Labour has launched a '10-year, $8 billion plan to re-equip and man' the Defence Forces. This and other facts about the NZ military have just come to light, with the release of an independent report on the health of the defence forces. Most significantly, these facts shed some light on what the Labour Government's expenditure priorities have been since coming to power, as well as its orientation towards militarism and the armed forces. It seems that after significant cuts to defence spending by the National Government, Labour has been keen to modernise the military by way of massive spending increases on equipment. [See more below]
Minister of Defence, Phil Goff has boosted that although by 1999 the Defence Force was failing after 'a decade of massive cuts and growing obsolescence of equipment' by National, Labour have been able to turn this around. He has said that as part of the $8b splurge on military, Labour would 'invest' $3.5b in the sector over the next ten years. And this week he announced that Cabinet had approved a $21m upgrade to the air force's Hercules defence systems. Along with this, 'The Army has been significantly upgraded, with two infantry battalions and enough new armoured cars to motorise them both, a new fleet of other vehicles, and new anti-tank and very low-level anti-aircraft missiles. It will be getting new tactical communications and intelligence management systems.'
Therefore it's not surprising that a report by Jim Rolfe, a senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies in New Zealand has given the Labour Government 'an A pass' for defence. Rolfe says that since 2000 long-term funding and successive reviews and policies by Labour has meant that the defence forces have a certainty it had not enjoyed for decades. Goff has therefore proclaimed Rolfe's analysis as vindication of the Government's defence strategy.
Some basic facts about NZ's defence force:
- It currently costs $NZ1750 million per year (representing 1.3% of GDP)
- Its staff total 13,500, including 9000 fulltime personnel
- The army comprises two infantry battalions, special forces group plus artillery and armoured group equipped with the Light Armoured Vehicle
- The navy comprises two Anzac frigates, two support ships, patrols vessels and five Seasprite helicopters
- The air force comprises six Orion maritime patrol aircraft, five Hercules, two transport aircraft plus helicopters. They are about to acquire eight modern NH-90 transport helicopters.
Rolfe's report also sheds a bit more light on NZ's involvement in Afghanistan. He says that NZ's so-called 'provincial reconstruction team' has been involved in rebuilding five police stations and carrying out security patrols. NZ's SAS contingent 'added value to the very much larger multi-national force through its expertise in long-range, long-term operations, rather than the shorter missions carried out by the special forces of other nations'. NZ's intervention in Afghanistan also played a strong role, according to Rolfe, in pressuring Australia to intervene. Apparently, NZ's 'presence and the value placed on it were used by critics of Australia's earlier absence from the troubled nation to help prod Prime Minister John Howard into deploying a considerable number of his troops there.'
The media reports include the following:
Defence analysts say we do what we do do well
NZ defence force getting better, but still has gaps
NZ military earn 'A' from report - Goff