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Labour: army's problems highlight imbalance

2000 web siteThe transport and equipment problems being experienced by our military as they prepare for deployment in East Timor highlight the imbalanced composition of our armed forces, Labour’s associate defence spokesperson Rick Barker said today.

“It is reported in the news media today that our forces must await the arrival of a commercial charter ship in Darwin, to be used to ferry troops and equipment to Timor. The navy’s ‘specialist’ transport ship, Charles Upham, remains in service as a Spanish orange carrier ahead of a major refit next year.

“Then when our troops do reach Timor, they will have to rely on equipment which should have been replaced years ago. Our M113 armoured personnel carriers are more than 30 years old, and in their recent Bosnian deployment were shown to be inadequate and unreliable.

“The army’s radios also date back to the Vietnam era, along with the C-130 Hercules aircraft.

“These and other problems highlight the wider issue of the imbalanced composition of our armed forces.

“The National Government has put the purchase of ‘sexy’ military items, notably F16 fighters, ahead of essential but less photogenic items such as functional communications equipment for the army and the capacity to transport it to where it needs to go. Yet it is our army which has comprised the backbone of New Zealand’s peacekeeping activity and main overseas deployment for many years now.

“This imbalance was highlighted by the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee report on defence, whose uncomfortable home truths have been rejected by defence minister Mr Bradford and his National colleagues.

“New Zealand’s troops are well trained and will acquit themselves well in Timor. But good troops deserve good equipment, not the decrepit hand-me-downs foisted on them by a government whose thinking hasn’t advanced past the discredited assumptions of the cold war,” Rick Barker said.

Contact: Rick Barker, 025 442 555

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