Defence spend-up unnecessary if peacemaking the main goal

The massive increase in defence spending announced today would be unnecessary if New Zealand concentrated on peacekeeping and security in the South Pacific, rather than equipping for major combat, says Green MP Keith Locke.

“If we are truly worried about international security, our first priority should be to increase our overseas aid from its present miserable level of 0.24 percent of Gross National Income,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Defence and Overseas Aid Spokesperson.

“The $460 million-a-year defence spend-up announced today would increase our overseas aid from $260 million to $720 million, or from 0.24 percent of GNI to about 0.66 percent. Surely, removing poverty and the causes of international conflict is more important than bulking up our armed forces?

“The Green Party is not against better pay for our soldiers, but the money for that could be found within the present defence budget. The extra defence resources the Government has announced today could have been realised by scrapping our capability to join full-scale war.

“For instance, we don’t need a naval combat force anymore than we needed the air combat force that the Government correctly abandoned. Therefore the ‘Project Protector’ Multi-Role Vessel and patrol boats should be replacing the ANZAC frigates, not supplementing them.

“The frigates, which chew up 30 percent of our current defence budget, or nearly $538 million, are much less appropriate to our fisheries patrol, disaster relief and peacekeeping needs in the South Pacific than the new MRVs and patrol boats. Selling off the two remaining frigates would give us the cash to up the wages in the defence force and improve our peacekeeping capability.

“Similarly, while the Greens are not opposed to the purchase of the LAVs because they have a use in peacekeeping, we are certain that we don’t need 105 of them unless we’re intending to be involved in some sort of invasion or active occupation.

“As a small remote country that is no threat to anyone, New Zealand’s role internationally should be pro-active peace-making diplomacy, such as that pursued by Norway in the Middle East and Sri Lanka, and low tech peacekeeping,” said Mr Locke.