The fourth and last of my “Friends of North Korea” profiles looks at NZ’s High Commissioner to Canada, Graham Kelly
Graham Kelly has been long been linked to the Marxist-Leninist left. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Kelly was secretary of the Wellington Shop Employees Union, where he mixed with several members or supporters of the pro Soviet, Socialist Unity Party, including Irena Brorens, Robyn Black, Jim Marr, Olive Smith and Rob Campbell.
From March 22-25th 1984, Kelly attended a World Peace Council Presidential Committee meeting in Moscow with John Urlich of the NZ Council for World Peace.
The WPC was of course, the Soviet Union’s largest front organisation. The NZCWP was the local WPC affiliate and was founded in Auckland in 1976 by SUP members, Bill Andersen and Peter Ritchie. While the NZCWP was often fronted by Labour Party figures like Kelly, it was a wholly owned “front” of the SUP.
On May Day that year, Kelly also represented the NZ Federation of Labour at the Soviet Trade Union movement’s celebrations in Moscow. This was an honour usually reserved for members or supporters of the SUP.
In April Porirua, near Wellington became the fourth safe Labour seat to choose a trade union candidate, as Graham Kelly beat local favourite and former All Black, Ken Gray, to the seat. Accusations were made of union manipulation of the selection process. Kelly easily won the seat and entered Parliament as a Labour MP in that year’s general election.
In July 1987, Kelly was listed as a sponsor, alongside the SUP and other Marxist-Leninist groups, of the “For Peace and Justice in Central America” conference held at Victoria University, Wellington.
In October 1988 Kelly attended a NZ Council for World Peace conference in Auckland. He spoke of his recent visit to North Korea, saying there was a “lot of disinformation about them“. Kelly also talked of his visit to China where was “given a VIP reception”.
In March 1991 Kelly lead a Labour Party delegation to China.
In 1991 the World Peace Council decided to decentralise from its Helsinki HQ. Consequently, in November the NZCWP held a high level meeting in Auckland to discuss a proposal for the establishment of an autonomous WPC Pacific region. Kelly attended, as did fellow MP Sonja Davies and former Labour Party president, Gerald O’Brien.
In 1998 Kelly was thanked in the history of the NZCWP, “Journey Towards World Peace” for his support for the Council’s work and for the frequent reception given to overseas delegations. Kelly was described as one of the Council’s “vice-presidents”
The same year Kelly visited Vietnam to visit NZ aid projects.
In May 1999, Kelly represented Labour at a “War in the Balkans” symposium, organised by what was then known as the “Peace Council of Aotearoa/NZ” in Wellington.
In July 2001, the NZ-DPRK Society organised a delegation to North Korea. The delegates were;
Graham Kelly, MP, Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (Leader)
Rev Don Borrie, Chairman, NZ-DPRK Society (Deputy Leader)
Dr Tim Beal, Secretary, NZ-DPRK Society
Dr Stephen Epstein, Vice-President, Korean Studies Association of Australasia
Mr Verne Winitana, Chairman, Te Runanganui O Taranaki (Maori Education and Health Group)
The delegation was hosted by the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries and had a meeting with Yang Hyong Sop, Vice President, Presidium of Supreme People’s Assembly, and officials in various areas including tourism, education and cultural exchange.
Kelly again visited North Korea in October 2002.
In December 2002 Foreign Minister Phil Goff announced that Kelly would be NZ’s next High Commissioner to Canada.
Goff said that; “Mr Kelly has a longstanding interest in and broad knowledge of foreign affairs. He will bring a wealth of experience and expertise to his new position in Ottawa.
New Zealand’s links with Canada are long established and strong. We have an excellent bilateral relationship…Graham Kelly’s appointment comes at an important time of international engagement. New Zealand and Canada are both deeply engaged in the global fight against terrorism, the start of the WTO Doha Development Round, and APEC.
Last year Graham Kelly chaired the important Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee review on CER. With other New Zealand parliamentarians, he saw at first hand the work being done by the Defence Force and other New Zealand officials in East Timor, and he recently headed parliamentary delegations to China, Tibet, North Korea and Australia.”
New Zeal All in all an excellent choice to represent NZ in one of our most important trading partners and Western allies.