Alliance Defence Policies Out of Touch With Reality Says Minister

  • Paul East

Minister of Defence, Paul East, today described the Alliance's defence assessment as a retreat into isolationism

"The reality is that New Zealand as a trading nation is dependent on good international relationships for a strong growing economy.

"The Alliance have shown through this alternative defence assessment that they are introspective and naive when it comes to defence issues. They need to wake up and start operating in the real world.

"The Alliance's plan to withdraw New Zealand from certain defence alliances and arrangements ignores the fact that defence policy is but one facet of a nation's strategy to prosper in the world. Defence policies must be coordinated with foreign and trade policies.

"If New Zealand wants to maintain its strong economic position and its reputation as a good regional and world citizen, then we must pursue our policies on all levels in a coordinated manner.

"The Alliance seems to be totally confused over defence spending. Its spokesman, Matt Robson, states that defence spending is running at 2% of GDP. Mr Robson obviously has no understanding of how accrual accounting works. The result is that he has inflated the amount being spent on Defence by double-counting. He has counted the Ministry of Defence spending on capital equipment and the Defence Force provision for this through depreciation. These are one and the same thing. The reality is that the funds in the NZDF depreciation account are used by the Ministry of Defence to purchase all capital equipment items.

"Mr Robson's confusion has led him to state that New Zealand's defence spending is in the same league as that of Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Canada. In fact, latest figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies put our spending at 1.3% of GDP -- well below the countries he mentions.

"The Alliance claims the upper ranks of the military are top-heavy. The statement that senior officer numbers have increased by 14% is not true. Colonel (or equivalent) numbers have increased by one, or 2.5%, since 1985, while at the same time, Brigadier (or equivalent) numbers have decreased by 6%.

"The Alliance's defence assessment is a poorly researched and contradictory document. In particular, it ignores the fact that New Zealand is part of a strategically important region and that it is vital we share with our allies the responsibility to protect the economic and political stability of the area," said Mr East.