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Transcript: Joint media conference Defence

Transcript: Joint media conference Defence

Australian Minister of Defence, Hon John Moore and New Zealand Minister of Defence, Hon Mark Burton

after the annual Australia-New Zealand Defence Minister's talks

Wellington, New Zealand, 15 June 2000 (E&OE)

Mr Burton: We have had a very productive meeting. This is for me the first opportunity to host John Moore in New Zealand and I it's fair to say that the morning's work which followed on from yesterday's officials meeting has been a very useful exchange of views and information. We have talked extensively about matters of mutual interest around the Pacific in particular and had the opportunity to discuss our respective defence policy work and I think the Australia-New Zealand defence relationship is in good shape.

Mr Moore: I would just compliment the New Zealand minister on the preparation and work he put into the meeting. It is always a constructive time. I felt the meeting this time enabled us to run over a number of issues, which are of great importance at the present moment to both nations. I think that the way in which the New Zealand government is going about the defence paper is very creditable and I look forward to seeing its publication.

Reporter: We you actually advised about what was in it?

Mr Moore: I think it is fair to say that today we had a reasonable discussion about the contents of it, but that is up to the government which is going to release I understand on Monday.

Reporter: Do you think that New Zealand is pulling its weight defence wise?

Mr Moore: There is no doubt about the contribution that New Zealand made to East Timor and also their enormous interest in the trouble spots in the Pacific at the present moment. We don't doubt that New Zealand can pull its weight at all. It is a question of what we have always been concerned about is that there was some publicity early that they were not going to have combat trained troops. The minister has assured me that is not the case, that there had been a number of incorrect statements around the place and I know he's looking forward very much to the release of the discussion, of the defence paper, on Monday which I sure will justify his position.

Mr Burton: And clearly, that issue of combat capable troops is central to New Zealand's defence commitment. In order to fulfil the peacekeeping role that we have been involved in now and anticipate maybe a strong call in the future, that capability is an absolutely essential one. It's the other thing that has underlined our discussions is to reassert the very special relationship between New Zealand and Australia and to confirm and the assure Minister Moore that the relationship, from New Zealand's point of view, continues to be the most important defence relationship that we have and that we are committed to that on-going cooperation and working very closely together as we make very important decisions in the coming months about capability and acquisitions.

Reporter: What about the fact though that New Zealand really wants to put more money and effort into its Army than its Air Force and Navy?

Mr Moore: Well I think you have to wait till the release of the paper, and when you read that you'll see what the government has in mind.

Reporter: Does it say something different to that?

Mr Moore: No, you wait till Monday. When you do read it on Monday you will find that some of the concepts and perceptions that are put about, about the approach by the New Zealand, have been wrong.

Reporter: So you Mr Moore does that mean you will go back to Australia and be able to tell your colleagues that you are satisfied with what New Zealand has planned for its defence forces?

Mr Moore: They have always made a very useful contribution and the discussions we had today both the Secretary, the Ministers, the CDFs, led me to believe that I could read the coming paper with great interest and confidence. I have no doubt that the New Zealand is fully aware of the great desire we see in having a strong defence. We believe in a strategic partnership with New Zealand. There are things which have proved to be very useful in the past and in the future and these are uncertain times. The arc of instability that we live, in right around, means we that we have to in our view be prepared for eventualities.

Mr Burton: And that strategic partnership continues to be as it has been about a very special relationship between Australia and New Zealand alongside some shared concerns and responsibilities that we recognise we have in this part of the world.

Reporter: Do you have concerns about Australia's defence?

Mr Burton: I think Australia shares many of the same challenges that we do in a rapidly changing world. But again, I was very comfortable with the information that we were given today and the discussion that we had about the process that Australia is engaged in. And I think there is a comfortable parallel to some extent about the timeframes. Some of the detail is different as to how we're progressing our respective work, but I think the parallel in timeframes is quite fortuitous because it will mean that some of the practical co-operation and communication that is important in the coming months will be quite timely and slot in very well.

Reporter: Have you had to review the review in light of all what's been happening in the Pacific?

Mr Burton: No, but in terms of our defence policy framework paper, the events of recent months have obviously advised the process. We have been writing and editing up to very recently and of course the events of recent times, therefore, have been very much part of the context in which the documents has been produced.

Mr Moore: I think you ought to see the reviews of both countries in the context of what happened in East Timor. That was a roll out of the defence forces of both nations that hadn't occurred, going back to Vietnam. As a consequence of that there was a very big test of the total frameworks of both organisations. That in itself requires a review as to how functional it was, how we can do things better, how things have changed in that period of time. As a consequence of that, I think both the New Zealand government's and our approach to a review is timely and correct.

Reporter: So minister, you are very happy with what is going to be released on Monday by the New Zealand government?

Mr Moore: Look, everyone has got to wait until the government releases it, but some of the misconceptions that are around I think might be cleared up.

Reporter: (Inaudible) in the past Australians of various persuasions have come to New Zealand and let it be known that they didn't think New Zealand was pulling its weight in the defence arena. Do you think New Zealand is and will continue to pull its defence (inaudible).

Mr Moore: Look New Zealand is always acted in coalition with the Australians over a very long time. That occurred again in Timor. We appreciate enormously the commitment made to East Timor. Originally the commitment was some 320, in the end there was 850 that I think turned up in that commitment. Now we regard that as a pretty good effort and that to me, I am fully satisfied was at the time I was very happy. Today I think that the I have no reason to doubt the commitment to the joint exercises in the future.

Reporter: New Zealand is spending enough money on defence that will enable it to play an appropriate (inaudible)

Mr Moore: Look every government has got to make its own decisions in relation to these matters and quite naturally we in Australia would like to see sort of good defences and there is a lot of prattle about this with a change of government and therefore I think you should all read the paper on Monday.

Reporter: Are you concerned that New Zealand is losing some of its top Air Force officials because of we backed out of the F-16 deal?

Mr Moore: That is a matter for New Zealand to handle, but I will just put it this way that all Air Force training institutions around the world spend an enormous amount on producing what are the world's best pilots, especially the fast jets. But the facts of life are that commercial airlines are the biggest poachers and we lose consistently in Australia to the airlines and I think you will find that a good component of what might have happened here is going down the same track. You shouldn't pick out one particular show for it. It is an international problem for defence forces. We train the best but I guess we don't pay the best.

Mr Burton: The reality is that there are cyclical problems with retention of a range of skilled, pilots clearly, but a number of the specialist trades. We train people well and over those cycles of years, if you look back to '94, '95, there were somewhere between 60 and 70 pilots who exited the New Zealand Defence Forces in that year. We are not even close...

Reporter: Is this (inaudible) specially to do with the F-16's though?

Mr Burton: No not necessarily. That may be a factor for some people. A quarter of a million dollar a year pay cheque is probably a factor for some people as well and I guess many New Zealanders wouldn't blame them. But the reality is that retention and recruitment issues will every year be a nightmare for the Chief of Defence Forces and the Minister of Defence. It is in the nature of one of the challenges of defence forces the world over have to confront and ours is no different.

ENDS


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