Historical Revisionism Alive And Well
The claims by former Defence Minister Warren Cooper about the Charles Upham is historical revisionism of the worst sort, National's Defence spokesperson and former Defence Minister Max Bradford said today.
Mr Bradford was commenting on comments made by Mr Cooper on TVNZ last night that had he known the Charles Upham would, in his words, 'be a lemon' he would never have agreed to its purchase, and that he wasn't advised the ship would require a $35 million refit.
"On checking, I find Mr Cooper was advised at the time he approved the purchase of the Charles Upham that a refit of the ship to convert it to a military sealift vessel was part of the decision. The cost at the time was estimated to be $34 million. The refit included a helicopter deck, accommodation for over 150 troops and heavy equipment (including APCs) and work to make the ship stable at sea to compensate for the lighter loads it would be carrying compared to a fully laden container vessel.
"The total cost for the Charles Upham to be converted into a full heavy sealift vessel for the army was around $55 - $60 million. It would have had a life of 30 or more years.
"The Upham proposal was much more cost effective than the cost of a new vessel of $250 - 350 million, which is what the Labour-Alliance Government are now considering as part of the May 8 defence decisions.
"The Government is now going to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars more for a vessel that isn't going to do the job as well as the refitted Charles Upham would have. That is why the decision to sell the Charles Upham is so bizarre.
"In Opposition, the Labour Party dumped on the Charles Upham decision from day one, especially after one voyage when the ship rolled because it was empty. An audit carried out by naval architects on instruction from the Defence Minister at the time showed the ship was in no danger, and would be a stable vessel after the refit was complete.
"Labour and the Alliance were opposed to the ship for no good reason at the time, and simply scuttled the ship because it could not be seen to retract from its political opposition," Mr Bradford said.