Clark Reveals Hidden Agenda

  • Max Bradford

Labour leader Helen Clark showed her party's true colours today, when she confirmed a Labour-led government would walk away from New Zealand's commitments to regional defence, Defence Minister Max Bradford says.

"At last, Labour's hidden defence agenda is starting to be revealed, just as some of its union-dominated industrial relations policy was revealed last week," he said.

"Miss Clark said on national radio that a bluewater frigate navy was not part of Labour's long term plans. She also said Labour might cancel the deal to lease 28 F-16s from the United States.

"This would destroy our international credibility as a country willing to pull its weight in defence and security in the region," Mr Bradford said.

"The stance simply gives added weight to comments by Annabel Young that Labour would have New Zealand forces acting as the Latrine Patrol for the Australian Army.

"Labour's demolition of our naval and airforce strike capability would undermine the strong relationship New Zealand has developed with Australia, the United States and other regional friends like Singapore.

"Helen Clark's comments are very significant because they show that Labour is even more isolationist than the non-Government MPs on the Foreign Affairs and Defence Select Committee, who propose a radical downgrading of New Zealand's defence capability.

"Helen Clark is making the classic mistake of focusing on a limited niche army, while ignoring the need for advanced equipment such as frigates and air combat aircraft which make a defence force credible.

"She and Labour have little understanding of the country's security needs and are clearly prepared to see New Zealand left defenceless in its own backyard," Mr Bradford said.

"For a nation surrounded by water, dependent on trading and with the fourth largest EEZ in the world, having a blue water navy is essential.

"Miss Clark and Labour would have us in the position of having to bludge off our neighbours in times of crisis," he said.