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Defence Cuts Upset Australia

Australia's descriptions of New Zealand's reduced defence force are a warning signal to all that our country is going to be isolated on defence and foreign affairs throughout the Pacific from tomorrow, National's Defence spokesman Max Bradford said today.

The Sydney Morning Herald today reports that New Zealand's new defence policy will be a considerable disappointment for Canberra, Australia's seat of government.

Australia's opposition calls our defence a 'boutique defence force' that will be able to contribute to peacekeeping but will be forced to rely others for protection. A former head of defence said Australia will lose the benefit of one of the best maritime strike forces in the region.

"This confirms that the New Zealand Government's isolationist stance cuts us off from Australia, while putting the responsibility on Australia to protect us.

"Helen Clark is naïve if she thinks this bludging won't affect our relationship with Australia. Immediately dropping our Skyhawks is the reply John Howard gets after asking Helen Clark in March to extend our Skyhawk contract with Australia.

"Australia's defence minister has already said the New Zealand Government's view that the country is in an 'incredibly benign strategic environment' is way off target. "Who is Helen Clark going to call on in our defence force next time we are needed to help out with unrest in the volatile arc of instability above Australia?

"She suggests National had unnecessary commitments in defence but statistics show New Zealand spends much less on defence than most other developed countries. Its spending ranks 23rd on a list of 24.

"The New Zealand public has shown in two recent polls that they don't want New Zealand to reduce its defence capabilities, but the Government continues to ignore this, shutting the public out from having a say, " Mr Bradford said.

Ends


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