to you over and over again that they never had an office at the address you claim.

      Yet you come here telling the same made up miserable story every time someone dares to use the words “American” and “fuckwit” in the same article.

      Nothing sinks in Brett. I think you’re subnormal. Are you Karl Pilkington?

  10. Jenny 10

    Sounds to me that, Fran O’Sullivan would welcome Armageddon itself, if it could be shown to benefit free trade

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    Firstly, There’s no point in sending nuclear powered ships here as they’re too far away to be of any use – especially aircraft carriers. If anything needs to be flown in it’d be cheaper to fly direct from Australia anyway.

    Secondly, I doubt if anyone in NZ would be overly bothered about nuclear powered ships coming into NZ waters for humanitarian aid.

    Thirdly, Why are the US sending an aircraft carrier? It’s not exactly designed for humanitarian aid use and would probably be of very little help.

    • Daveosaurus 11.1

      “Why are the US sending an aircraft carrier?”

      There have been reports that the airport at Port-au-Prince is clogged with ‘planes that can’t take off again because the airport has run out of jet fuel. In that case an aircraft carrier would at least give certain types of ‘plane somewhere to land.

    • Eddie 11.2

      Aircraft carriers can produce large amounts of fresh water from seawater, supply electricity, have big stores of food, have lots of medics, and have a crew trained in damage control etc.

      They certainly are assets in these situations.

      • Draco T Bastard 11.2.1

        Any ship could do that, hell, the inter-islander can do that. I think Daveo got it – it provides an airport that Port Au Prince no longer has.

  12. RascallyRabbit 12

    Ahhhhh – they carry helicopters – potentially useful in a humanitarian relief effort.

    Also everyone is looking at this in isolation; generally an aircraft carrier is part of a carrier strike group which also includes frigates, destroyers, submarines and supply and logistical ships.

    However in this case I believe the group is different and includes ships such as the USS Comfort which is a mercy class hospital ship and other ships that can be useful and are within the immediate area such as dock landing ships. I also understand that elements of one of the strike fighter squadrons have been removed from the vinson and replaced with more helicopters whilst the USS Bataan has also been deployed which can carry up to 40 helicopters.

  13. Mac1 13

    We can of course make better provision for our own civil defence.

    An idea that I would like examined, one which I know has been touted recently by defence analysts, is that of a hospital ship. I did some research on hospital ships two years ago similar in size to a roll-on roll-off ferry which can literally ride out an earthquake and also proceed to the areas of most need to provide medical help, water, drugs and medicines be they needed in New Zealand waters or in the Pacific.

    Such a vessel could act as a floating hospital on the NZ coastline bringing medical assistance to communities far from hospitals or in need of back-up to deal with problems. Also, it could provide training for military or civilian personnel in disaster relief, medical emergency procedures etc etc etc.

    A $100 million would probably buy and convert, crew and staff such a vessel. It has been done overseas by the Spanish for their fishing fleet.

    Good overseas aid possibilities are also an added bonus as well as local civil defence. The Americans of course have huge hospital ships which show their humanitarian flag throughout Latin America and there was, and probably still is, a private philanthropist organisation with a hospital ship as well doing good work

    • Peter Wilson 13.1

      Not a bad idea at all. Although New Zealand doesn’t have the best record with purchasing and retro-fitting ships – anyone remember the HMNZS Charles Upham. The new Canterbury had a lot of this functionality designed into it, except it’s not proving to be too reliable at present, at least until those instability issues get sorted.

      By the way, it’s not commonly known, but the railways used to design all their intersland ferries to generate power at 50hz – the frequency of the national grid. Not sure if that design consideration till happens though.

      • Stuart Mackey 13.1.1

        “Not a bad idea at all. Although New Zealand doesn’t have the best record with purchasing and retro-fitting ships anyone remember the HMNZS Charles Upham. The new Canterbury had a lot of this functionality designed into it, except it’s not proving to be too reliable at present, at least until those instability issues get sorted”

        The current Canterbury does not have a lot of capacity for hospital work, certainly not on the scale of a major natural disaster and has very limited helicopter capacity to boot.
        The problems with Canterbury, indeed the entire ‘Protector’ series of ships is lack of experience in the navy for running such projects, and an unrealistic budget set by the then government.

      • felix 13.1.2

        …the railways used to design all their intersland ferries to generate power at 50hz the frequency of the national grid.

        Peter can you explain the importance of this?

        • NickS

          It means you get them to act as emergency generators in NZ disaster zones (where they can dock…) without having to lug around, or find, the equipment to change the frequency of the generated power.

    • Stuart Mackey 13.2

      We cannot staff our existing hospitals properly, or the Navy for that matter. Although this is a good Idea, the defense budget would need a boost over 1% gdp to do this, and that is not going to happen any time soon.

  14. and then there is the objectionable slander of the good man minto, and his types

  15. Stuart Mackey 15

    Carriers? Nuclear or otherwise I doubt that that is what would be sent, although the extra helicopter facilities/fuel/fresh water generation would be nice, the Nimitz class and other big deck jobs are designed for power projection and are not readily adaptable to do much else.

    If they do send ships it would be LHD’s (that’s Landing, Helicopter and Dock for those of you who don’t know); These vessels are specifically deigned to get battalion groups, or more, ashore by helicopter/landing craft or hovercraft, in this case probably a construction/engineer battalion or some such would be the obvious choice with the appropriate gear for this sort of operation.
    LHD’s don’t need ports, plus the US ones are conventionally powered, as are everyone else’s.

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