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NZ's Credibility On Line With F-16's - Mapp

New Zealand’s credibility as a western democracy prepared to pull its weight is on the line over the F-16 fighter contract, says National Party Defence spokesperson, Dr Wayne Mapp MP.

“We are seen by many of our allies, especially Australia, as freeloaders when it comes to defence,” said Dr Mapp.

“It is essential to provide a balanced approach if we are to play an effective role in bringing peace and stability to our region.

“While our soldiers remain active on the ground in East Timor, and our sailors are protecting the sea lanes, we are dependant on the Australians for air support. Our outdated Skyhawks are of limited use, while modern Australian F/A-18s were able to provide air cover to our troops.”

“Air support has, to date, proven unnecessary in East Timor, but who was prepared to guarantee this before the troops landed?

“It is important for New Zealand to pull its weight in this area. But more importantly once the skills and institutional knowledge of our air strike arm is lost, it is gone for twenty years.”

“Helen Clark has a lot to learn about the realities of foreign affairs. It is not credible to say our allies are not concerned about Labour’s defence policy, when it becomes a key topic of discussion for both President Clinton and our new United States Ambassador.

- ENDS -

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