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Leaks are Symptomatic of Defence Run-Down

Leaks are Symptomatic of "Run-Down in Defence Capabilities"

Friday 28 Dec 2001 Rodney Hide Press Releases -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

ACT Finance Spokesman MP Rodney Hide said today that the results of yet another inquiry into the Army proved that Minister of Defence Mark Burton was a "waste of rations".

"Our military resources have been run down, our soldiers have been over-extended, a disastrous decision to purchase 105 LAV3's has been made, the combat air wing has been destroyed and military morale is now at an all time low.

"No amount of spin by the Minister and his team can divert attention away from the systematic problem created by a lack of funding of our military and a government that has politicised our armed forces.

"The real Minister of Defence is Prime Minister Helen Clark who has spawned the view that our military should simply be "peace-keepers" and run as a junior department to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The Army top brass has played along to secure the LAV3s and to see the Air Force eviscerated.

"In Opposition, Labour encouraged the military to be political. Yet now they are distancing themselves from the very army leadership that they used to foster their ideology onto New Zealand. Maj Gen Dodson has been used and is now abused by Prime Minister Helen Clark.

"The State Services Commissioner's report identified `30 probable leaks' of official information since 1998, the majority related to the Army. `The leaks which occurred were originally designed to advance the interests of the Army, primarily against the interests of the other Services. Subsequently the leaks were designed to counter the influence of a faction in the Army by causing personal embarrassment to CGS.'

"The report finds the leaks have their roots in `the run-down in Defence capabilities' and `the emergence of clear divisions between the two major political parties as to the purpose and structure of the Defence Forces, and the consequential equipment requirements.'"

"The leaks are a symptom of the problem, not the cause.

"Here's what needs to happen:

1. The armed forces need a Minister that they can respect and trust. Burton must go. Helen Clark should become the actual Minister rather than the de-facto Minister. That would mean a Minister at least in control and accountable.

2. The critical constitutional and security role played by our armed forces must be recognised and upheld by Parliament irrespective of political belief. Our military spend every day prepared to fight and die for our country on the direction of the government of the day. That commitment must be respected by Parliament with secure and adequate funding to the military. We can't expect our soldiers to patrol the world without adequate training, equipment and back-up. They should not be the political playthings of weak Ministers.

3. Army purchases made during the period of leaking and politicisation must be reviewed. The LAV3 order should be cancelled. That was a political decision made for all the wrong reasons. The Ministry of Defence should have more power to ensure that the actions of single services do not corrupt purchase decisions.

4. The decision to disband the air combat wing should be reversed - this was a disastrous economic, military and diplomatic blunder made for political reasons only.

5. Our military forces need closer integration with the forces of our allies, the United States and Australia. The Government must look to re-activating ANZUS and becoming a full functioning member of this great alliance once more. The global political climate means there is no better time for New Zealand to be re-integrated.

"Our military do New Zealand proud. Our men and women serve with distinction around the world, doing their duty as ordered by the government of the day. It's time that politicians played their part and secured the resources needed for the task that we set," Mr Hide said

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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