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Skyhawk Decision To Be Appealed

The Save Our Squadrons Campaign has decided to appeal Justice Heron's decision striking out their legal challenge to the scrapping of the Air Combat Force. The Campaign's convener, Auckland lawyer Clive Bradbury, said today they would be seeking a hearing in the Court of Appeal as soon as possible next year.

"While the squadrons formally disband later this week, the infrastructure and air bases are still there. If we can persuade the Court of Appeal to overturn the strikeout, we should be able to get a hearing on the main proceeding by the middle of next year. If we succeed at that time, then the Government may have to back peddle and make some provision for an air combat force - they may even end up adopting National's idea of establishing a smaller, more affordable air cover capability in conjunction with the Australians."

"The appeal grounds are quite technical. One of the more interesting relates to the purposes for which the Minister of Defence must exercise his powers. The primary purpose of the New Zealand Defence Force is, as the name suggests, the defence of New Zealand."

"Peacekeeping is something the Government can either choose to do or choose not to do. However the Government cannot choose not to defend New Zealand. But a close reading of the Minister's decision reveals that this is exactly the choice the Government has made. Based on now out-of-date strategic assessments, it has concluded there is no foreseeable threat to New Zealand. From this premise it has proceeded to reconfigure the New Zealand Defence Force almost exclusively for purposes other than defence, namely UN peacekeeping and fisheries surveillance."

"The Government would no doubt argue that while its defence policy focuses on equipping the army for a peacekeeping role, the Defence Force still has capability to defend New Zealand from seaborne (but not airborne) attack. This is consistent with the Government's approach in the High Court where it argued that all members of the Armed Forces, apart from padres and medics, are available as potential combatants. Of course if this argument was followed to its logical conclusion, the Minister could require the Navy to decommission all its ships and the Army to sell all its heavy weaponry."

"The reality for those of us who live in the real world is that the collective capabilities of the New Zealand Defence Force to defend New Zealand from airborne attack, and several forms of seaborne attack, are now virtually zero. While the Skyhawks were not cutting edge technology, they still excelled in their maritime strike capacity and were respected air interceptors when equipped with air to air missiles. More importantly, the Squadrons were a reservoir of knowledge and expertise that was available to be built on if the need ever arose. The complete elimination of that reservoir, without any effort to retain part as an insurance policy for the future, can only be described as wanton, and an abuse of the trust placed in the Government to ensure our future national security."

"We now have over 4,000 people supporting the Campaign with financial contributions to date totalling $188,000. This is remarkable when you realise that we haven't gone around pushing petitions under people's noses. Most of our supporters have had to go to the trouble of posting us a letter."

"I daresay we are already bigger than some of the country's political parties."

"Our planning calls for us to have at least 10,000 supporters by June next year. We want to bring across senior defence commentators from Australia, the U.S.A. and the U.K. to participate in a public debate. We also want to raise $250,000 for another advertising campaign in the lead-up to next year's General Election."

"When New Zealanders go into the polling booths next year, we want them to be fully briefed on the defence policies of the major political parties and their likely coalition partners."

"The Coalition managed to axe the Air Combat Force without an explicit electoral mandate and against the wishes of almost 75% of New Zealand voters. A lot of those voters won't forgive them for that decision."

More information at: www.soscampaign.co.nz


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