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ANZAC cooperation: a credible partnership: speech delivered to 'New Zealand Defence Directions: a National Party Defence Policy Seminar', Auckland.

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Speech delivered by Senator Sandy Macdonald

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation

Committee to ‘New Zealand Defence Directions - a National Party Defence

Policy Seminar’, Auckland


25 November 2000




I intend, firstly, to make some general comments about the New Zealand/Australia partnership, secondly, some specific comments about New Zealand’s planned and possible capabilities, and thirdly, how both countries can make better use of the New Zealand Defence Force capabilities, including alliance cooperation and integration.


There is no strategic partnership in our region closer than that between Australia and New Zealand.  The relationship is reinforced by the strong ANZAC tradition , and more formally by the Closer Defence Relations (CDR) agreement.


  • In June 2000 the Defence Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to CDR


  • Cooperative management of challenges in East Timor, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, PNG (Bougainville), and common membe rship in the Five Power Defence arrangements has demonstrated the relevance of Australia/New Zealand Defence links.


  • New Zealand s contribution in East Timor has been significant and Australia is very grateful.  Australia welcomes New Zealand s extension o f its original commitment to UNTAET through May 2001.  In addition, Prime Minister Clark has indicated support for further deployments to East Timor.


New Zealand has recognised the need to achieve and sustain greater interoperability with the Australian D efence Force.  Both nations recognise that their security is dependent on peace and stability in the region.  New Zealand has similar views in relation to security issues affecting our region and South East Asia.


  • Australia expects that each country will m ake the necessary commitment of resources to ensure the effective achievement of shared defence outcomes.


  • Australia acknowledges that equipment decisions are for the Government of New Zealand alone to make, but would welcome commonality with Australian eq uipment.  (Logistics, maintenance, and training efficiencies can be made, particularly in the field)


  • Australia is keen for New Zealand fast-jet support to Royal Australian Navy fleet training to continue through 2002 under arrangements similar to the Enha nced Nowra Agreement.


  • As natural security partners, through our close geographic location and strong historical relations, it is important that our two Defence Forces be able to come together quickly and easily.


  • Developing interoperability measures ensur es our defence forces can work together effectively in combined and joint operations to protect our common security interests, offshore territories, and resources.


Australia recognises that New Zealand has a relatively small population base and economy, a nd that this shapes Defence expenditure.  In New Zealand, like every other country, the Defence budget faces fierce competition for priority.  And the declining value of the New Zealand dollar has also placed limits on Defence acquisition in the same way as it has in Australia.


  • The cumulative decline in the capabilities of the New Zealand Defence Force, especially relative to the Australian Defence Force, has been of concern.  Successive Australian governments have shared these concerns openly with New Zea land.


  • Prime Minister Clark has promised that Defence expenditure will not fall below its current levels.


  • Australia wants a New Zealand Defence Force that can contribute effectively to the defence of New Zealand, our common environment, and to regional se curity.


  • Prime Minister Howard has said that he would like New Zealand to spend more on Defence and that each country should commit the resources needed to achieve shared Defence goals.  The next ten years will see Australia substantially increase its Defe nce funding.

Assessment of Planned and Possible Capabilities

Ground Forces


The program to re-equip the New Zealand Army should allow it to present two well equipped, motorised battalions for service in some future regional trouble spot.  The 105 LAV APCs to be delivered from 2002 will provide increased capability over the 56 M-113 APCs currently operated.  Since each is to be equipped with an Australian manufactured Delco LAV-25 turret armed with a 25mm cannon, they will also provide direct fire support to infantry in the field.  Improved radios should allow for more effective command and control of operations and interoperability with allied forces, especially in tropical climates.


Off the road, however, the mobility of New Zealand’s army is less remarkable.  The country’s 5 Hercules are too few to move effectively a battalion group, such as the 665 personnel currently deployed in East Timor.  Because of the problems currently exper ienced with the Charles Upham the NZDF currently has no military sealift capacity.  Even if the vessel can be made useable she will be able to carry only 100 troops and their APCs.  The RNZAF’s Iroquois helicopter element is able to lift only about half a company (42 men) at a time.


