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Row Over Missing F16 Money

A row has broken out over whether money had been allocated to pay for the purchase/lease of F16 aircraft from the US. Scoop's Chris Holm reports.

At a press conference in Parliament yesterday Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Government wouldn’t be spending the money put aside for the F16 fighter deal with the United States on other military equipment because the money “simply did not exist”.

Ms Clark said recent Treasury advice showed the cost of purchasing military equipment had soared, more than doubling to $1.2 billion.

Five hundred million dollars for military items was put aside by the National Government in response to a defence white-paper report last year.

She also said the government would deal with the question of how they could afford some of the new items the military needed at a time, “when we’re under a lot of pressure for capital for everything from schools, to roads, to public transport infrastructure.”

During the Press Conference Ms Clark confirmed she had received a report from Treasury officials which indicated the exit price for New Zealand might - depending on the exchange rate – in fact be a fiscal gain to the New Zealand government.

Responding to the PM’s remarks today, former Defence Minister Max Bradford said the Prime Minister was telling, “absolute and extreme porkies”, when she said the money never existed for the purchase of the F16 aircraft.

"Miss Clark seems to not understand the rules by which the Treasury approves and account for capital expenditure.” Mr Bradford said.

"The situation is quite clear and always has been. National approved all the funding for the F16's at the time the decision to lease was made last year, and that is all spelt out in Treasury and Cabinet papers at the time.”

In a conference with Australian Prime Minister John Howard last week Prime Minister Helen Clark assured the Australians New Zealand would spend “quite a lot more” investing in the army.

She said antiquated army equipment had let the armed forces down on a couple of occasions during operations in East Timor. Both Australia and America are hoping New Zealand will increase its defence spending.

Last night on television programme Holmes editor of The Australian Newspaper Greg Sheridan criticised the New Zealand Government’s direction in defence spending which is only one percent of our gross national product GNP.

Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton responded by raising the underarm bowling incident.

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