Friendly Fire: Nuclear Politics and the Collapse of ANZUS, 1984–1987

Gerald Hensley


An insider account of New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy and the unravelling of the ANZUS alliance.


In 1984, the newly elected Labour Government’s anti-nuclear policy collided with a United States foreign policy based on nuclear deterrence. After three years of ship visits denied, angry meetings, fraught diplomacy and press conferences, the stand-off led to the unravelling of the ANZUS military alliance, established in 1951.

Based on previously classified government records in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, interviews with key protagonists from throughout the world, and the author’s own involvement in events, Friendly Fire tells the inside story of the dramatic confrontation.  We hear what Bob Hawke and George Schultz really thought of David Lange; we see the internal machinations within the Labour Party as Geoffrey Palmer wrestled with what to do about the USS Buchanan’s proposed visit while David Lange was stuck in the middle of the Pacific on an old boat; and we see the complex play of cultural loyalties, strategic objectives, and personal relationships that led from policy differences to confrontation to collapse.

This is the definitive account of a key turning point in New Zealand history – a dramatic story of powerful personalities arguing key questions on the world stage.


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Gerald Hensley served as a diplomat for twenty years before becoming head of the Prime Minister’s Department under Robert Muldoon and David Lange and then Secretary of Defence from 1991–1999. He is a historian and author of Final Approaches: A Memoir (Auckland University Press, 2006) and Beyond the Battlefield: New Zealand and its Allies, 1939–45 (Penguin, 2009), a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.


May 2013, 215 x 140 mm, 336 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 978 1 86940 741 4, $45