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Clark Should Listen To Reith's Message

17 March 2002

The Prime Minister's immediate rejection of issues raised by former Australian Defence Minister, Peter Reith, proves she would rather shoot the messenger than listen to the message, says National's Defence spokesperson, Max Bradford.

In a speech given last night, Mr Reith said that it was impossible for Australia not to be concerned about the future of its defence relationship with New Zealand.

"Ms Clark's reaction is typical of someone who knows she has lost the defence argument," says Mr Bradford.

"The strategic environment we face, post September 11, is not 'incredibly benign' as this Government would have New Zealanders believe. It was timely of Mr Reith to remind us of that fact.

"It is true, as Mr Reith said in his speech, that "the United Nations will never defend New Zealand" so concentration on a peacekeeping force structure for the NZDF, as embodied in the Labour/Alliance Government policies, is all wrong.

"As Mr Reith stated, "you neglect your own national interest if you leave defence policy to greenies and peaceniks."

"Mr Reith is right to remind us of the loss of ANZUS. The worsening strategic environment, and the the worsening situation in many Pacific Island nations, make it timely to do so.

"His comments were as straight a message as any Australian government official could give us, without the complications of 'diplomat-speak'. Helen Clark is demeaning New Zealanders by dumping on Mr Reith, rather than addressing his comments," says Mr Bradford.

Ends

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