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Election 2002: Defence Policies Assessed

Election 2002

Assessment Of The Defence Policies Of he Main Political Parties

Save Our Squadrons Campaign

Table of Contents


I. Introduction 3

II. SOS Ranking of Defence Policies 4

III. The Policies in Detail: 5


New Zealand First



The Greens


Defence is the first responsibility of government. When government’s decide to change a long-standing approach to defence the issue is of such importance that it should be put to the people at election time. Every one should have their say on defence.

This paper reviews and ranks each political party’s defence polices. The strongest party platforms get the highest rating, the weakest the lowest.

Save Our Squadrons

The Save Our Squadrons Campaign (SOS) is New Zealand’s first pro defence lobby group. SOS is a broad based donor funded group without party political affiliation. SOS was formed after the current Government disbanded the air combat force. At first SOS’s goal was to reverse the decision to disband the air combat force. Since then SOS has broadened its goals and now promotes a general pro defence agenda and calls on all parties to rebuild the air combat force and to increase resources for all three branches of the armed forces.


1st Equal - ACT and New Zealand First

ACT’s principled stance on defence and commitment to restore an air combat force with 16 strike aircraft makes it a natural front -runner.

The surprise first equal position is won by New Zealand First’s innovative and original approach to defence policy. Highlights of this policy include New Zealand First’s call for an integrated air combat force and its commitment to increase defence spending towards 2% of GDP.

3rd - National

National’s defence platform calls for the return of the air combat force and a balanced force. The downside of National’s policy is a lack of detail and what appears to be a lack of willingness to fund defence. It is far from clear whether National would re-establish the air combat force in its first term in office.

4th - Labour

Labour disbanded the air combat force which earns it an automatic fail. Labour would have been ranked higher if they had genuinely addressed the problem of ageing defence equipment. Aside from money for the LAVs and new landrovers Labour’s talk of new funding for equipment is spin.

5th - The Greens




- ACT argues that since the first and most important responsibility of any government is the defence of its people and property any government should honour this principle.

- ACT stands for freedom, choice and responsibility, respect for the rule of law, and the protection of life, liberty and property. Without peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific New Zealand’s own security would be endangered as would its trade routes and markets.

- As a party of responsibility ACT considers that New Zealand should take part in regional responsibilities pull its weight and stand alongside other states that preserve peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific which benefits New Zealand directly. ACT does not accept that peace is inevitable or that New Zealand’s security can be taken for granted. Free loading is not an option. The United States is the serious and friendly military power in the Asia-Pacific. New Zealand benefits from this security and should take responsibility and pull its weight collectively with allies such as the United States.

- ACT promises to “rebuild an air force strike capability” with at least 16 aircraft.

- ACT wants the Skyhawks back as an interim measure

- ACT wants “a serious commitment of resources for defence”.

- ACT calls for a blue water naval capability and says that particular consideration would be given to the purchase of multi-purpose vessels compatible with recent Australian acquisitions. Such ships would transport troops and equipment to a wide range of different environments.

- ACT promises to continue the upgrade of the army for combat operations as well as peacekeeping. ACT favours the acquisition of a smaller number of LAV IIIs

- ACT favours an Orion upgrade with a submarine detection capability.


ACT’s commitment to reconstitute the air combat force is the strongest policy statement of any party.

ACT is a party of principle and (like the Greens) could be expected to keep its word. For ACT, defence is the first responsibly of government and is also an extension of the principle that individuals should be self-reliant and take responsibility for their own affairs.

ACT’s policy on frigates lacks detail. If New Zealand wants to be taken seriously as an ally it will need a viable combat navy.

New Zealand First


- The most original and interesting defence policy proposal in Election 2002 is New Zealand First’s promise to create a “new maritime” focused Defence Force “along the lines of the British Royal Marines and US Marine Corps”.

- New Zealand First wants the Marines to have “fully integrated combat elements including an Air Combat Capability” that will provide land force elements with firepower.

- The Marines is to be deployable by “air, land or sea, by foot or vehicle” into their primary area of operations and be interoperable with coalition forces.

- This policy also calls for an expansion of the size of SAS and closer integration and training with their British, Australian and United States counterparts.

- New Zealand First would also review the LAV III purchase to ensure that the armoured vehicles would be right for the new marine focus.

- New Zealand First will, if possible, re-commission the Skyhawks and Aermacchis as an interim measure.

- New Zealand First says that it will “work towards funding our Defence Forces at a level of 2% of GDP”.


New Zealand First’s defence policy includes a sophisticated approach that outlines a new and credible future force structure and capability mix that gives priority to light and deployable marine and special forces with firepower, protection and other support from a mix of sea, land and air capabilities. This is a major point of difference from Labour that has cut or reduced most of the firepower of the navy and air force.

New Zealand First shows the best understanding of modern and innovative approaches to joint operations appropriate to both peacekeeping and combat operations.

The development of the Marine force along the lines suggested by New Zealand First would create a battalion sized force trained to the highest standards with an independent deployable air combat capability.

