Saturday Speech By Senator Sandy Macdonald
Speech delivered by Senator Sandy Macdonald Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee to `New Zealand Defence Directions - a National Party Defence Policy Seminar', Auckland
Saturday 25 November, 2000
Anzac Cooperation - A Credible Partnership
I intend, firstly, to make some general comments about the New Zealand/Australia partnership, secondly, some specific comments about New Zealand's planned and possible capabilities, and thirdly, how both countries can make better use of the New Zealand Defence Force capabilities, including alliance cooperation and integration.
There is no strategic partnership in our region closer than that between Australia
and New Zealand. The relationship is reinforced by the strong ANZAC tradition,
and more formally by the Closer Defence Relations (CDR) agreement.
- In June 2000 the Defence Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to CDR.
- Cooperative management of challenges in East Timor, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, PNG (Bougainville), and common membership in the Five Power Defence arrangements has demonstrated the relevance of Australia/New Zealand Defence links.
- New Zealand's contribution in East Timor has been significant and Australia is very grateful. Australia welcomes New Zealand's extension of its original commitment to UNTAET through May 2001. In addition, Prime Minister Clark has indicated support for further deployments to East Timor.
New Zealand has recognised the need to achieve and sustain greater interoperability with the Australian Defence Force. Both nations recognise that their security is dependent on peace and stability in the region. New Zealand has similar views in relation to security issues affecting our region and South East Asia.
- Australia expects that each country will make the necessary commitment of resources to ensure the effective achievement of shared defence outcomes.
- Australia acknowledges that equipment decisions are for the Government of New Zealand alone to make, but would welcome commonality with Australian equipment. Logistics, maintenance, and training efficiencies can be made, particularly in the field.
- Australia is keen for New Zealand fast-jet support to Royal Australian Navy fleet training to continue through 2002 under arrangements similar to the Enhanced Nowra Agreement.
- As natural security partners, through our close geographic location and strong historical relations, it is important that our two Defence Forces be able to come together quickly and easily.
- Developing interoperability measures ensures our defence forces can work together effectively in combined and joint operations to protect our common security interests, off-shore territories, and resources.
Australia recognises that New Zealand has a relatively small population base and economy, and that this shapes Defence expenditure. In New Zealand, like every other country, the Defence budget faces fierce competition for priority. And the declining value of the New Zealand dollar has also placed limits on Defence acquisition in the same way as it has in Australia.
- The cumulative decline in the capabilities of the New Zealand Defence Force, especially relative to the Australian Defence Force, has been of concern. Successive Australian governments have shared these concerns openly with New Zealand.
- Prime Minister Clark has promised that Defence expenditure will not fall below its current levels.
- Australia wants a New Zealand Defence Force that can contribute effectively to the defence of New Zealand, our common environment, and to regional security.
- Prime Minister Howard has said that he would like New Zealand to spend more on Defence and that each country should commit the resources needed to achieve shared Defence goals. The next ten years will see Australia substantially increase its Defence funding.
Assessment of Planned and Possible Capabilities Ground Forces The program to re-equip the New Zealand Army should allow it to present two well equipped, motorised battalions for service in some future regional trouble spot. The 105 LAV III APCs to be delivered from 2002 will provide increased capability over the 56 M-113 APCs currently operated. Since each is to be equipped with an Australian manufactured Delco LAV-25 turret armed with a 25mm cannon, they will also provide direct fire support to infantry in the field. Improved radios should allow for more effective command and control of operations and interoperability with allied forces, especially in tropical climates.
Off the road, however, the mobility of New Zealand's army is less remarkable. The country's 5 Hercules are too few to move effectively a battalion group, such as the 665 personnel currently deployed in East Timor. Because of the problems currently experienced with the Charles Upham the NZDF currently has no military sealift capacity. Even if the vessel can be made useable she will be able to carry only 100 troops and their APCs. The RNZAF's Iroquois helicopter element is able to lift only about half a company (42 men) at a time.
Sustainability is also a weakness of the army. Observers have long since concluded that its brigade structure is inoperable, given that a brigade group requires between 3,500 and 5,000 personnel. The army's current strength is only around 4,500, including reserves. Only the two battalions are formed and the Territorial force is generally assessed as being incapable of fleshing out a third Battalion. In these circumstances almost the entire resources of the army are now devoted to sustaining its deployment in Timor. At times the reserve capacity for unplanned operations has been as low as a single Special Forces Squadron. Prime Minister Clark has said that the New Zealand commitment will last at least until after the first Timorese elections next year. RNZN At first glance, the RNZN is the best equipped of the New Zealand forces. It two ANZAC frigates (Te Kaha [prowess] and Te Mana [power]) are modern, and considerably newer than anything else in the NZDF inventory. The systems on board are contemporary and each is capable of operating up to two modernised Seasprite helicopters. These two vessels are supported by the replenishment tanker HMNZS Endeavour, which is some 10 years younger than HMAS Westralia and carries almost as much diesel fuel as HMAS Success. Endeavour has demonstrated her contribution to New Zealand national objectives by hosting peace talks off Bougainville and deploying in support of UNTAET forces in Timor.
