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Australia appalled at Labour's Isolationist Policy

Hon Max Bradford
Minister of Defence


1st September 1999

Australia appalled at Labour Party Isolationist Defence Stance

As predicted, the Australian Government has condemned the Quigley defence report, and the Labour Party's plan to ditch New Zealand's frigate-based navy, Defence Minister Max Bradford said today.

"There is no doubt that Opposition party members of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and Labour, have no idea of the importance of Closer Defence Relations (CDR) to New Zealand's overall relationship with Australia," he said.

As Minister for Enterprise and Commerce, Mr Bradford noted that Australia's attitude to its wider economic relationship with New Zealand was influenced by its perception of whether New Zealand was pulling its weight in regional defence.

"As Australia is closer to regional hot spots and choke points of sea trade, it understandably takes a far more serious and realistic view of defence policy than Opposition parties do here in New Zealand.

"The recent release of the 'Hewitt Diaries' shows that deep divisions existed in the 1980s between the New Zealand and Australian Labour governments.

"Our traditional relationship was nearly wrecked by the New Zealand Labour Party position. You can't help getting a feeling of 'déjà-vu' with the isolationist stance of the current Labour party, a stance condemned by the National Government," Mr Bradford said.

"Helen Clark's announcement yesterday that she would effectively dispose of the frigate-based navy and review our air combat force is the sort of head-in-the-sand, pacifist stance that will lead to a poisoning of our vital trans-Tasman relationship.

"Neither the New Zealand Government, or myself, as Minister of Defence, want to see this happen again," Mr Bradford said.

Attached: Statement by Hon John Moore, Minister of Defence, Australia, on SBS television 31 August 1999

Media Inquiries: Jeremy Kirk, Press Secretary, (04) 4719-908 or 025-424-565

Minister for Defence, Member for Ryan


Minister, this Select Committee concludes that New Zealand is perhaps trying to do too much with too little, and really, succeeding in doing well in spending the New Zealand Defence dollar. Do you agree?


Well, since the New Zealanders fell out with the Americans, the emphasis on Defence has fallen away. Max Bradford, their current Minister for Defence, I'll have to say, has done a very good job in picking up the interest in Defence. Now, we, as Australia, have always urged them to maintain appropriate defence for New Zealand, so they can play their proper part in the defence of the South Pacific, and I think, the Minister has done a tremendous job in doing that. The Committee has pointed to some shortfalls in it. I think their Minister would say, "Well, we should do something about it". The Labor Party there proposes to do nothing about it.


The Report suggests that the priorities ought to be maritime surveillance of the Economic Zone and peacekeeping and two distinct roles. Do you think there's a risk there of an isolationist tendency coming through?


I think the problem is that no army can be trained for peacekeeping and at the same time be committed towards the proper defence of your nation. You've got to defend your nation first, and peace-keep as a secondary item, and that's a major conundrum for them. Their force structure in terms of Air Force and Navy, therefore, come into question because they are, essentially, a maritime nation in every respect.


The present government is committed to leasing F-16s and the Labor Party, the chief Opposition party in the New Zealand government, is suggesting it will walk away from that commitment. Would that be a matter for concern for Australia?


It would be a matter of concern for us because we do look to the New Zealanders in a defence alliance which we have with them. We have a very good working relationship. Under Minister Bradford, I think that relationship's been enhanced no end. I would urge them not to walk away from it because we all have our responsibilities to meet.


And, their maritime, their naval capacity, again, the Labor Party says it would have no thoughts whatsoever in buying a third frigate from Australia.


Well, I wouldn't like to comment on the size of their navy but generally speaking, we would like to see New Zealand do more in Defence.


It makes sense for them to buy another frigate and to buy it from here, does it not?


Well, we made them an offer earlier in the year on an Anzac frigate. They subsequently declined that and we said that if they want to take it up, well, come back and discuss it, and that offer still stands.


So, you would like New Zealand to buy another frigate.


Generally speaking, across the board, we want to see New Zealand do more for Defence.

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