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Govt. must explain F-16 implications

Sunday 19 March 2000

Govt. must explain F-16 implications

Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley today called on Prime Minister Helen Clark to make it absolutely clear to New Zealanders whether the cancellation of the F-16 contract will mean a dramatic downgrading of New Zealand's strategic defence capability prior to discussion in Cabinet tomorrow.

"If the Labour-Alliance minority Government is committing New Zealand to a future without an air strike capability, then it should be telling all New Zealanders," Mrs Shipley said.

"While it is the right of the Government to determine whether or not it wishes to proceed with the F-16 contract, it is a much more significant decision than the cancellation of one contract alone. Potentially, it will condemn New Zealand to no longer being able to stage a balanced force of air, naval and infantry capability.

"New Zealand has a proud history of contributing to regional strategic and defence actions to help ensure regional stability and secure trading routes. We also have a long record of contributing to peace-making and peace-keeping roles, as we demonstrated with our commitment to East Timor - where our troops landed with air, naval and army capabilities in place.

"We have also retained a balanced capability to ensure that we are capable of clearly sending the message that we can control our economic zone.

"As recently as 1997 the National-New Zealand First coalition considered this issue and recommitted ourselves to maintain the balance of the three capabilities - army, navy and air force. We put a capital budget in place at that time that would see the maintenance and upgrading of those capabilities.

"In each subsequent budget we have made the appropriate allocation required and flagged any fiscal risks associated with this plan.

"If the current minority government intends to move away from that commitment, it must be very clear with New Zealanders about its reasons. It must also explain how New Zealand will fulfil its strategic interests and its regional responsibilities," Mrs Shipley said.


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