NZ’s defence needs an overhaul

Dr Lance Beath says that NZ’s army-focussed defence strategy is outdated (being based on the structure in the First World War and the Boer War!) and we need a radical redesign of the whole system.

His suggestions include

  • Increased funding (greater than 1% of GDP).
  • We must have a combat air force.
  • Focus on maritime forces, due to our location.
  • Restructure the army as an embarked marine combat brigade.
  • More ships for the navy.

These are the people we should be listening to. Instead the government scraps our aerial combat wing, and buys armoured vehicles we can’t even carry in our transport aircraft and that aren’t amphibious so are of limited use in island combat anyway. This follows on from the recent official military report that the military is seriously unprepared for combat.

The Family Party will increase defence spending to 2% of GDP. But we need to be listening to people like this to figure out where the money should actually be spent. Maybe we should be bringing the Aermacchi’s back into service (they’re still not that old), and mothballing the Skyhawks as a war reserve? Maybe we should be buying a few small submarines? We certainly need more teeth in the military than it has at present. Most importantly, we need good relationships with like-minded countries.

My personal view is that we should be focussing on accumulating heavy firepower, ships and aircraft, and not worrying so much about having a much larger infantry (although we will be reviving the Maori Battalions). We have a well-armed population and could knock together a large home guard at short notice if we were desperate. But we cannot obtain heavy firepower once a war has started, you need to have that already.

We also need to have a detailed analysis of how we would survive should our supply lines be cut. In the last major combat that affected us, WWII, we were much less reliant on imports. Now virtually everything we use is imported, from light bulbs to fuel to many foods. We need to know how to deal with being cut off from the rest of the world, as today this would affect us far more severely than it did in WWII.

PM: “National will kill you”

Well, she nearly said that. Helen Clark is now claiming that if National had been in parliament, and sent troops to Iraq, 60 NZers would have died and National would have “had blood on their hands”. Now that claim probably a load of rubbish, as David Farrar points out, and Helen Clark tactfully ignored the fact that she sent troops there herself for a whole year, but the real issue isn’t whether her claim is real or not.

The real issue is – is this a new low in the campaign? Or will Labour sink even lower in their mudslinging?

This is shaping up to be the dirtiest election campaign Clark can wallow in. And it will only get worse. Although I don’t see quite how you can get much worse than claiming National would have killed 60 NZers, I’m sure Labour will come up with something.

And we still haven’t seen ANY 2008 Labour policy yet.

Helen Clark seizes more control

Further to my previous post on Labour making constitutional changes, we just had another major one pushed through. Labour has passed the Police Bill (hat tip: Tumeke!), a bill which is probably well intentioned and has a lot of stuff the police certainly like the sound of.

BUT, this bill also:

  • Lets the Prime Minister appoint the Police Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner
  • Places the Minister of Police under the authority of the Prime Minister

As Bomber says:

Meaning the Police are answerable to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister hires and fires those who run the policy, it is a closed relationship that does as my co-blogger points out “invites political manipulation, under-performance and ultimately corruption”.

Once again this seems a minor change to law. What is really wrong with the Prime Minister being in charge of the Police? Someone has to and she is democratically elected after all. But when this Act is passed by a Prime Minister who has been investigated by the Police more than any other Prime Minister in the history of the country, who each time have declined to prosecute claiming it is “not in the public interest”, it becomes a bit suspicious.

When it comes at the same time as Labour is planning to abolish the Serious Fraud Office (currently independant of the police and not under the control of the Prime Minister), which is currently investigating the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and move its powers over to the Police (where they would be under the direct control of the Prime Minister now), it becomes still more suspicious.

When it comes after a long string of questionable constitutional changes by Labour, and is rushed in before they leave office, it becomes very worrying.

Now if the Prime Minister were to do something illegal or undemocratic, whether minor (say, speeding or blocking handicapped parks), moderate (such as financial fraud, such as what Mr Peters is currently accused of), or major (such as deciding we aren’t going to have an election after all), who could do anything about it?

  • The Police and the SFO, who could investigate, would be under her control.
  • The court system is under her control (through judicial appointments), and may be unlikely to rule against her.
  • The Governor General would probably not interfere, they are ultimately controlled by the PM.
  • The final safeguard, which you never wish to need, is a military coup. But the military is small and poorly equipped.

I am not suggesting that the current PM will choose not to call an election this year. But we have safeguards around the government for a reason. The more these safeguards are eroded, the more risk we have of some PM, sometime, doing something like this. Hitler was democratically elected, and should be a strong reminder of the need for these safeguards which Labour is systematically removing.

NZ military has been run into the ground

If there is one area of policy that is the first priority of government, it would have to be defence. This is because it doesn’t matter what else you do in the country, if someone can sail up and take over, reversing all your good work, it was all in vain. Defence is the insurance that allows you to do everything else.

This NZPA story is very concerning:

The navy is finding it difficult to sail, the airforce to fly and the army would struggle to take part in combat, the 2007/2008 Defence Force annual report revealed today.

In the report, the army said while land forces were “partially” prepared for low level conflicts, the army was not equipped to meet higher threat situations

Read the whole story. Basically there seem to be serious problems with poor equipment in all three branches. And there is a lack of firepower in the equipment that exists. On top of this the military is finding it difficult to retain staff – possibly because they get sick of working with run-down equipment.

At the end of the day, our defence force is incapable of defending us. We have no combat aircraft, a few boats armed with peashooters, a few helicopters, and a lightly-armed army. Although the total number of staff is at its highest in seven years there are still insufficient staff to operate our ships, planes and helicopters.

Although Labour will boast of having put more money into defence while they have been in power, it is hard to see where the money has gone. The military is costing more but we don’t even have an air combat wing any more. Maybe the extra defence funding has been sucked up by rising fuel costs and increasing wages.

National won’t improve this situation. They feel they have reached an “enduring consensus” on defence policy with Labour, and are quite happy with the status quo.

We need to actually invest in defence. Current policy seems to be based on the presumption that we live in a “benign strategic environment”. All this means is that it has been so long since the last war that threatened NZ that we are probably due for another, but people are forgetting the last one and the importance of defence.

The Family Party is committed to adequately funding our defence forces, at a level (relative to GDP) comparable to that of our allies and similar countries to ourselves. We must have strong relationships with like-minded countries, especially Australia, the USA and the UK, and a defence force that is capable of pulling our weight in these relationships.

We will rebirth the Maori battalions, boosting our defence forces while providing a career path for young Maori and Pacific men who have underachieved in school. We are also willing to tackle the hard issues, and will be open to debate on dropping the ban on nuclear ships if this would assist in our relationships with other countries, but would require a public mandate by way of a referendum to do so, as this is a very divisive issue.

We need to be able to defend our country from attack, especially as the world is likely to become a more violent place in future as oil and other resources become scarcer. New Zealand has excellent agricultural land that would be ideal for an overpopulated country seeking security of food supply. We also have large reserves of coal and gas, also gold, and possibly oil and uranium. We are a valuable prize sitting almost completely unarmed in the middle of nowhere, as this video humorously, but very accurately, shows.

War has happened in the past. It will happen in the future. We must be prepared.

“At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”

And in the meantime we can only be grateful that at least whenever we sing the National Anthem we are asking God to defend us, as we sure can’t!