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English Booted Into Line

The somersault by National Party leadership aspirant Bill English over the issue of an air combat capability exposes the policy disarray inside his party, Defence Minister Mark Burton said today.

"Yesterday Mr English was telling reporters that National was not committed to spending money on a combat air force capability," Mark Burton said.

"He also said that once the Skyhawks were gone it would be a 'huge task' to reinstate them.

"There was a glimmer of hope in those comments that he was coming around to the government's view – that the available money be spent where it is most needed.

"But today, after being heavied by Jenny Shipley and Max Bradford, he claims there is no difference of opinion within National, and that he is committed to having an air combat wing in New Zealand.

"Both statements cannot be right.

"He might like to explain how he is going to cut taxes and provide every school pupil in the country with a laptop computer – as well as spend up to $2 billion re-establishing an air combat wing that will never be used.

"Empty promises with no financial provision is not unusual when it comes to National and defence. That is what I inherited from them 18 months ago when I took over this portfolio.

"Not only has Mr English badly let down those in his party who believe he is the leader-in-waiting. His reputation as an economic and fiscal manager is also in tatters," Mark Burton said.


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