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Defence must be rebuilt in face of new threats

John Carter - National Party Defence Spokesman

5 August 2005

Defence must be rebuilt in face of new threats

National's Defence spokesman, John Carter, says New Zealand's armed forces must be rebuilt in the face of new global and regional threats from terrorism and from rogue and failing states.

"A primary duty of government is to protect the state; to keep our country, its infrastructure and its citizens safe."

Mr Carter is commenting on the release today of National's defence policy.

"Our armed forces have been allowed to unravel over the past five years to a point where we are now unable to make a meaningful contribution to peace enforcement in our region, or to contribute effectively in countering the major contemporary threats to international stability and peace.

"Since Labour's policy framework was established in 2000, the world's security environment has changed substantially - but policy has not.

"The job of our defence personnel has become more difficult since September 11. Terrorism has changed the way war is carried out, with military personnel now expected to be at the forefront in that war.

"We must rebuild our rundown armed forces so we are in a position to take account of these new threats.

"We must be able to make specialist contributions to operations to defeat terrorism and ensure global security, as well as play our part in defending our region and helping further afield, but we cannot do this until we have rebuilt our armed forces.

"It is essential that our servicemen and women are well equipped. Constant equipment failures are putting them in unnecessary danger.

"The first major, serious problem is the personnel crisis in the armed forces, resulting from the loss of specialist staff, and this needs to be addressed ahead of any major equipment decisions.

"The Chief of Defence, Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, recently painted a worrying picture of our armed forces as unable to sustain their present level of activity with existing resources. National is determined to see these resourcing issues addressed, with a priority on recruitment and retention.

"Labour has done nothing to stem the tide while the attrition rate has accelerated."

Mr Carter says the first priority of a National Government will be a comprehensive review of the structure of the armed forces and intelligence agency capability in light of the changed security environment.

The review will look at:

· Rebuilding credible combat capability.
· Maintaining recent increases in spending levels, and look to adjust spending as identified in the defence review.
· The pay and conditions of personnel.
· Issues affecting the serious attrition rate in our forces, part of which involves the families of defence personnel.
· Enhancing New Zealand's relationship with traditional allies based upon mutual interest in a safer world.

Mr Carter says the prospect of re-establishing the Air Force strike wing will be canvassed in the Defence Review, but he believed that was remote now that Labour had disbanded the wing and the pilots and infrastructure had gone.

And he says National has no intention of changing the nuclear-free legislation.

"National will not make any change to the nuclear-free legislation without a clear mandate from a public referendum.

"I do not detect any great change in the public mood on this issue, so I do not see any prospect of change in the near future."

ENDS

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