Defence Minister slow to advocate, quick to censor

Defence Minister Peeni Henare is slow to advocate for our troops, but has been quick to criticise one who has political opinions different to his own, National’s Defence spokesperson Chris Penk says.

“The Minister of Defence has consistently failed to champion our Defence Force and national security needs.

“Minister Henare has not even managed to ensure that New Zealand’s modest defence spending commitments will be maintained, being forced to admit last month that budget cuts are coming.

“He has also failed to advocate for our personnel and their families on key welfare issues.

“Under his watch, the standard of Defence housing has fallen well behind that of the private sector as the Government exempted itself from the ‘Healthy Homes’ requirements. Sharp rent rises were implemented in April and he is showing no urgency in resolving soil contamination issues exposed in the Defence estate.

“Minister Henare was recently quoted as saying that Labour would put its fingerprint on Defence issues.  Until now, it’s been unclear what that actually means.

“It is extraordinary that Minister Henare has appeared to remember that he holds a ministerial warrant only now, prompted by an essay competition of all things. In singling out a member of the Army’s lowest rank – who will not be afforded a right of reply – the Minister is ‘punching down’ in a way that has deeply disappointed many service people.

“Our troops sacrifice so much to serve New Zealand. They deserve a much stronger advocate than this Defence Minister.  He shouldn’t be commenting on the political views of service personnel when he’s achieved so little on their behalf.”