INDEPENDENT NEWS

Time to rein in Max on defence

Published: Tue 27 Jul 1999 08:32 AM
Labour Leader Helen Clark today called on the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues to rein in Max Bradford's excessive defence spending.
"A well sourced report today suggests that the costs of the F16 fighters are already ballooning, while at the same time Mr Bradford continues his search for frigates to replace the ageing Canterbury.
"There is no reason whatsoever for New Zealand to be investing in a new jet fighter capacity for the air force at this time. The Skyhawks have been upgraded recently and are expected to continue in operation for at least another eight years.
"Any expenditure now on F16s puts at risk other defence expenditure, such as that required to upgrade the army's capacity. As it is, the army has been given permission to purchase only half the armoured vehicles it needs.
"Mr Bradford continues on his merry way with the frigates, disregarding the near unanimity of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee which recently suggested that New Zealand's future defence capacity should be built around the core role of the army.
"This would see the naval arm acting in a back-up capacity to the army, but also having the ability to perform long range surveillance in our territorial waters and in the South Pacific. It is questionable indeed that New Zealand should be continuing an anti-submarine warfare capacity of the kind provided by the frigates.
"At a time when spending on New Zealand's economic development, health, education and retired people is under pressure from very tight budgets, it is ridiculous for the Cabinet to be ticking off Mr Bradford's grandiose ideas on defence.
"To add insult to injury, the F16 lease appears to be driven more by political considerations with respect to the relationship with the United States than by any realistic assessment of New Zealand's defence needs right now," Helen Clark said.

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