Sustainability is also a weakness of the army.  Observers have long since concluded that its brigade structure is inoperable, given that a brigade group requires between 3,500 and 5,000 personnel.  The army’s current strength is only around 4,500, including reserves.  Only the two battalions are formed and the Territorial force is generally assessed as being incapable of fleshing out a third Battalion.  In these circumstances almost the entire resources of the army are now devoted to sustaining its deployment in Timor.  At times the reserve capacity for unplanned operations has been as low as a single Special Forces Squadron.  Prime Minister Clark has said that the New Zealand commitment will last at least until after the first Timorese elections next year.



At first glance, the RNZN is the best equipped of the New Zealand forces.  Its two ANZAC frigates ( Te Kaha [prowess] and  Te Mana [power]) are modern, and considerably newer than anything else in the NZDF inventory.  The systems on board are contemporary and each is capable of operating up to two modernised Seasprite helicopters.  These two vessels are supported by the replenishment tanker HMNZS Endeavour , which is some 10 years younger than HMAS Westralia and carries almost as much diesel fuel as HMAS Success.   Endeavour has demonstrated her contribution to New Zealand national objectives by hosting peace talks off Bougainville and deploying in support of UNTAET forces in Timor.


The main problem for the RNZN is, of course, that the third frigate is old and due to be paid off in 2005.  The New Zealand public's long demonstrated allergic response to proposals for ‘big-ticket’ defence acquisitions has made it likely that HMNZS Canterbury will not be replaced, at least not by another frigate.  The 1997 white paper acknowledged that, if the RNZN become a two frigate fleet, the only effective way for the ANZAC frigates to operate would be as part of the RAN.


The debate over the suitable replacement of Canterbury is given strength by the RNZNs almost complete lack of offshore patrol forces.  The Service’s four Moa class patrol boats are small, slow and about the same age as the RAN’s Fremantle class patrol boats, which are to be replaced.  The Moas are intended for Navy Reserve training rather than maritime patrol.  It is not surprising then that there should be a considerable body of opinion in New Zealand arguing that acquisition of offshore patrol capability is more important than buying a new frigate.


With the continued unsuitability of the Charles Upham, the RNZN lacks the capability to deliver the Army’s personnel and equipment to an operational area.  This was a complication in the New Zealand deployment to East Timor when a commercial freighter had to be chartered.  It was not immediately available and it was three weeks before the army’s equipment arrived on the island.  The future of Charles Upham as a RNZN ship is again under review.  This will decide whether to rectify the vessel’s faults, at a cost estimated at over NZ$30m or to adopt some other approach to provide a military sea lift capability.



With the cancellation of the proposal to lease F-16 fighters from the United States, the future of the NZDF combat strike force seems to be limited.  Even at the curren t strength of 19 Skyhawks, the strike capability of the RNZAF is marginal.  Analysts have claimed that the Service requires 10 aircraft for operations, and six for training.  Relying on only three aircraft being in maintenance at any one time is a gamble with such an old aircraft.  In any event, the capability of the force is severely restricted by a lack of qualified fast jet pilots in the RNZAF.  It was recently reported that there were only eight pilots at an air force base, which is supposed to operate 13 of the aircraft.


It is difficult to see that any replacement for the Skyhawks would be feasible, if New Zealand was unable to accommodate the ‘bargain basement’ leasing arrangement for the F-16s within its defence budget.  The aircraft are due to retire by the middle of t he decade, already too close for any realistic replacement without an economically marginal extension of the Skyhawks’ lives.  The purchase of attack helicopters as an option to provide NZDF ground forces with organic air support has been mentioned.  However, these tend to be neither less expensive to purchase or to operate, and this option would have to be considered remote.


The airforce seems an early possibility for integration because it involves a limited number of people but with high technical skills.


Labour’s decision to suspend Project Sirius has obviously placed considerable pressure on the RNZAF capacity for maritime surveillance.


  • The National Party s decision to hold the line on continuing the P3K upgrade is to be welcomed on both sides of the Tasman.


  • This commitment to joint Orion patrols goes back to at least 1977 with the McCready/Killen agreement on integrating our P3 patrols.

