MPs clash on defence records
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National's boost to Defence Force funding shows its commitment to the nation's armed forces, says the Minister of Defence.
But Labour's MP for Palmerston North says his party has a stronger track record of supporting the military, and in particular in Manawatu.
Minister of Defence Jonathan Coleman visited Palmerston North yesterday. Included in his itinerary was a visit to Fieldair Engineering, which carries out maintenance on civilian and military aircraft by Palmerston North Airport.
Coleman said National was still to release its Defence policy but it would follow the White Paper released in 2011 and be focused on sustainability.
National had invested an extra $535 million over the next four years in Defence, one of only three areas to get a spending increase in this year's Budget.
A "huge amount of effort" was being put into maintaining the Defence work force, Coleman said. Attrition rates were declining and morale was up, he said.
With 3600 Defence Force personnel, Manawatu was recognised as an important location for the Defence Force, Coleman said.
He said people needed to consider what the Defence Force would look like under Labour, given the party would likely need Green Party support to get into power.
Labour's Palmerston North candidate Iain Lees-Galloway said his party was committed to the Defence Force and its role in Manawatu.
Under a Labour government, Ohakea would have become home to the air force assets stationed at Whenuapai, a base National was keeping open.
Because of investments made by National in Whenuapai, Labour would now no longer close the base, he said.
Lees-Galloway said the Defence Force took a hammering during the civilianisation of a range of non-combat roles during this term of government.
As a result, the military's ability to deploy overseas and maintain deployments was reduced from what it was only a few years ago.
"Our track record's better than National's," the former Labour defence spokesman said.
Coleman admitted mistakes were made during the civilianisation process but said costs had to be cut at the time.
National candidate for Palmerston North Jono Naylor said the Defence Force played an important role in the economic and social vibrancy of Palmerston North.
- Manawatu Standard