Such a force would, after a period of training and reorganisation, be about a third of the size of Britain’s brigade sized Royal Marines with attendant Royal Navy and Royal Air Force supporting elements for sea control, reconnaissance and intelligence, air strike, logistics and lift.

By increasing the training standards of New Zealand land forces it would be possible to generate the personnel to sustain a larger Special Forces capability. For example the Royal Marines currently generate enough Marines to staff their own Special Forces unit, the Special Boat Service, with the overflow going to the SAS.

The credibility of these promises rests with MP Ron Mark’s standing in New Zealand First. Mark is widely respected and has a reputation for principle and for keeping his word. Mark has a through understanding of defence issues.



- National talks of “restoring pride” in New Zealand’s defence and of rebuilding defence relationships with allies. National emphasises the need for combat as well as peacekeeping forces.

- National promises a balanced combat and peacekeeping capability to meet New Zealand’s responsibilities and a new ANZAC defence relationship with Australia.

- National promises to restore an “appropriate” air combat capability and that it will explore the “full range of financing options available”. The restored air combat capability will “need to involve close integration with Australia” say National.

- National’s stance on getting the Skyhawks back in the air as an interim measure has shifted from total rejection to acceptance that this may be an option for consideration

- National promises to “increase” defence spending.


National’s policies seem sensible but lack verve and orginality. National’s call for balanced forces is right and in keeping with the approaches to defence planning of all western and most states in the Asia-Pacific.

Deficiencies and doubts about National’s defence policy platform make it a disappointment.

National’s policy lacks detail. National does not say how much extra funding will be spent on defence, what increased funding will be spent on, or when new funding will be approved.

National’s air combat capability promise lacks specifics. There are no deadlines, detail or funding commitments. It is far from clear what close integration with Australia may involve.

National’s stance on the Skyhawks is inconsistent.

National’s current stand on defence suffers from its record in office from 1990-1999. During this period defence spending was reduced from 1.8% o GDP to 1% of GDP. While National did put in place an ambitious plan to modernise defence in its last years of office it never delivered. National’s current policy platform appears to promise much but questions remain about commitment.

It is far from clear how National could rebuild defence relationships with allies unless it is prepared to put a serious investment into defence. National instead gives the impression that it is avoiding a serious commitment to defence.



- Labour considers New Zealand’s strategic environment to be “exceptionally benign”. New Zealand is “not directly threatened by any other country” asserts Labour and “is not likely to be involved in widespread armed conflict”.

- Labour’s defence policy emphases peacekeeping, a “strong strategic relationship with Australia” (and the upholding of New Zealand’s “alliance commitments to Australia”) and that New Zealand will “meet” its “obligations as a member” of the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

- Labour promises defence “depth over breadth”.

- Labour says that it will give priority to a range of “military capabilities which are sustainable, safe and effective in combat and in peacekeeping, and structured for maximum operational and political effect”.

- Labour has disbanded the air combat force

- Labour refused to put the Skyhawks back in the air following September 11.

- Labour says that it has given the army priority and has put $700 million into new LAV III and new light vehicles.

- Labour has talked of investing $3 billion dollars in defence equipment over the next ten years.

- Supports war on terrorism and focuses defence force for peacekeeping.


Labour’s defence policy is more spin than substance.

Labour have capped defence spending and most defence procurement projects remain unfunded.

No other state in our region assesses the security situation to be incredibly benign. Why does Labour take this line?

No one else in the world has disbanded their entire air combat force.

No other state takes such a narrow approach to defence as Labour.

Labour’s talk of putting more money into the other branches of the services to make up for the disbanding of the air combat force lacks substance. Aside from the LAV purchase (which is just one bit of a whole bunch of things that need to be done to put the army right) there has been no noticeable increase in defence depth since Labour assumed office.

After three years in office Labour’s has only approved two capital purchases of consequence (the LAVs and light vehicles). The army and air force are worse off than when Labour gained office. Labour deployed the worst trained soldiers on operations since the Second World War when it sent peacekeepers to East Timor without adequate live firing training and stripped out the army’s air support and cover.

Labour’s approach to the army creates a much less effective result than if they followed the approach being proposed by New Zealand First to model the defence force on a Royal Marine type force.

While the LAV is a very good vehicle it is also very expensive and is not amphibious which restricts its use in Australia, the South Pacific and South East Asia.

The Defence Long Term Development Plan (which lists all defence equipment purchases for the next ten years) is under funded by $600 million. No project in this capital plan (aside from light vehicles) has cabinet approval.

The Greens


- The Greens defence policy has yet to be agreed and posted on its website.

- The Greens, like ACT, are a party of principle and can be expected to remained committed to their principled stances on:

A. troops for Afghanistan;

B. opposition to frigates, the Orion upgrade and the air combat force; and

C. support for armed forces focused on peacekeeping and border protection.


The Greens seem to genuinely not know that ground forces deployed on peacekeeping operations need protection and support from sea and air combat forces of the very type that they oppose.

The Greens are consistent, deserve high marks for honesty and favour less spending on defence. If money were to be spent on defence the Greens would favour it going on peacekeeping and bio-security-border security.

© Scoop Media

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