The main problem for the RNZN is, of course, that the third frigate is old and due to be paid off in 2005. The New Zealand public's' long demonstrated allergic response to proposals for 'big-ticket' defence acquisitions has made it likely that HMNZS Canterbury will not be replaced, at least not by another frigate. The 1997 white paper acknowledged that, if the RNZN become a two frigate fleet, the only effective way for the ANZAC frigates to operate would be as part of the RAN.
The debate over the suitable replacement of Canterbury is given strength by the RNZNs almost complete lack of offshore patrol forces. The Service's four Moa class patrol boats are small, slow and about the same age as the RAN's Fremantle class patrol boats, which are to be replaced. The Moas are intended for Navy Reserve training rather than maritime patrol. It is not surprising then that there should be a considerable body of opinion in New Zealand arguing that acquisition of offshore patrol capability is more important than buying a new frigate.
With the continued unsuitability of the Charles Upham, the RNZN lacks the capability to deliver the Army's personnel and equipment to an operational area. This was a complication in the New Zealand deployment to East Timor when a commercial freighter had to be chartered. It was not immediately available and it was three weeks before the army's equipment arrived on the island. The future of Charles Upham as a RNZN ship is again under review. This will decide whether to rectify the vessel's faults, at a cost estimated at over NZ$30m or to adopt some other approach to provide a military sea lift capability.
With the cancellation of the proposal to lease F-16 fighters from the United States, the future of the NZDF combat strike force seems to be limited. Even at the current strength of 19 Skyhawks, the strike capability of the RNZAF is marginal. Analysts have claimed that the Service requires 10 aircraft for operations, and six for training. Relying on only three aircraft being in maintenance at any one time is a gamble with such an old aircraft. In any event, the capability of the force is severely restricted by a lack of qualified fast jet pilots in the RNZAF. It was recently reported that there were only eight pilots at an air force base, which is supposed to operate 13 of the aircraft.
It is difficult to see that any replacement for the Skyhawks would be feasible, if New Zealand was unable to accommodate the 'bargain basement' leasing arrangement for the F-16s within its defence budget. The aircraft are due to retire by the middle of the decade, already too close for any realistic replacement without an economically marginal extension of the Skyhawks' lives. The purchase of attack helicopters as an option to provide NZDF ground forces with organic air support has been mentioned. However, these tend to be neither less expensive to purchase or to operate, and this option would have to be considered remote.
With the cancellation of Project Sirius the RNZAF military role in maritime surveillance will be limited.
* It will be unable to conduct anti-submarine warfare against modern types and launch cruise missiles against the more advanced surface targets, and therefore the role of the P3K will be sufficiently marginal to question whether its military value is worth its high operational cost.
If the primary goals of future New Zealand maritime surveillance operations are to be civilian, the P3 is not economically competitive. RAAF P3Cs are more than 10 times more costly for civil surveillance tasks than the Bombadier Dash 8 aircraft used by Australia's Coastwatch organisation. These aircraft are equipped with sensors that are at least the equal of the P3C and, when following the operational profile for civil surveillance, the Dash 8 provides equal probability of detection for small civilian vessels. Although the RNZAF has recently re-engineering its P3Ks to extend their service life, using P3 aircraft for predominantly civil roles is not an efficient way to use a critically over stretched New Zealand defence dollar.
Indeed if the Prime Minister's review of maritime surveillance endorses a predominantly civilian objective, economic advantage and the Australian experience would suggest that maritime surveillance would best be transferred to a civilian operator. Were some long range and extended endurance operations beyond the capacity of civilian operators to be required, they could be performed by a version of the C-130 Hercules, as is the case in the US Coast Guard. This aircraft has range to equal the P3 in surveillance of the Southern Ocean, as its flights from New Zealand to Antarctica have demonstrated. If, as appears to be the case, economic criteria are to be significant in shaping the role of the NZDF, the benefits of operating one type of multi-engined aircraft are likely to carry weight. In any case, unless some form of systems upgrade similar to Project Sirius is endorsed, there appears little logic to its continued use by the RNZAF.
