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Peace Is Not Just The Absence Of War

Peace Is Not Just The Absence Of War

Heather Roy MP Monday,

September 15 2008

September 15 is the day on which Allied countries of WW2 commemorate the Battle of Britain; the day on which the Luftwaffe suffered its worst casualties in one day - 60 aircraft vs 26 of the RAF -resulting in Hitler's postponement and ultimate cancellation of the invasion of England, codenamed 'Operation Sea Lion'.

Records show that 2,353 British and 574 Commonwealth aircrew - including 127 New Zealanders - flew during those 'darkest hours'. Of those, 510 lost their lives. Their effort was well summarised by Sir Winston Churchill when he said: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few". We will remember them.

In terms of lessons learned, however, the current situation is an insult to the memory of 'the few' - and indeed to all those who serve, or have served, their country. The Labour-led Government should take heed of another Churchill quote: "To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day".

While the destruction of today relates to air capability, the real damage - to the spirit of a society forged in struggle - is far more subtle and of far greater detriment to our advancement as a nation.

It is now nearly two months since Defence Minister Phil Goff said that a sale of the grounded Skyhawk and Aermaachi jets was only a few weeks away. In war, thankfully, you can only be killed once; in politics, many times. Mr Goff appears intent on a very long, drawn-out final death rattle.

In the meantime, Kiwis wait for the truth. Prime Minister Helen Clark announced that this election would be based on trust. I agree - but I doubt Miss Clark will like the voters' view of her Government's handling of the legacy of those we remember today.

Having spent the past three years leading the political pressure on Labour's 'take the money and shut-up' approach to defence, it is fair to ask what I would do differently as Defence Minister. I have outlined many solutions in various speeches and releases, and ACT's full policy will soon be released.

The main elements that would make a significant improvement to national security - without costing the country vast sums - include voluntary national service as a component of ACT's education scholarship policy, a substantial increase in the size of the Reserve Forces (Navy, Army & Air Force), return of the Aermacchi to RNZAF service based on an Asia-Pacific region Advanced Flying Training School and the A4s dispersed to engineer training, memorials, collections and parts.

ACT will rebuild New Zealand's personnel competence levels, with more Kiwi servicemen attached overseas where expensive hardware is plentiful but good crews are scarce. In order to do that, we must repair the trail of broken relationships with our traditional allies.

A read through Hansard will reveal that the language being used by Mr Goff and others in the Labour coalition today is exactly the same as that used in Labour Ministers' speeches during the 1930s - terms such as "too expensive", "no threat" and "higher social priorities".

While true, these statements are irrelevant. No government has a higher duty than to plan for and enact the protection of the people. It is not just Budget surpluses that will take New Zealand forward. If we do not move ahead with one eye on the past, we will not carry with us the wisdom of those who came before us. We will not create the enduring and powerful shared memories that create pride. We must create a complete environment. Lest we forget to bring our children home.


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