Is Clark Angling For A Single Anzac Defence Force?
Is the Prime Minister trying to work towards a single, integrated Trans Tasman defence force, asks United New Zealand Party leader, Hon Peter Dunne.
Mr Dunne says the Prime Minister's comments that in future New Zealand's defence capabilities should be more prioritised, and not focus on attempting to cover all areas, inevitably raises the question of integration with other forces.
"If, for example, we do away with an air strike force capability as the Prime Minister seems to be implying, does that make us more reliant on, say, Australia for the provision of air cover?"
"In turn, does that mean we can take on areas - perhaps long distance maritime surveillance - on behalf of both countries?" he asks.
Mr Dunne says an integrated Australasian Defence Force has some appeal, but, for it to be achievable, there would have to be a greater show of commitment from New Zealand, for Australia to see it as worthwhile.
"It would also fly in the face of the Prime Minister's recent rejection of the 'single strategic entity' argument that was raised during her recent visit to Australia," he says.
All of which, Mr Dunne says, points out the confusion and clear lack of long term thinking in the Government's approach.
"If a joint defence force is Helen Clark's 'cunning plan', she is likely to be sorely disappointed."
"Under her Government's approach we seem to want to have our cake and to eat it too: we want to piggy-back on the capability of others when we need to, but we do not want to become entangled in their wider commitments, thus confirming the unreliable ally tag."
"A simple starting point for the Government to regain some credibility with our friends would be for the Government to commit to an increase in defence spending in this year's Budget."
"Yet, tellingly, such a commitment was noticeably lacking in the F16 announcement and rumours emanating from Treasury are that defence spending will not be increased this year."
"New Zealand's long cold defence winter is set to continue while the Prime Minister continues to thrash around in search of a policy," Mr Dunne says.