21 Aug 2009

Any defence changes must serve NZ interests - PM

3:24 pm on 21 August 2009

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will not agree to any changes to its defence policy which do not serve New Zealand's interests.

Mr Key and Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced on Thursday they will investigate setting up a joint Anzac contingent as a way of formalising an arrangement for responding to security emergencies.

Military ties figure strongly in the trans-Tasman relationship, and on Friday Mr Key laid a wreath at Anzac bridge in Sydney while on an official visit to Australia.

Though he is keen to look at the idea of setting up a joint Anzac contingent, the Prime Minister says it will not be at the expense of New Zealand's independent foreign policy.

Mr Key says any changes will not undermine New Zealand's independent foreign policy and is not likely to lead to an increase in defence spending. He believes it is sensible New Zealand dumped its air combat wing and now concentrates on those things it can do well.

Mr Key says there is always constant pressure for New Zealand to spend more in that area, but believes the focus should remain on how defence funds are spent and how well goals are achieved - rather than the amount of money

Armed forces to discuss joint force

The heads of the New Zealand and Australian defence forces will begin investigating the possibility of a joint Anzac defence contingent in the coming weeks.

New Zealand defence force spokesperson Shaun Fogarty says the concept is still very much in its infancy, but the possibilities will be discussed, and more information about a joint force could be available for a meeting of defence chiefs scheduled for September.

Mr Fogarty says New Zealand personnel already work with Australian forces in East Timor and Solomon Islands.

The director of Massey University's Centre for Defence Studies, Glyn Harper, says while New Zealand can offer quality personnel and a good reputation, the country's defence capability is much smaller than Australia's.

Centre for Strategic Studies executive director Peter Cozens says foreign policy differences will need to be overcome.