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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 24. 26th September 1973

Duplicity in High Places Revealed by the Ghost of Omega

Duplicity in High Places Revealed by the Ghost of Omega

The adage about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing sometimes even applies to our adroit Prime Minister, Norman Kirk, particularly when his right hand is being manipulated by Uncle Sam. Norm was caught unawares a while ago when the US State Department let it slip that they were expecting him to visit the US in the near future. Anxious to look as though he was deigning to visit and not just being pulled there by his puppet-strings, Norm put on quite a show of annoyance.

Now he's likely to be embarrassed again, if a report in the Otago Daily Times of September 15 is accurate. And if it is it should also rekindle a debate that fired up many New Zealanders a few years ago — the Omega debate. The report quotes from an interview with the US Navy Secretary, Mr John Warner, on the Navy and related topics. Omega is one of them. "Mr Warner said the Omega Navigational system was not an essential part of US Naval operations in the Pacific," runs the report. "A station in the South Island of New Zealand which was keyed into this system was closed some months ago...."

In Salient March 14 we reprinted a correspondence between Mr Kirk and Owen Wilkes, Chairman of the Committee Against Foreign Military Activities in New Zealand (CAFMANZ). Mr Kirk declared "US military detachments operate in New Zealand on the basis of intergovernmental agreement and other formal written approval. As you know some of these ex changes were publicised while others dealing with the administrative matters or containing classified information remain confidential to the two parties... "

In the event that both the Navy Secretary knew what he was talking about and that the NZPA got it down right, Mr Warner has certainly let the cat out of the bag as far as Norm and that other apologist for US Imperialism, Keith Holyoake are concerned.

It was Holyoake who mishandled the Omega debate from the outset in 1968, when it was announced that the US Navy planned to build in the Southern Alps an Omega very low frequency (VLF) radio navigation transmitter. This transmitter, in connection with only seven others, gives a worldwide coverage. This is very useful if you happen to have sub marines armed with Polaris missiles busy roaming the world, with the Omega system they don't even have to surface to ascertain their position. With characteristic disregard for people's credulity, "Kiwi" Keith and his Yankee mates tried to pretend that the Omega system was mainly used by fishing boats.

Mr Kirk goes to Washington cartoon

After a national outcry in June and July 1968, and after numerous physicists had discounted the fishing boat explanation and confirmed the Omega's military use, the then Prime Minister claimed that the outcry came from "the twilight world of science fiction and political mumbo jumbo."

Credulity was further bent when the government attempted to play down an objective report by the Royal Society on the Omega system. The Department of External Affairs circulated to the media a very biased summary of the report with the covering note "draw on it freely, but it is not for attribution".

After various investigations by NZ and US military and political personnel, it was eventually announced in 1971 that the Omega station would not be built in NZ after all. It later transpired that the US made this decision in 1969, but Holyoake despite repeated requests never let on that he knew anything about it. Perhaps he didn't — the final announcement about the siting of Omega actually came from Australia.

Now with this latest revelation from the US Navy Secretary, it is rather confusing to try and work out when, if ever, the truth has been told, and to work out the actual history of the Omega nuclear warfare subsystem in New Zealand. Only two things are clear. First; that we have never been told the full story by our politicians. National or Labour, and second; that the only people with all the facts up their sleeves are the Americans, who reveal things to us poor, dumb Kiwis when it pleases them.