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ACT is Campaigning on Security - Prebble Speech

ACT is Campaigning on Security

Thursday 11 Jul 2002 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Foreign Affairs & Defence

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, Leader ACT New Zealand

At the launch of ACT's Defence Policy

At Ardmore Aerodrome, Auckland

On Thursday 11^th July 2002 at 11am

I've come to Ardmore today to launch ACT's defence policy because based here at Ardmore are planes in the Warbirds Squadron - fighter aircraft from the Second World War, that are flown by enthusiasts.

What we have here now are the planes that are replacing the Air Force's strike force capacity - unarmed fighter planes from World War Two.

Now, when the New Zealand navy wants to exercise its anti-aircraft capabilities, the Warbirds provide the aircraft - hardly a credible way to build a professional defence force.

The fact that the navy recently called on these Warbirds planes shows how important a Skyhawk capacity is, for the professionalism of our defence forces.

Defence may not appear as a major issue in this election, but it is important. Our government has sent defence personnel to more than 22 countries in peace-keeping roles. Today, peace-keeping is not just a form of unarmed policing. As Kosovo and now Afghanistan have shown, peace-keeping exercises can be major military undertakings.

Our troops used to be well-trained and professional, and have world class equipment. And they had exercised alongside troops whom they would be fighting alongside. It is dangerous for troops to be fighting under combat conditions with troops with whom they have not previously exercised - as is now occurring with New Zealand troops in Afghanistan.

I want to pay tribute to our troops who are in Afghanistan, whom our government never mentions. When you cross the Tasman, you can see front page stories in the media, covering the Australian troops' activities in Afghanistan. Here in New Zealand our Prime Minister never mentions our troops, on the bogus ground that Osama bin Laden in his cave is watching the six o'clock news.

I believe the real reason is that the government has problems with its coalition partners, and is embarrassed to inform the public that our troops are fighting alongside the Americans - making nonsense of the government's refusal to rejoin ANZUS.

The ACT Party this election is campaigning on security - both the security of the nation and of individuals. The security of individuals is represented by Zero Tolerance for Crime and Truth-in-Sentencing policies. Security of the nation - the government's first obligation - is represented by ACT's commitment to a balanced defence force.

ACT does not accept our Prime Minister's assessment that we live in a remarkably benign part of the world. The events of September 11 have shown how false that analysis is.

Australia, which shares our part of the world, also strongly disagrees with Helen Clark's complacent analysis. Australia this year is commencing a very substantial defence upgrade.

New Zealand, in contrast, has cancelled the second frigate, scrapped the Skyhawks and decided to purchase $100 million worth of light armoured vehicles - excellent if we're ever in a war on the northern German plains but useless in places like East Timor.

As an island nation, it is extraordinary to put all our defence capabilities into the army.

We agree with the analysis of successive defence white papers that New Zealand's defence forces should be balanced, and that our best security lies in collective arrangements with other nations.

ACT would revive New Zealand's membership of ANZUS. As a member of ANZUS, we could obtain the professional and financial assistance we need for a balanced defence force.

ACT supports the immediate re-commissioning of the Skyhawks. The aircraft have not yet been sold. They have recently been upgraded and were intended to fly for at least another five years.

Helen Clark's claim that the Skyhawks are "clapped out" is not credible.

An indication of how up-to-date the Skyhawks are, is that the government is negotiating with an American company which has a contract with the US defence force to supply aggressor planes for air combat training exercises. The fact that the US Defence Department regards the Skyhawks as being suitable for their combat exercises is a sign of the aircraft's capability - and shows the folly of New Zealand selling them.

The sale of the Skyhawks still hasn't been signed. July 27^th is a date when we can stop the government proceeding with the sale.

The cost of re-commissioning the Skyhawks now is very moderate - perhaps as little as $20 million.

The timing of the election is fortuitous, because to rebuild the air combat wing in three years time could take at least a decade and cost more than $800 million.

ACT realises that in peace time, defence expenditure is not a popular issue. But we are a party of integrity that is prepared to lead.

When you need defence forces, you really need them. And if you haven't put in the investment, the cost, as history has shown, is high.

ENDS

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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