There appears a better chance the future of the C-130 transport aircraft will be extended. Some reports from America indicate that the replacement of the current H model aircraft with the latest J variant is being considered. Certainly, in terms of increasing the utility of NZDF ground forces, the retention if not the expansion of the RNZAF's transport capability would be a useful investment.
Making Better Use Of NZDF Capabilities
It is noticeable that New Zealanders have considerable difficulty agreeing what their defence forces are intended for. From an Australian perspective two major judgements stand out.
* Any maintenance of effective military forces by New Zealand is a sign of its commitment to regional security
* While Australia is prepared to bolster the effectiveness of New Zealand contributions to regional security it would be loath to have to take over responsibilities seen as those of New Zealand.
It is obvious that significant military threats to New Zealand are remote. Australians recognise that there is validity in the perception that any threat to New Zealand has first to scramble across the large rock off to the west. The deployment of any NZDF element is therefore likely to occur long before any direct threat to New Zealand. Many New Zealanders see issues of national sovereignty in the NZDF remaining a 'balanced force'. From an external perspective, however, the effectiveness of any NZDF components to a regional force is the more important issue, and if that effectiveness comes from the capabilities of a joint force, so be it.
Of the national issues still being considered in New Zealand, maritime surveillance appears the most important. Following the cancellation of Project Sirius, a Cabinet committee under Prime Minister Clark was established to consider the nation's requirements for maritime surveillance. Civil requirements appear to be given priority, with the future of military patrol roles appearing to be under question. Australia has expressed disappointment that anti-submarine warfare will thereby cease to be a role of the RNZAF.
Nevertheless, New Zealand has yet to come to terms with its responsibilities for its maritime zones, either in terms of effective surveillance or its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. New Zealand's EEZ covers 4 million sq. kilometres, almost half the size of Australia's. Under UNCLOS, claimant nations have responsibility for managing their maritime zones, but New Zealand's capacities in this area are a fraction of those of Australia, which are themselves over-stretched in policing its eight million sq. kilometres. If the Cabinet's review of maritime surveillance commits the nation to effective policing of the New Zealand EEZ, this likely will be taken as a positive commitment to national security by most people in Australia.
Alliance, Cooperation and Integration Australia and New Zealand have between them their oldest regional defence relationship, the Australia New Zealand Treaty signed in 1944. This treaty has never been in doubt , even when its antecessor the ANZUS Alliance was strained by New Zealand's ban on nuclear vessels in 1984. Despite issues of national sovereignty, which are real for people in both countries, continued development of the treaty arrangements between the two countries provides the means for both to maximise their defence capability.
Alliance arrangements are often seen as restrictive of national sovereignty and policy, but in the post Cold War era the opposite may as often be true. The NATO Alliance has imposed some restrictions on each of its members but also won them the right to equal consultation in decision making. In the post Cold War era individual members have stood out where the politics of a particular situation were uncongenial, but that has not weaken the subsequent development of the Organisation.
Counter-intuitively, those alliances which developed during the Cold War to defend democratic interests have not become increasingly irrelevant as the competition between democracy and communism fades into history. Alliance structures, applied formally [NATO activities in Bosnia] or informally [the 1990 Gulf War coalition] have proved effective vehicles to enforce United Nations resolutions.
The same dynamic can apply to the Australia/New Zealand security relationship. It can be said that the New Zealand armed forces have little potential by themselves, yet are a professional and, in some areas, modern force. New Zealand defence policy continues to give weight to a requirement to operate in conjunction with the ADF. In many conceivable circumstances [such as in East Timor] this would be the case. In others, where New Zealand might operate alone, it would be dependant on the ADF for transport and logistics support [as was the case in establishing the Truce Monitoring Group on Bougainville].
In many practical circumstances, then, the ADF and NZDF are an integrated force but without acknowledgment and without planning.
These aspects would have to be addressed if a combined force was to become a reality. The former is a largely political issue of gaining support within both countries for the idea. The latter will require concentrated study and would involve senior personnel from both sides. Both would take some time to achieve and could proceed better if a body of experience was first established.
Such an approach could be initiated through constant contact by senior officers of both Forces. A potent way of achieving this would be to establish a Joint Australia New Zealand Headquarters [JANZHQ] charged with planning joint operational plans and commanding joint operations. Increasingly, the preview of this body could expand to planning the future force for both countries. Executive decision making could continue to reside with the sovereign governments of both countries, which would require constant negotiation, but would not negate the progress which this structure could achieve over time. In effect, the thinking and therefore, the nature of the two countries Armed Services inevitably would grow closer together and could take on an impetus independent of or, indeed, leading the political process.