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Prime Minister Overly Sensitive About Visit - Nats

Rt Hon Simon Upton
Opposition Foreign Affairs Spokesperson

25 February 2000

Prime Minister Overly Sensitive

Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Simon Upton, says Prime Minister Helen Clark is being unduly sensitive about the timing and purpose of his and Dr Wayne Mapp’s recent visit to Australia.

“It would be truly remarkable if a couple of Opposition MPs could, in broad daylight, undermine the Government of New Zealand. The fact is that we have as much of a responsibility to see that we are well informed as the Prime Minister has.”

Mr Upton said that he and Dr Mapp had visited Australia to inform themselves of Australian views in advance of Derek Quigley’s review of the F16 deal. The Prime Minister’s forthcoming meeting with Prime Minister Howard had nothing to do with the timing.

“The F16 review will be watershed for the future configuration of New Zealand’s defence forces. The purpose of our visit was to ascertain Australia’s thinking on the broad strategic context in the region and how Australia and New Zealand fitted into it.

“While New Zealand will always take its own decisions on defence priorities, it is important that it does so with a full understanding of how those priorities will be viewed by our most important defence partner.”

Mr Upton said the Government could not expect Opposition parties to tamely accept the Government’s view of the world as the basis for their policy development.

“Over the next three years the National Party will be doing a lot of work on New Zealand’s place in the world. By moving to take far-reaching defence decisions so early in its term, the Government has made it inevitable that our initial focus will be on security matters.”


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