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Will Shipley use our troops for point-scoring?

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Labour associate defence spokesperson Rick Barker said today he was appalled at suggestions the Prime Minister might visit Kiwi peacekeepers in East Timor - an outing that Mr Barker said would amount to a cynical, electioneering stunt.

Mr Barker said he understood from well-placed sources that a prime ministerial mission to Dili was under consideration.

"If correct this planned mission has an almost vulgar feel to it.

"We have learned this week that the daily allowances paid to our troops compare very poorly with what their Australian counterparts get. Mrs Shipley should be demanding action on that, rather than contemplating wasting money on a grandstanding visit," Mr Barker said.

"Labour strongly supports the deployment of Kiwi peacekeepers to East Timor and would rather see money spent on their remuneration packages than on Mrs Shipley's planned election stunt.

"The Prime Minister was at the Ohakea air base on Monday to farewell the first wave of New Zealanders joining the United Nations-mandated peacekeeping force. There is simply no need - other than self-indulgence - for her to call on them again.

"Let them get on with the job they have been asked to do in what is a very dangerous environment.

"I am certain that our troops in East Timor don't want the Prime Minister exploiting them for election purposes. They would rather see the money spent on topping up their allowances, which amount to about one-third those paid to the Australians in Dili.

"Perhaps, if the Prime Minister is going to Dili, the Hercules she goes in should be filled with a decent load of extra money for the soldiers' pay," Mr Barker said.

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