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Poll Shows Govt Misjudges Defence

Today's National Business Review poll confirms Prime Minister Helen Clark is totally out of touch with what New Zealanders want in defence, with a resounding 58 percent against the Government's defence cutback plans, National Defence Spokesman Max Bradford said today. "It's no surprise the poll has found New Zealanders want to keep an airforce and navy and that they are most concerned at the Government's intentions to scrap our air combat capability, not upgrade the submarine detection capability of the airforce Orions or replace the ANZAC frigate Canterbury.

"The finding rightly points out the Government has badly misjudged the public's view on defence and that New Zealanders are concerned it is taking the country down an isolationist track that will weaken our relationship with other Asia-Pacific countries, particularly Australia.

"Helen Clark is blinkered by some fantasy that we are in a 'benign strategic environment'. She should stop and take a look at what has been happening in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years, as respondents to the NBR survey have noted, to see that the region has become volatile since the Berlin Wall came down.

"The Chinese-American incident of the past 11 days is a sharp reminder to all countries of how quickly an incident can turn into a serious situation, which can cause long-time damage to international relationships. "Only 36 percent of those surveyed agreed with Helen Clark's view that New Zealand doesn't have any major threats and can't afford modern military equipment.

"The Prime Minister however is still in denial with what the country really wants in deciding the future for defence. Today she has written in newspapers that New Zealanders are comfortable with her notions to cut the resources back.

"Her view of a strategic environment is a 1970s peacenik view of this world which we all know bears no relationship to today's reality.

"Instead of criticising former defence chiefs who support maintaining a balanced force, she should heed their calls for a public consultation on its defence review and answer the concerns of New Zealanders by letting them have a say," Mr Bradford said. Ends


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