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Report Highlights Labour's Failings In Defence

Press Release
Report Highlights Labour's Failings In Defence

Heather Roy MP
Thursday, September 4 2008

The release of the NZ Defence Force 2008 Annual Report again highlights the failings of Labour's cavalier attitude to throwing taxpayer money at a problem with little regard for outcomes - and, in Defence, it is servicemen and women who daily bear the cost of that poor governance, ACT New Zealand National Security Spokesman Heather Roy said today.

"The Chief of Defence Force understates the point in his overview that 'the asymmetric nature of modern conflict requires the Defence Force to be ready to conduct operations in diverse circumstances.' Labour's successive Defence Ministers Burton and Goff have tried to meet that challenge with symmetric solutions," Mrs Roy said.

"The fact is that money provides hardware and pay rises but, by itself, doesn't improve capability - the most important of which is people. Since 1999, Labour has presided over a 10 percent total drop in Defence Force personnel numbers.

"That still conceals the true problem: it takes time to train and develop NCOs and officers to lead, and inexperienced leaders contribute to higher turnover. The report paints a grim picture of 15 percent turnover, and last year's Statement of Intent cited a best case median retention of about six years - not even long enough to produce an experienced corporal.

"More concerning is that the Minister is allowing the ongoing concentration of our forces in a few locations, while observing the continuing destruction of the Territorial Force and Reserves - which numbered around 4,000 when Labour came to office and have since dropped over 45 percent. Funding cuts to TF training and proposed disbandment of our oldest Army units is inconsistent with Labour's priority theme of building national identity.

At a higher level Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade are linked and are the blood flow to and from external markets. Dividing this portfolio to accommodate Winston Peters' baubles has not assisted our relationships with traditional allies. Evidence exists in the public briefing documents for Australia's recent 2020 summit - in relation to its place in the world, Australia mentioned New Zealand only as a location of Australians abroad and a known drug-trafficking routes. ANZAC, CER and CDR were not mentioned at all.

"Labour and New Zealand First will blame Defence Force Chiefs for the perilous state of our military, but they have made it impossible for NZDF to carry out everything expected of our troops," Mrs Roy said.


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