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Hide's bizarre hunt for a scandal that isn't there

17 August 2001 Media Statement

Hide's bizarre hunt for a scandal that isn't there…

Defence Minister Mark Burton today dismissed as 'bizarre' the claims by Act MP Rodney Hide of problems over the NZ Defence Force's purchase of LAV III armoured vehicles.

"Mr Hide's claims are very disappointing. The LAV III is far and away the best suited vehicle for the needs of our Defence Force. The previous National government thought so. Max Bradford recommended buying them – but typically National did not commit sufficient funding. This government went through with that purchase.

"Hide's claims about the LAV IIIs' suitability to the terrain where Private Leonard Manning was killed are, quite simply, wrong.

"Any discussion as to how the LAV IIIs would handle the particular terrain is, as I said in my reply, speculative. The LAV IIIs are not in East Timor.

"To suggest that the fact that officials draft different wordings to questions is some sort of scandal is bizarre. Answers to questions are drafted and redrafted every working day, in every ministers' office, to ensure that the most accurate and appropriate answer can be given to every parliamentary question. If Mr Hide had ever been a minister, he might know that.

"Both drafts to the question make clear that due to the nature of the patrol, it had to move by foot. In the answer provided to Mr Hide, I explained in some detail the circumstances surrounding Private Manning's patrol in order, in part, to explain this fact.

"I pointed out that subsequent to the incident involving Private Manning's death, however, a M113 APC was able to move to within about 30 metres of the patrol's position. The NZ Defence Force advise me that the LAV III would be able to get at least as far as the M113.

"This has been confirmed again today by senior and operationally experienced officers, and indeed personnel directly involved in the incident. Similarly, they have confirmed that both NZ Defence Force draft answers and the amended version are valid, accurate and mutually supportive.

"I am sorry that Mr Hide and the ACT Party are engaging in a political point-scoring campaign to oppose the LAV III purchase. Our troops, who have struggled for the last decade with antediluvian equipment, deserve better from a political party that purports to support rebuilding our defence force," Mr Burton said.


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