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Giving Defence the Right Priority

Giving Defence the Right Priority

Friday, October 5 2001 Dr Muriel Newman Speeches -- Governance & Constitution

Speech to Public Meeting, Hearing Association Rooms, Deveron Street Whangarei, 6:30 pm ,Friday, October 4, 2001

When we chose the date for this public meeting on defence, we had no idea that the world would now be living with the threat of global terrorism, and that issues of defence would have such a high priority in our minds.

I don't think that any of us in our wildest dreams or worst nightmares could have imagined the mass murder that took place on September 11. The image of civilian aircraft being use as weapons to destroy icons of trade and defence in the world's leading free democracy, gave us a glimpse of hell.

The destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, my home town for 3 years, and the Pentagon in Washington, came at a huge human cost ' tragically more than 6,000 innocent people from more than 70 countries died.

The unprovoked attack was an attack on freedom. It was an attack on democracy, on the rule of law and on free enterprise. In successive world wars, New Zealanders have recognised those are values worth fighting for. Progress and globalisation mean that a terrorist attack on one nation can effect the world. It has also enabled a terrorist network to be established around the globe.

We already suspected that there were Afghan terrorist cells in New Zealand. The Minister of Police in Parliament yesterday refused to be drawn on whether an article in an Australian newspaper was correct in its assertion that two men held in Paremoremo prison were suspected commanders from Afghanistan's ruling Taleban militia and had been originally suspected of plotting an attack on Sydney's nuclear reactor in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

The Prime Minister recently told us that New Zealand doesn't have any enemies. But the events of the last month have shown us all just how wrong she is. They have also shocked us into recognising that the Prime Minister's smug isolationist view is not only misguided, it is dangerous.

Terrorism is the enemy of all free democracies. Terrorism is everywhere and nowhere. Terrorists come in any form; their weapons are unconventional ' from civilian aircraft, to chemical and germ warfare, to nuclear bombs in suitcases. That is why we need to strengthen our intelligence gathering as a priority because intelligence is a nation's first defence against terrorism.

Further, New Zealand needs a balanced defence force ' an army, navy and an airforce with an airstrike capability - that works closely with our western allies. If we are going to respond collectively to international threats, it would be a good idea to train together beforehand, to agree on doctrine and policy.

Most New Zealanders ' 73% in fact - now recognise that the government is making a massive mistake by disbanding the airstrike capability of the airforce. If intelligence services told us tonight that terrorists had hijacked a plane and were on a kamikaze mission to a strategic New Zealand target, at the present time we would have the option of using a fighter plane to bring it down. But if the government's plan goes ahead, next year we will have no such choice.

Retaining the airstrike wing of the airforce should now become a national priority. New Zealanders do not want their children to be the only generation of New Zealanders in modern history who will not have the protection of an airforce with an air strike capability.

We also need to reconnect ourselves to ANZUS - we are still legally a member of ANZUS, although we have not been active since the Labour Government alienated the US in 1986. Since that time, successive Prime Ministers have acknowledged the ANZUS Treaty is still binding. Helen Clark has now said it's not.

In a recent article in the Spectator, Mark Steyn writes:"Down south, although New Zealand hasn't been an active member of ANZUS for years, Prime Minister Helen Clark thought that America's request for support would be a good time to let the world know that they were withdrawing from the alliance entirely. She said that she didn't expect the US to come to New Zealand's defence and explained that the country now considered itself in the same position as Sweden or Finland."

The Prime Minister had no mandate to make that statement. According to a poll last week, only 27% of New Zealanders thought we should not offer military support to the United States. And New Zealand have never wanted to be like Finland, that fought for the Nazis, or like Sweden, that kept selling Hitler war material until the last days of the war.

Since ANZUS became inoperative, we have tried to have an ANZAC defence pact. The problem is that Australian defence analysts have stated that the run-down in New Zealand's defence capabilities is so alarming that New Zealand is no longer a defence asset, but a liability.

In this new era of global terrorism, rebuilding our relationships with the United States and Australia in order to strengthen defence capabilities in our region, is just common sense. Sixty-one per cent of New Zealanders want the government to rejoin ANZUS.

It is a shame they don't appear to be listening.


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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