Making Better Use of NZDF Capabilities


It is noticeable that New Zealanders have considerable difficulty agreei ng what their defence forces are intended for.  From an Australian perspective two major judgements stand out.


  • Any maintenance of effective military forces by New Zealand is a sign of its commitment to regional security.
  • While Australia is prepared to bol ster the effectiveness of New Zealand contributions to regional security it would be loath to have to take over responsibilities seen as those of New Zealand.


It is obvious that significant military threats to New Zealand are remote.  Australians recognis e that there is validity in the perception that any threat to New Zealand has first to scramble across the large rock off to the west.  The deployment of any NZDF element is therefore likely to occur long before any direct threat to New Zealand.  Many New Zealanders see issues of national sovereignty in the NZDF remaining a ‘balanced force’.  From an external perspective, however, the effectiveness of any NZDF components to a regional force is the more important issue, and if that effectiveness comes from the capabilities of a joint force, so be it.


New Zealand has yet to come to terms with its responsibilities for its maritime zones, either in terms of effective surveillance or its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  New Zealand’s EEZ covers 4 million sq. kilometres, almost half the size of Australia’s.  Under UNCLOS, claimant nations have responsibility for managing their maritime zones, but New Zealand’s capacities in this area are a fraction of those of Australia, which are themselves overstretched in policing its eight million sq. kilometres.  If the Labour Cabinet’s review of maritime surveillance commits the nation to effective policing of the New Zealand EEZ, this is likely to be taken as a positive commitment to national security by most people in Australia.  But the National position as announced is much more encouraging.


Alliance, Cooperation and Integration


Australia and New Zealand have between them their oldest regional defence relationship, the Australia New Zealand Treaty signed in 1944.  This treaty has never been in doubt, even when its anticessor the ANZUS Alliance was strained by New Zealand’s ban on nuclear vessels in 1984.  Despite issues of national sovereignty, which are real for people in both countries, continued development of the treaty arrangements between the two countries provides the means for both to maximise their defence capability.


Alliance arrangements are often seen as restrictive of national sovereignty and policy, but in the post-Cold War era the opposite may as often be true.  The NATO Alliance has imposed some restrictions on each of its members but also won them the right to equal consultation in decision making.  In the post Cold War era individual members have stood out where the politics of a particular situation were uncongenial, but that has not weakened the subsequent development of the Organisation.


Counter-intuitively, those alliances, which developed during the Cold War to defend democratic interests, have not become increasingly irrelevant as the competition between democracy and communism fades into history.  Alliance structures applied formally [NATO activities in Bosnia] or informally [the 1990 Gulf War coalition] have proved effective vehicles to enforce United Nations resolutions.


The same dynamic can apply to the Australia/New Zealand security relationship.  It can be said that the New Zealand armed forces have little potential by themselves, yet are a professional and, in some areas, modern force.  New Zealand defence policy continues to give weight to a requirement to operate in conjunction with the ADF.  In many conceivable circumstances [such as in East Timor] this would be the case.  In others, where New Zealand might operate alone, it would be dependent on the ADF for transport and logistics support [as was the case in establishing the Truce Monitoring Group on Bougainville].


In many practical circumstances, then, the ADF and NZDF are an integrated force but without acknowledgement and without planning.


These aspects would have to be addressed if a combined force was to become a reality.  The former is a largely political issue of gaining support within both countries for the idea.  The latter will require concentrated study and would involve senior personnel from both sides.  Both would take some time to achieve and could proceed better if a body of experience was first established.


Such an approach could be initiated through constant contact by senior officers of both Forces.  A potent way of achieving this would be to establish a Joint Australia New Zealand Headquarters [JANZHQ] charged with planning joint operational plans and commanding joint operations.  Increasingly, the preview of this body could expand to planning the future force for both countries.  Executive decision making could continue to reside with the sovereign governments of both countries, which would require constant negotiation, but would not negate the process, which this structure could achieve over time.  In effect, the thinking and, therefore, the nature of the two countries Armed Services inevitably would grow closer together and could take on an impetus independent of or, indeed, leading the political process.