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SOS National Day of Protest

13 October 2001

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SOS National Day of Protest
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Kia ora,

if you read the daily or weekly metropolitan newspapers, you will be aware that Wednesday, 17 October, is the SOS National Day of protest organised by the Save Our Squadrons Campaign to "save our air defence squadrons". There are marches planned for Auckland (12-30pm at QE2 Square and march up Queen Street), Wellington (12-30pm in Civic Square and march on parliament); Christchurch (12-30pm at Moorhouse Ave).

This alert is in three parts: 1) information about the SOS campaign; 2) what you can do; and 3) where you can get more information about why we do not need, nor want, an air combat capability.

1) Information about the SOS campaign

Information about the SOS Campaign is available from their website at http://www.soscampaign.co.nz Among the pages on the site are those listing their objectives, background to the campaign, updates, information about the squadrons in the air force, and a directory listing the registered office of the campaign, its directors and solicitors. The updates page includes an announcement on 10 October that David Dickens, Centre of Strategic Studies (Victoria University of Wellington), had agreed to become spokesman for the campaign.

Among the arguments being put forward by the campaign are the following:

* "The underlying assumption is that New Zealand itself is unlikely ever to be threatened by any other country - indeed the Defence Statement says almost exactly this." Our recollection of the various arguments put forward in recent years with regard to the purchase of frigates and F16 warplanes was that various military people themselves said there are no identifiable threats to this country, and that only the US government has the military capability to invade. Given the success of the US economic invasion, and the fact that US business interests now own much of the country, presumably there is no need for an actual military invasion.

* "Certainly no thought was given to the sort of terrible scenario the U.S. has recently experienced." This is an interesting argument which appears to ignore the fact that the US has more warplanes than any other country, and that did not prevent the attacks in New York and Washington.

* "Some will dismiss this campaign as a futile attempt to hold onto the past and will claim that in today's world there is no threat to our country which would justify expenditure on air combat aircraft, over expenditure on health, education, and social welfare." Well, that's really for you to decide for yourselves - would you prefer your children to have warplanes, or health, education and welfare?

The reference to social welfare is intriguing. Social welfare, along with superannuation, is also referred to in the list of "... recent expenditure the government has considered justified". The campaign appears to view 'social welfare' as an unjustified expenditure - perhaps they are not aware that the armed forces are taxpayer funded, and that military personnel are beneficiaries.

The campaign is concerned that up to 700 personnel from the air combat squadrons will be made redundant over the next two years because "[it] is abundantly clear that key players in the Labour/Alliance Government came to power with the preconceived notion of scrapping the air defence force". Perhaps they are also not aware that the preconceived notions of recent governments (including the current one) over the past couple of decades have lead to thousands and thousands of people losing their jobs - more than 5,000 workers laid off in the past 5 years in the clothing, manufacturing and textile industries alone. It would be interesting to know if the supporters of air combat forces expressed any concern about those redundancies.

The emphasis in the campaign's material on the air 'defence' capability of the Skyhawks not only gives the impression that there is something we need to be defended from, but also that it is 'us' who are being defended. In fact around half of the Skyhawks are permanently based in Australia. The air force's own backgrounder 'Why do we need an air combat force' (published in 1999, to support the purchase of the F16s) has as its number 1 justification ... "New Zealand is committed to helping Australia. The NZ strike air force is a very significant factor in helping Australia protect its navy as well as our own. Under the Nowra Agreement NZ has a long-standing duty to provide vital training to the Royal Australian Navy. Our air combat resources would be provided to assist Australia in time of need; air combat aircraft are usually the first assets deployed during conflict are always short in supply [sic]."

Given the Australian government's increasingly aggressive approach to ships carrying asylum seekers coming anywhere near their territory, assisting "Australia in time of need" has a whole new nasty dimension.

2) What you can do

If you are in favour of scrapping of the Skyhawks, it would be useful at this point in time to let the government know that you support that decision. Because peace people do not have the resources to run half page adverts in newspapers for weeks on end to present our views, we have a simple and cheap alternative - do it yourself postcards to send to Helen Clark.

The formatted postcard layout is available from PMA as a Word 6 email attachment. The text on the postcards (which have proved rather popular at peace vigils and meetings around the country in the past few days!) reads: Dear Ms Clark, I support the decision of the government to scrap the air combat capability of the NZ airforce. Name [space] Address [space] Signed [space].

If you wish us to send you the postcard layout, just send a reply to this alert - if you have received this message via another e-list, please reply to pma@xtra.co.nz When you receive it, you can print it off, then photocopy it onto light card. Alternatively, you could make your own postcards.

You could also telephone, fax or write to the following politicians: Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; Mark Burton, Minister of Defence, office - tel 471 9715, fax 495 8465; The Cabinet (collectively) office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332. Letters should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

In addition, it would be useful to make your views known to others. Write to your local paper, phone talk back radio, and/or Christchurch Press, fax (03) 364 8492, editorial@press.co.nz; Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237, editor@evpost.co.nz; New Zealand Herald, fax (09) 373 6434, letters@herald.co.nz; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258; Press Association, fax (04) 473 7480; Radio New Zealand, fax (04) 473 0185; Listener, fax (09) 360 3831, editor@listener.co.nz

3) Where you can get more information

If you require more information about why we do not need, or want, warplanes, there are a number of articles on the PMA website which may be helpful - 'Contributing to peace and security?', 11 May 2001, covers the government's announcement to scrap the Skyhawks, and is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/milchng.htm The various alerts relating to the proposed purchase of F16s to replace the Skyhawks are also relevant, in particular 'F16s, frigates and other follies' is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/a030899.htm and 'Alert: F16s / Armed Forces Spending Review ' is at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/milf16.htm The very succinct and to the point 'Do we need an airforce ?' (part of a longer newsletter article including 'Do we need a navy' and 'Do we need an army') is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/oct98.htm#air

Peace Movement Aotearoa
the national networking peace organisation
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Tel +64 4 382 8129 Fax +64 4 382 8173
pma@xtra.co.nz http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/
Internet Peace Gateway - http://www.peace.org.nz

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