Officer Training School Graduation ParadeDefence
Chief of Naval Staff (Rear Admiral Fred Wilson), Maritime Commander (Commodore Peter McCaffie), distinguished guests, graduates, families, and personnel of TAMAKI.
Firstly I wish to thank you all for your fine parade today. I ?m aware of the many hours of drill and effort that's required to make the parade such a success.
Secondly I?d like to express a special welcome to the proud families and friends of the graduates who are here today sharing in this special occasion.
My compliments as well to the instructors of the Officer Training School who have obviously been highly successful in their work.
It gives me great pleasure to be the reviewing officer for what is the culmination of 24 weeks of hard work and dedication by the 35 graduates.
No doubt they are full to the brim with Leadership theory, Damage Control and classroom studies, and are looking forward to their postings following some well deserved leave.
Even though most of the graduates have only been in the service for a few months, they will have already come to realise that the Defence Force is part of an ever changing environment.
Ten years ago, accounting and management practice in Defence was simple. Today the Government and the taxpayer demand that Defence delivers on time, to the highest quality and accounts for every dollar in an open, transparent manner.
The number of bases has been reduced, infrastructure costs lowered and personnel numbers reduced to what some would consider is the minimum critical mass. There is now a strong focus on efficiency and fiscal discipline, which is a good thing, so long as it's not to the detriment of operational ability, or the morale of Defence personnel.
In today's world, change is a constant we all have to live with. As a result of New Zealand's ever changing economic environment, there will be further change affecting the New Zealand Defence Force.
Fortunately, most of the changes are on the upside with a comprehensive $663 million re-equipment programme for all three services. But at the same time we have to demonstrate to the public that our armed forces are good stewards of the $1.4 billion spent each year on Defence.
There will be a constant search for spending those dollars wisely on the best people and equipment.
As the future leaders of the Navy we look to you, today's graduates, to introduce the latest and best business practices, as well as promoting loyalty and dedication amongst your personnel and retaining the proud traditions of the Royal New Zealand Navy.
You deserve to be well recognised by your community, and well rewarded too.
The expectations we have of you are not only demanding but often require a delicate balancing act. It is the challenge that you accept today with your commission, and indicates your service to the Navy and the nation as a whole.
As your Minister of Defence I have three main aims in the year ahead:
Firstly: I want to raise the public profile of our Defence Forces, so that all New Zealanders are aware of the impressive work you and your colleagues in the Army and Air Force do for the nation.
Secondly: I want to ensure the programme of re-equipping the Defence Force continues its momentum following last year's Defence Assessment which committed the Government to spend $663 million on new defence equipment in the next five years.
The Orion avionics upgrade, Project Sirius, is now underway for the Air Force.
New Armoured Personnel Carriers, machine guns and communications gear are being sought for the Army.
A project is up and running to review our future air combat needs, to ensure that we can replace the aging Skyhawk when the time comes.
Approval has been given to look for a suitable Bridge Simulator to increase the training time available for watch-keeping personnel on the ANZAC frigates.
The Government made it clear in last year's Defence Assessment that we need no fewer than three combat ships. The nation needs a blue water navy and a third frigate is a necessity, not a luxury.
I have made it something of a challenge to make the third frigate an ANZAC class vessel, which we will have to commit to this year if we want the most cost effective solution before the production line closes.
It is only sensible, and in fact costs far less in the long run to have three ships of the same type.
Too often, we forget the significant civilian benefits of the ANZAC frigate programme. During the last eight years, over 500 New Zealand companies and their thousands of employees have earned in excess of $600 million from participating in the construction of 10 frigates for the Australian and New Zealand navies.
It has been a brilliantly successful joint venture between two close allies and friends. We need more of that, which is an objective the Australian Minister of Defence, Ian McLachlan and myself are working towards.
Above all, my most important aim is to ensure that the personnel of the Defence Force are properly equipped to do the jobs that the nation asks of them, and that their service and dedication is appropriately recognised.
Service 21 is an initiative I am most supportive of.
Far from being ?lip service?, the Chief of Defence Force, his three chiefs of staff and their senior commanders all recognise that retaining and rewarding the service and skill of our personnel is perhaps their most important task. For it is people like today's graduates who are the key to the Navy's future.
The Royal New Zealand Navy is not simply about ships and weapons systems, it's mostly about people.
To each of the graduates I offer my congratulations, you can feel proud to have succeeded in your goal of becoming a commissioned officer in the Royal New Zealand Navy.
Your service and loyalty is valued, and as a member of the Navy you display the finest of standards and traditions to the wider community.
I wish each of you the very best in your future careers.