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Public gets it right on defence - Govt wrong

Richard Worth National Defence Spokesperson

27 October 2002

Public gets it right on defence - Govt gets it wrong

TVNZ's poll showing a large majority of New Zealanders are concerned that New Zealand wouldn't be able to respond to a terrorism incident shows the Government is well out of touch with public opinion, says National's Defence spokesman Richard Worth. "New Zealanders know that the Government's 'head in the sands' approach to defence - that our country isn't threatened in a conventional nation to nation sense - is unrealistic.

"Terrorism can strike any where any time. September 11 and Bali showed that New Zealanders could face terrorism at home, or holidaying and working overseas at any time.

"Prime Minister Helen Clark's claim that we live in an 'incredibly benign strategic environment' when defending the Government's isolationist defence policy, doesn't stack up and this poll shows New Zealanders can see that.

"National has called for a full review of New Zealand's defence position. It is clear that New Zealanders have already adjusted their thinking on defence.

"The issue is about our relationships with Australia, the US and our friends in Southeast Asia, rather than a debate about frigates or fighter aircraft. Frictions in these relationships prevent us from getting the best training and intelligence available so that our forces can work others in combating terrorism.

"We could enlarge our number of SAS units, initiate better combat training programmes for our conventional forces, and make restoring an adequate military air transport capability a priority. There is no reason why we can't do this alongside tightening internal security measures," Mr Worth said.

Ends

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