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Cancel F-16s and sell Skyhawks

12 March 2000

Green Party Defence spokesperson Keith Locke today sent a letter to Prime Minister Helen Clark, giving the Green Party's backing for the cancellation of the F-16 contract. Mr Locke also urged the Government to go further and sell off New Zealand's fleet of Skyhawk strike aircraft. The text of the letter is as follows:

"To help in your Cabinet discussions of the Quigley Report and the future of the F-16 contract, I would briefly like to convey the Green Party's position.

The Green Party strongly supports the cancellation of the F-16 contract. The cost of cancelling the contract is relatively small, according to the figures provided by the Secretary of Defence Graham Fortune to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, of which I am a member. It could be as little as $12 million. Whatever the exact figures are, the sooner the contract is cancelled, the less New Zealand taxpayers will lose.

The other matter that the Quigley paper was to deal with was the future of our Skyhawk strike aircraft. In our opinion, the key issue for the Cabinet is whether New Zealand needs an air combat force at all. The Greens don't believe we do.

Defence Minister Mark Burton admitted last month, in answering one of my Parliamentary questions, that our Skyhawks have never once been used on an operation in the over 30 years we've had them. Now the Cold War is over it is even less likely they would ever be used.

There is no identifiable danger to New Zealand that would require the use of Skyhawks or replacement F-16s. And they are not needed for peacekeeping. From what I saw in East Timor last month, Iroquois helicopters and Hercules transports are the useful planes for peacekeeping operations.

If Cabinet does decide to cancel the F-16 contract, the Greens would also like you to take a second step, and sell off the 19 Skyhawks. The Skyhawk sale could produce a $50 to $150 million windfall [based on figures provided by former Defence Minister Max Bradford, Dominion 16/12/99].

There would also be a major budgetary saving by getting out of air combat altogether. It currently costs us around $200 million annually. This is money which could better spent on upgrading our peacekeeping capacity, and also on social and environmental projects."

Keith Locke MP: (09) 630-0789 or 025-528-353 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: (04) 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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