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Brash indulging in Kiwi bashing

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

17 March 2004

Brash indulging in Kiwi bashing

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today accused National Party leader Don Brash of bad-mouthing New Zealand to advance his own political ambitions.

"Dr Brash has clearly learned nothing from the experience of his two predecessors, Jenny Shipley and Bill English, that New Zealanders simply don't appreciate National leaders trying to make political capital out of running down their own country overseas," Mr Goff said.

"Don Brash has been dumping on New Zealand in Australia but following New Zealand media enquiries, he has refused to repeat the same things here. He knows what he says is wrong, and that running down his own country to ingratiate himself in Australia will appal ordinary New Zealanders.

"Dr Brash told The Australian newspaper that the trans-Tasman relationship is very strained and that it is all New Zealand's fault.

"Contrary to Dr Brash's assertions, Australia has been very forthcoming about the current strength of the relationship. Prime Minister John Howard has said it 'has never been in better shape', and that he and Helen Clark have an opportunity 'quite without parallel' for 'developing further an already very close and intimate bilateral relationship'.

"Dr Brash also claims that Australia feels New Zealand has not been pulling its weight over the Solomons intervention. However, my Australian counterpart Alexander Downer is on the record as saying 'New Zealand deserves a sizable slice of credit for their excellent performance and the New Zealand government has done a great thing being such a driver of the process'.

"Far from not pulling our weight, under this Government New Zealand has made a huge contribution to supporting peace and stability in the region.

"As well as contributing 229 defence force personnel and 35 police officers to the Solomon Islands, and giving $14 million in development assistance there, New Zealand has a proud record in recent years in East Timor and Bougainville. In East Timor, for example, we were the first peacekeeping force to support Australia. Our three-year battalion strength commitment there was the largest per capita contribution of any nation.

"Claims by Dr Brash that we are not pulling our weight are simply offensive. Mr Downer is well aware of that commitment. He told media late last year that Australia had 'heaps of help from New Zealand on lots of important issues'.

"While Australia's Foreign Minister talks about a 'very constructive, a very positive and a very easy period in our relationship', Dr Brash tells Australians that the relationship is bad and it's our fault.

"It is ironic that he blames defence spending for the imagined strains, given the dramatic cuts in defence spending by his own party throughout the 1990s.

"In contrast, this Government has, for the first time, developed a long-term development plan for defence that provides for spending priorities of over $3 billion over the next decade.

"We've invested $120 million on new communications equipment for the Army and Air Force; replaced the RNZAF’s two 727s with 757-200s, announced a $1 billion package for the air force that will see 15-year life extending upgrade of the five C-130Hs, replacement of the Iroquois and Sioux helicopters, and upgrades of P-3 Orions' mission, communications and navigation systems.

"Project Protector will see $500 million invested in new naval vessels, while the army is getting Light Armoured Vehicles worth over $600 million, and Light Operational Vehicles to replace its ageing Landrovers at a cost of up to $110 million.

"Dr Brash also claims in The Australian that the government has closed down its defence relationship with the United States.

"We have, in fact, been working closely with the Americans in Afghanistan and in Operation Enduring Freedom for over two years, and have been more closely engaged with the Americans than at any time since 1985.


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