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Minister's Bluster Confirms Key Facts

ACT Leader Hon Richard Prebble said that the Defence Minister Mark Burton's latest press statement "confirms what my sources have been saying" regarding the LAV3s.

"The Minister is now admitting that the price has escalated by more than three times from an original estimate of $200 million to $652 million ' and ACT sources say that once additional associated costs are added the final price will be over $700 million ' or more than $7 million each.

"No rational argument has been put forward for the purchase of 105 of these vehicles. The army has no intention of using them in East Timor. It is also correct that air conditioning has had to be added because of the vehicles' electronics.

"The Minister's statement also confirms that the Auditor General is doing an inquiry. The Minister is just playing with words when he says the report has 'not yet been delivered'.

"I note with interest that the Minister has not been prepared to deny my claim that the Auditor General's report is a stinging indictment of the procedures used for the purchase. I believe that the Minister himself is severely criticised for his own role in the purchase, and I publicly ask the Minister the following questions:

"1. Did he go behind the Chief of Staff's back and hold discussions with the army directly?

"2. Does the Chief of Staff agree with the Minister that 105 of the LAV3s is a sensible military purchase?

"3. Did Labour politicians indicate to the army prior to the election that a Labour Government would give a green light to the purchase ' and if so how can they possibly have reviewed defence priorities?

"Finally, if the Minister believes the Auditor General's findings are so favourable ' why not release them?" Hon Richard Prebble concluded.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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