Winston Peters - "Bring back National Service"
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“Bring back National Service – a choice of
either Military or Community Training”
EMBARGOED AGAINST DELIVERY
Extracts from an address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to a public meeting at the Methodist Church Hall, Wellington Street, Hamilton.
12 30pm Monday 18th October 1999.
“Bring back National Service – a choice of either Military or Community Training”
New Zealand First wants to introduce a form of National Service for all young New Zealand males. This policy was supported overwhelmingly at the party’s 1997 convention in Christchurch.
We want to do this for both social and security reasons.
Socially, young men are the most at risk group in the community and we believe that such a scheme would help put purpose and direction into their lives.
Most of our young people have wonderful potential. But we have enormous problems up and down the country with anti-social behaviour and crime.
There is no doubt that unemployment is one of the root causes of many of the problems.
We send droves of young males into the community with few skills, and even less hope.
Many of them have been brought up without a suitable male role model in their lives.
They have too much time on their hands. It is too easy to get access to alcohol and drugs and fast cars. These are the ingredients that make up a lethal cocktail.
The social and economic development of any country is critically dependent on the quality of its people.
There is no substitute for an educated, hardworking, motivated and disciplined society.
Too many of our young New Zealanders are ill disciplined, unmotivated, uneducated and with too little knowledge of the advantages of technology.
Our borstals and prisons are full of young people who should never be there.
We see and hear of tragic cases in which youngsters have committed horrific crimes but we also hear of the terrible backgrounds they come from.
Whilst we accept that the State can’t take over the role of the family, and impose role models on these young men, nevertheless, the State can’t abrogate its responsibility when the social fabric starts tearing apart for reasons of social and economic injustice.
Once, New Zealanders enjoyed the advantages of an egalitarian society. People from all occupations and social backgrounds mixed as a result of their social activities, sports clubs, schools, and places of work.
In recent years that has changed, and many elements in society have retreated into their ghettos - whether they be of the privileged class in elite suburbs, or the deprived in less affluent areas.
It is time to remix all those elements, taking the best qualities from each group, and blending them into a cohesive and effective part of our society.
Many New Zealanders who went through the old form of Compulsory Military Training look back on those days with affection.
For just over three months they were thrown into a life of hard physical exercise, discipline, healthy food and companionship. These young men were from all walks of life. A lot learned the hard way that they had to be part of a team, and that they had to rely on their companions.
Those who went through this training learned that the strong helped the not so strong, and that it did not matter whether they were a lawyer’s son or a labourer’s.
Initially, they were all equally useless in the eyes of the Army, Navy or Air Force NCO instructors, but they invariably rose to the challenge.
It was not remarkable for those at the bottom of the social heap to be given command of those at the top, and the interesting outcome was the lack of resentment about this.
This type of life had many other advantages.
Young males who had never been away from their mothers learned how to make their beds, to cook a meal, and even how to iron their own shirts.
They learned how to put up with a few blisters during a twenty-mile route march, how to keep going when they thought they were finished, and how to help a mate who was struggling even more.
Many of the men who went through this system tell me how it helped focus their lives, and how it gave them a sense of achievement and a feeling of self worth.
Many young Maori took to this system of military training like ducks to the water. It gave them new whanau and iwi. They rediscovered their warrior history, but they did it in concert with their European companions. CMT cut right across class and race barriers.
It is long past the time for our young men to be given the opportunity for this training.
New Zealand First believes that we should follow the lead of many European countries and introduce a system of National Service, to be run by the Military, or Government, for ALL males leaving school or turning 18 years of age.
The training would be a choice of either Military Training or Community Service Training. It would last twelve weeks, and after that the individual could go on to either further military training or a form of community service of his choice.
These young men would receive the community wage. The extra costs would come in the form of providing instructors, accommodation, and facilities. The State already owns the land for training purposes.
There are about 28 thousand young men turning eighteen each year.
About 26 thousand would be fit for this type of training, so that will mean two intakes a year.
For reasons of need and logistics, young women would be excluded at this stage.
Whilst they are not creating the same social problems and they are not such a risk to themselves, they nevertheless will be able to volunteer for either service.
We have to start somewhere, and that start must be directed at young males.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the present system is not working.
Too many young people have little respect for other human beings and even less for authority.
Far too many of our young believe that laws are for someone else to obey.
This country would also benefit from national service for security reasons.
One of the main lessons of East Timor is that it is not very far away.
We find it difficult to scrape together an effective peace keeping force simply because we have run down our Defence system and have forgotten that it needs trained people with modern equipment.
New Zealand is close to one of the most populated areas of the world, with its many flash points. We must heed the lesson of East Timor, (as once we heeded the lessons of the Pacific campaign during World War Two), where today we do not have enough trained men to sustain a presence there for any long-term engagement.
A form of National Service would be an ideal way for military recruiting. Those with an aptitude for this way of life quickly stand out.
They could go on to become part of the Regular Force for a term of engagement, learn a trade, and be even more effective when their term of engagement was ended.
Meanwhile other young men will be trained to deal with other situations such as search and rescue and coast guard duties; and natural disasters such as floods, storms, and earthquakes.
They will form a pool of recruits for our other emergency services such as Police, Fire, Civil Defence and Medical Services.
This will impose extra costs on the taxpayer initially - but what is the alternative?
To keep on producing groups of young men whose future is a dole queue or a criminal gang?
In the long term, in a more cohesive society, this scheme will save taxpayers’ money.
The greatest threat to New Zealand as we know it, is our ill-disciplined, crime-ridden society with its anti-social behaviour and hand out culture.
We are actually paying too many of our young people to live a life in which they have few rules, little concern for others and absolutely no sense of responsibility.
New Zealand First says it is time to call enough! It is time to do something positive for our young people and our country before it is too late.