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Downer confirms trans-Tasman bond strained

Dr Hon Lockwood Smith National Foreign Affairs Spokesman

22 December 2003

Downer confirms trans-Tasman bond strained

The Government's reluctance to support regional initiatives has been confirmed by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, says National's Foreign Affairs spokesman Hon Dr Lockwood Smith.

Speaking in Fiji, Mr Downer said New Zealand was "hesitant" in supporting intervention in the Solomon Islands. Official cabinet papers also revealed Australia had to ask twice for military support from Labour.

"By being a reluctant partner the Government is allowing New Zealand to drift further away from our closest ally," says Dr Smith.

"National raised the alarm earlier in the year after a worrying comment by Dr Allan Hawke, Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand, that our 'future relationship [with Australia] was anything but certain'.

"At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff dismissed National's criticism as 'fantasy', it's now clear the 'fantasy' was his.

"It's appalling that the New Zealand Government has been reduced to political spin to avoid telling the truth about our deteriorating relationship with our most important partner, friend and ally.

"Labour expects our hard-working troops to earn international respect for New Zealand rather than attempting to do it themselves," says Dr Lockwood Smith.

Ends

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