Army Re-equipment Already First Priority - Bradford

  • Max Bradford

Defence Minister Max Bradford says he is awaiting with interest the release of Parliament's Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee report Defence Beyond 2000, but will not be commenting on the content until he has had the opportunity to study the conclusions.

Mr Bradford said Labour leader Helen Clark, in her comments to the media this morning, showed her abject ignorance of what the 1997 Defence Assessment said about equipping the Army.

On page 8 of the Defence Assessment, it is made quite clear that the Government's first priority is re-equipping the Arming. It says:

"The Government's first priority will be to rectify the most critical deficiencies in those capabilities where there is more likely to be a need in the short term, that is: re-equipping the Army so that it can undertake the more demanding peace support operations; and improving the ability of the Air Force to undertake maritime surveillance tasks in our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and the Southern Ocean. These investments will be complemented by a long-term programme of investment in all areas to ensure we will have the base to build on in order to meet any more serious security challenge that could emerge in the future."

Mr Bradford said: "Nothing has changed to alter the priority to re-equip the Army. Major purchases are under way for replacing communications equipment, new night vision equipment, targeting equipment, heavy machine guns, anti-armour weapons.

"At present the Army is assessing what are the most suitable vehicles to replace the armoured personnel carries and landrovers. I expect this assessment will be finished in the next few months and reinvestment commenced as a matter of urgency.

"It would appear that nobody in Parliament, with the exception of the Alliance which wants to disembowel the New Zealand Defence Force completely, disagrees that the first priority in Defence spending should be re-equipping the Army.

"The big part of the difference between Labour and National would seem to be whether we have a blue water Navy - it seems Labour is saying it doesn't want one - and the strike support aircraft which are a very key part of our Defence capability and an integral part of the Closer Defence Relationship with Australia.

"I will be interested to study the what the Select Committee's report says about this," Mr Bradford said.