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Lockwood Smith short on memory, facts, says Goff

Lockwood Smith short on memory, facts, says Goff

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today said Opposition spokesman Lockwood Smith had made a bumbling start to his new portfolio by criticising New Zealand's military deployment to Solomon Islands.

"In doing so, he has also shown himself to be completely out of touch. His claim that New Zealand's military deployment to the Solomons caused strained relations with Australia is a hotch-potch of fantasy and poor memory. "When the government decided to commit military personnel to the Solomons on July 15, 105 personnel and four helicopters were made available immediately. We made it clear that in addition an infantry company would be placed on stand-by in New Zealand until it was clear that there was a job for them to do.

"We were as good as our word. When the company was requested in mid-August, the troops were flown to the Solomons within a matter of days.

"It was nearly a month later, on September 22, that Australian High Commissioner Allan Hawke made a speech which Dr Smith alone has interpreted as a criticism of our contribution to the Solomons.

"What is more, Dr Smith is knocking a contribution for which the Australians have been fulsome in their praise.

"Just last week, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer paid tribute to New Zealand saying that restoring life to normality in the Solomon Islands 'could not have been achieved without the major contribution made by New Zealand'," Mr Goff said.

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