Labour’s Vulnerable Dad’s Army

  • Max Bradford

Labour's isolationist defence policy would turn our Defence Force into a vulnerable Dad's Army, incapable of defending itself, Defence Minister Max Bradford said today.

"Taking away or running down the Defence Force's air and sea firepower is not "a sensible balance of priorities". It would be like fielding a rugby team without a front row, wings and a fullback.

"It would leave our troops vulnerable, walk away from our regional defence commitments, undermine our trading relationships and leave our international credibility in tatters," Mr Bradford said.

"National believes in a well equipped army and has already invested in a $500 million upgrade of equipment to improve its peacekeeping and combat capability. However, it is also vital that we have strike aircraft capability and a frigate based navy to protect our troops on the ground, and to meet our security, trading, foreign affairs and Closer Defence Relationship commitments.

"In East Timor our frigate covered the landing of the troops in Suvai. If the landing had turned nasty and they had no cover they would be left in an unnecessarily dangerous position. Kosovo showed that air combat power is vital to protect troops on the ground, and more important than ever in modern warfare," Mr Bradford said.

"Instead of providing New Zealander's with a sound maritime protection force, Labour wants to have ‘ a bob each way' by sponsoring an unproven multi-role Danish design in the hope it can perform every task under the sun.

"The Stanflex 3500 ship is a mishmash design that is unproven, uncosted, with high technical and project risk.

"Also, the Danish Navy will not have its first ship in service until 2006, what will replace HMNZS Canterbury when it retires in 2004?

This Government remains committed to a Defence Force that provides air protection for its troops on the ground, with ships that can foot it with friend or foe," Mr Bradford said.