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Save Our Squadrons Campaign March Speech - 17/10

Save Our Squadrons Campaign March Speech 17th October

Note: Vern Curtis was the SOS Campaign spokesperson at the Auckland march.


I would like to welcome you here today on behalf of the Save Our Squadrons Campaign.

My name is Vern Curtis and I am one of the thousands of ordinary New Zealanders who have together contributed over $100,000 to the Campaign so far. I have heard that our opponents are spreading rumours that the Campaign’s organisers are puppets of the ACT party or the so-called group of seven retired senior officers. I can give you an unequivocal assurance that this is not the case. The Government needs to come to terms with the fact that this is a grassroots Campaign by ordinary New Zealanders of all political persuasions who are concerned that from the end of this year our Nation will no longer have an air defence capability of any kind.

Our opponents are also suggesting that this is an anti-army campaign. This again is nonsense. The Campaign is pleased that the Government has seen fit to modernise various branches of the New Zealand Defence Force, including the Army, in the way it has.

What we want the Government to do is to go back and reconsider the amount it is putting into the defence budget. We must find a way to hold on to at least some air defence capability. We have suggested that at the very least the Government should hold onto the Macchi Squadrons. The cost of that option is less than $30 million a year which is not a lot of money in the over-all scheme of things.

It can no longer be said that we live in benign times and we believe the Government should now urgently review its current defence strategy in full consultation with the public. Pending the outcome of that process we want the Government to reverse, or at least suspend its decision to scrap the air combat force.

Despite what the Government might now claim it had no clear and explicit mandate for this decision. Nor was there any attempt made after the last election to consult the public before the decision was announced.

The reality is that the Prime Minister and other key people in the Government have had the air combat force in their sights for a very long time – perhaps decades – but rather than pursue their target in a forthright, open and democratic manner, they have used political cunning to reach their goal without a decent opportunity for the public to have their say.

We not only condemn the un-democratic manner in which the Government has orchestrated this decision, we also challenge the Government’s legal right to make the decision in the first place. The Defence Act constitutes the Air Force as one of the armed forces in the New Zealand Defence Force. The Minister of Defence has the right to control the New Zealand Defence Force, but in our opinion this does not give the Government the right to convert the Air Force from an armed force into an unarmed force. The Campaign is currently investigating a court challenge to the decision and we hope to make an announcement on this in the next few days.

While the Campaign is highly critical of the Labour/Alliance Government, it is also critical of the National Party. We seriously question the National Party’s commitment to defence during its last two terms in Government and we ask, exactly what commitment will the National Party make to our nation’s air defence capability if it becomes the Government, or part of the Government, at the end of next year.

We also ask the same of the other major opposition parties, New Zealand First and ACT.

Without further ado I pass you over to our first speaker …

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