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Defence Money Going To Right Places, PM Says

Prime Minister Helen Clark today defended the Government’s defence spending priorities, after a visiting United States Navy admiral reportedly criticised New Zealand for not spending enough on high tech military equipment.

“I’m not taking it as a criticism, I’m taking it as comments from a friendly admiral from a friendly country.”

She said that unlike the United States, who can afford a vertically integrated defence force, New Zealand is a small country that has to make choices about where our defence money goes. She said New Zealand has always gone into overseas military operations in tandem with other countries, and contributed a component to the effort.

“We choose to spend according to the need we have,” Miss Clark said. She said New Zealand forces have proved in situations like East Timor that our contribution of personnel to peacekeeping efforts is our strength.

“[United Nations Secretary General] Kofi Annan said we are a model United Nations nation,” she said.

Miss Clark said the Government had other spending priorities. This morning she was at Wellington East Girls College this morning to announce over half a million dollars in funding to go to the school for a new gymnasium, along with funding for eight other secondary schools where facilities are inadequate. “We think its about time some of these things got priority,” she said.

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