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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17149

Mr BALDWIN (12:55 PM) —I rise to speak to the Report of the 2003 New Zealand Parliamentary Committee Exchange undertaken by the Defence Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. I would like to start by recording my appreciation of the New Zealand government, members of the New Zealand defence forces and, in particular, Mr Max Simmons of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs, who was an outstanding host. I would also like to thank our own staff, including the High Commissioner to New Zealand, Bob Cotton, defence attache, Colonel Brian Hall, and, last but by no means least, our secretary, Stephen Boyd, for putting together a program that was not only informative but thought provoking.

Australia and New Zealand are at times the fiercest of enemies when it comes to things like football or other sporting events but are very close when it comes to times of military need. That is why the Anzac spirit was born. The Australia and New Zealand Army Corps was born of a united spirit for the defence of our people and defence of our nations. But it is a mistake to believe that Australia should dictate to New Zealand its military operations. What Australia does—and needs to do—is cooperate with New Zealand. Each is a separate sovereign state and each therefore has different needs to be satisfied.

Our visit encompassed Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. I found absolutely fascinating the discussions by Air Marshal Bruce Ferguson, who is Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, on the structural changes to the New Zealand Defence Force which were embraced out of the Defence Beyond 2000 report. Graham Fortune also went through that briefing from the bureaucratic side of defence. Quite often the bureaucracy does not meet up with the expectations of the military, but at this time they seem to be in unison.

The briefing by Major General Martyn Dunne, the Commander of Joint Forces, at the joint forces headquarters in Trentham was also fascinating. The key message that came out of that was to embrace change rather than fear it. By placing the military structure underneath Major General Dunne, there is a clear line of singular command down, which is operationally efficient. I believe that once Australia finalises arrangements for our new Australian theatre of command, we will be able to implement command much more clearly and efficiently than is the case now.

The time that was provided to us by Mark Burton, the Minister of Defence, by Jonathan Hunt, the Speaker of the House, and by other leading politicians of the New Zealand parliament was appreciated because it gave us a broad spectrum of political opinion on military requirements within New Zealand. From a local perspective, the announcement on the protector fleet acquisitions—that is, the purchase of one multirole vessel, two offshore vessels and five inshore patrol vessels—has particular relevance to my electorate, because one of the companies in Paterson, ADI, is a tenderer for that bid. I wish them well.

The single most thought-provoking point was New Zealand's attitude to its young people. While it does not relate directly to military strategy, it does address community concerns. We visited the Burnham Military Camp, where we had briefings about 3rd Land Force Group and the 3rd Regional Training Unit. I found their attitude to youth particularly impressive.

The New Zealand defence forces have two programs in place to assist the unemployed: the Youth Life Skills program and the Limited Service Volunteers program. The mission statement for the Youth Life Skills program is `to provide training opportunities for youth to develop life skills in order that they may be better prepared to take their place within and contribute to New Zealand'. This program grabs young people who are a bit at risk—those with truancy problems, those with prison problems, those with problems who are on the Iwi youth program or hose with police problems—and provides support, direction and training. It redirects and focuses them by leading rather than punishing.

The Limited Service Volunteers program for 18- to 25-year-olds was particularly impressive. It has a similar mission statement to that of the Youth Life Skills program. Trainees are subject to military law and requirements while undertaking training and development. The key message from that is that it not only restores self-esteem and provides opportunities but also addresses New Zealand's problem with recruiting for their defence force. I commend the report to the House. (Time expired)