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PM Hell-Bent On Dumbing Down Defence

"Reports that the Government is considering reducing the role of our airforce Orions and using business to monitor the seas around New Zealand simply confirm the real Minister of Defence, Helen Clark, is hell-bent on disembowelling New Zealand's defence force," National's Defence spokesman Max Bradford said today.

"National is still calling for the Government to admit that it intends to dump the country's air combat capability, not replace the last remaining Leander class frigate, HMNZS Canterbury, with a similarly capable ship, and reduce the Orion fleet's maritime surveillance capability.

"All these capabilities are essential so New Zealand can fulfill its role in the collective security and defence of the Asia and Pacific region.

"When the Government finally announces it is dumbing down defence, this will be greeted with significant dismay by all our partners in the region, in particular Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and the United States.

"We will simply become bludgers on other nations. This is a huge step away from the valuable contribution New Zealand has played as a rich small nation in this part of the world.

"The Five Power Defence Agreement is one of the most firm defence relationships in the region and has considerable support. The type of weakened defence force that the Labour-Alliance Government is considering will raise serious questions over what role we can play in that agreement.

"National fundamentally disagrees with the Government's determination to run down defence," Mr Bradford said.


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