PM Press Conference: Afghanistan Withdrawal | Antarctic Research
20 Aug, 2012
By Mark P. Williams
In today's post-cabinet press conference the PM announced the launch of the New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute (NZARI) public-private sector partnership to create a new source of funding for research. He added that the NZARI had been established with $5.3m in core funding from the Aotearoa Foundation with all private sector funding coming from Julian Robertson. The PM said that this research was expected to have a big impact not only into research but for New Zealand scientists.
The Prime Minister said that his schedule this week was subject to considerable changes because of events in Afghanistan but stated definitively that he would be attending the funerals of the three NZDF service personnel irrespective of his other commitments.
The PM was asked whether he felt that the increased activity in Afghanistan meant New Zealanders were being made more of a target. He responded that it was a question of needing improved intelligence to tackle a highly sophisticated group and that once greater intelligence was gathered it would enable increased protection for NZ troops.
The PM was asked whether he was satisfied with the use of Humvees in Afghanistan. He responded that he understood it to be a question of the Humvees being better suited to the terrain.
The PM was asked whether he felt the NZDF was "taking up the slack" from their Hungarian allies. He said that it was more a question of the NZDF troops needing to be "more proactive" in their patrols to prevent insurgents from being able to lay explosive traps as effectively.
The PM was asked whether it was the case that several dates were available for withdrawal or if the timetable was dependent upon New Zealand's allies and partners to "successfully and safely bring our people out". The PM indicated that there was a specific reason why a later date was not possible which he was unsure whether he could make public without consultation.
In context of comments by Paula Bennett, the PM was asked whether he would endorse his ministers releasing private information about citizen's in the future. He said that he understood the comments to have been hypothetical, dealing with a myriad of possible future scenarios.
The PM was asked whether he agreed with the European Union High Representative's statement that the Russian court judgement against the Pussy Riot group was excessive. He agreed that the sentence sounded disproportionate. He was then asked whether he would raise the case with President Putin when he met him and said that he felt it would be unlikely.
Finally, returning to the topic of Afghanistan, the PM was asked whether borrowing equipment from allies might have helped and whether the SAS would be sent back to Afghanistan in a combat role. He responded that the scale of the bomb, alternative equipment would have made no difference and that the key question for deployment remained one of intelligence rather than capacity; the advice he had received indicated that sending the SAS in as "guns on the ground" would not make a significant difference against the sophisticated group they were combatting, what was needed was improved intelligence and planning.