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Government Dodges Questions On Defence Future

"The Government refuses to front up on the future of our Skyhawks or air combat capability, National's Defence spokesperson Max Bradford said today.

When questioned in Parliament today by Mr Bradford, Minister of Defence Mark Burton refused to confirm or deny the Government's intentions on the future of the Skyhawks.

"Comments by the Prime Minister and decisions of the Cabinet are only fuelling the uncertainty around the future of the airforce.

"The men and woman of the airforce deserve a straight answer from the Government particularly given the decision announced this week to cut the flying hours of the Skyhawks to the lowest level of readiness.

"If we have to respond to a defence emergency it will take the pilots six months to come up to a state of readiness.

"This Government is overlooking the increasing tension and instability in our region of the world. Indonesia is under incredible pressure and a number of Pacific nations are in a state of uncertainty. West Papua could be an East Timor in the making.

"If New Zealand is to play a useful part in helping secure and maintain stability then it needs a balanced defence force with air, sea and land combat capability.

"Its worrying that this Government is taking New Zealand defence down a path which can only lead to us being a passenger rather than a player in any coalition or UN activity that might become necessary because of political and military instability in the region," Mr Bradford said. Ends

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