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Govt Ban On Defence Seminar Stifles Debate

"It is now abundantly clear that debate on the future of our defence forces is being stifled under the current Government," National's Defence spokesman Wayne Mapp said today.

The Chief of the Defence Force has banned permanent staff from attending a Defence Policy Seminar organised by Dr Mapp in Auckland this week.

The ban comes in the wake of Social Services Minister Steve Maharey's edict banning CYFS staff from attending the 'Stop the Hurt' conference on child abuse, a non-partisan event organised by National MP Bob Simcock.

"The Defence Seminar does have partisan elements - in that some of the issues discussed may play a role in forming National Party policy. However it also features broad discussion on New Zealand's role in regional defence including input from Australian Senator Sandy Macdonald, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence & Trade Legislation Committee.

"The policy development aspect of the seminar might make it inappropriate for defence staff to actively participate in the debate. But surely they should at least be allowed to hear that debate.

"The select committee hearing on the Defence 2000 report concluded that defence issues need to be the subject of a broad based debate and that service people have a role in contributing to that debate. Sadly this Government, while maintaining the pretence of transparency, is allowing the free flow of ideas to be stifled.

"There are defence staff who wished to attend this seminar, to stay abreast of thinking on defence issues. Sadly they have been forbidden to do so," Wayne Mapp said.

Ends


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