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Govt Negligence Of Air Force Near Criminal

16 July 2002

The Government's negligence in not updating or replacing the nation's air transport fleet is close to criminal, says National Defence Spokesperson Richard Worth.

"The Government has a responsibility to ensure that our servicemen and women are operating with safe aircraft. Not to do so is negligent in the extreme.

"This month the air force transport squadron was grounded for two days because it had no serviceable aircraft available, we have heard of an Orion crew being checked out in hospital in Gibraltar after inhaling toxic fumes due to a wiring failure in the cockpit, and a Hercules being stranded in Canada because of an engine turbine problem.

"These things are happening because the Government is underesourcing our defence forces so badly.

"In a civilian situation there would be little doubt that on the evidence publicly available the Government could be held culpable in the event of a tragic accident in a non war-zone.

"The Minister of Defence is directly responsible for this sorry state of affairs. He doesn't understand New Zealand's defence needs and has allowed the Government to run down our air force to the point where we have our servicemen and woman operating on a shoestring budget.

"The Government has taken the number eight wire philosophy too far, but you won't hear Helen Clark talk about defence on the campaign because she knows New Zealanders resent her closing down our air combat wing," Mr Worth said.


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