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Empty Promises From English

12 June 2002

National's Defence policy demonstrates that Bill English has already accepted election defeat, Defence Minister Mark Burton said.

"Mr English has raised the white flag and abandoned any attempt at credible defence policies. National's defence policy is precisely the sort of policy you release when you know you will never have to deliver on the promises it contains. It's a small party policy.

"National's policy is a mix of promises to do things they failed to do during nine years in government, and promises to do things the Labour-led government has already done! And the party that wants to cut taxes is promising yet another unaffordable spend-up, without any explanation of where the money would come from.

"Mr English is apparently committed to restoring the air combat force - which could cost up to $3 billion in equipment, training, infrastructure and operating costs.

"He wants a third frigate. And yet he was in the government that cancelled the third ANZAC frigate – with nothing done to consider the alternatives.

"Through a series of reviews, we identified various gaps in the Navy’s ability to meet national maritime patrol requirements. The new multi-purpose naval vessels being acquired will give us a practical Naval fleet matched to New Zealand’s wider security needs.

"As the Chief of Naval Staff has noted, these new vessels will free up the two ANZAC frigates and allow them to be used for the tasks for which they are suited. A third frigate is not required.

"Defence force personnel will not be fooled by National's promise of a review of pay and benefits. Such reviews have been promised in the past and come to nothing. In contrast, the Labour-led government has given cash injections two years in a row, with more budgeted for next year, to fund significant pay and allowance increases."

Mark Burton said a full Defence Review as proposed by Mr English is simply not needed.

"There was extensive consultation before the defence select committee released its Beyond 2000 report in 1999. We have built on that work through the Defence Policy Framework of June 2000, the Defence Capability Statement of May 2001, and the Long Term Development Plan released yesterday.

"Taken together, these three key strategic and operational documents, and the improved pay and conditions for service personnel, show how this government is building a modern, focused, professional Defence Force, with the necessary military capabilities and trained personnel, across all three Services.

"The Labour-led government is getting on with the rebuilding of a modern New Zealand Defence Force. In sorry contrast, the policy announced by Mr English is an unfocused, ill-thought out hot-potch of empty promises. No wonder David Dickens walked out after just a week."

Ends

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