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Govt reduces naval capability

Govt reduces naval capability

The National Party is accusing the Government of cutting corners with contracts to build new vessels for the Navy.

"Defence Minister Mark Burton has confirmed the vessels for 'Project Protector' are being built using civilian rather than military specifications," says National Party Defence spokesman Simon Power.

"Yet again this Government is making defence decisions on the bizarre assumption that we're operating in a 'benign' defence environment.

"Vessels built to military grade specifications are substantially different to those that use civilian specifications," Mr Power says.

"For instance, military vessels have stronger hulls and feature in-built wiring and piping back-up systems so if one gives way the other takes over. "The Minister defends what appears to be a clear move to reduce capability by saying that the vessels will be used primarily for patrols, but then goes on to say they're supposed to have military training and military sea-lift capabilities.

"In other words, the Government is banking on the 'benign' defence environment.

"Among those hoping the assumption is correct will be the armed services personnel expected to crew these boats designed to civilian specifications.

"The Labour Government's grounded the air force strike wing and now it's reducing the specifications and capability of our Navy.

"The Minister must now tell us how inter-operable these vessels will be with those of our allies.

"Given the reports that there could be up to 15,000 US troops based in Australia, it would seem likely that Australian troops will train more closely with the Americans," says Mr Power.

"Where does that leave New Zealand?

"It leaves New Zealand with civilian standard naval vessels, an air force with no combat wing and an increasingly confused foreign policy that put us at odds with some of our closest friends and allies," Mr Power says.

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