Attrition rates in the military are among the worst the defence force has ever seen in peacetime according to minister of defence Peeni Henare, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin
There’s an old Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Kenan Thompson which has become known as the Fix It skit. It feels like a relevant sketch right now as the cry goes out to “fix” everything. Former education minister Steve Maharey said yesterday that next year’s election will be about who can fix things. Current education minister Chris Hipkins has been called Labour’s Mr Fix-it. Wayne Brown won the Auckland mayoralty running on a promise to “fix Auckland”. And now Sir Brian Roche, another “fix-it man”, as described by Stuff’s Thomas Manch, has been called on to lead a major review of New Zealand’s defence strategy.
Defence force personnel aren’t being paid enough
Roche has a long history of public service leadership – he chaired the 2015 Defence White Paper advisory panel and led three reviews of defence procurement. He steps in to lead the panel as personnel leave the defence force in record numbers. Speaking to Q&A’s Jack Tame yesterday, defence minister Peeni Henare said defence force personnel aren’t being paid enough. Henare also discussed the issue of defence force housing not meeting Healthy Homes standards and a sense of frustration and dissatisfaction with military life among some defence force personnel. A recruitment campaign has just been launched aimed at attracting 1200 new recruits.
Henare cites China’s overt movements in the Pacific
The defence review will take two years and was asked for by the government in July. “Strategic competition” in the region, climate change and the pandemic were cited as the reasons why the review was required. As the Herald’s Michael Neilson reports, the terms of reference of the review have blanked out exactly which countries “strategic competition” refers to, but the Ministry of Defence annual report directly references China and the US. On Q&A, Henare was comfortable citing China’s deal with the Solomons Islands as an example of “overt movement” in the Pacific but wouldn’t be drawn on whether other actors in the area were causing concern.
Minister doesn’t rule out reintroducing an air combat force
In May, Henare announced that the defence force would receive $662.5m to “maintain existing defence capabilities”. Henare didn’t rule out the need to reinvest in an air force combat wing when asked about it on Q&A. Our air combat force was disbanded in 2001 under the fifth Labour government. Writing for The Conversation, law professor Alexander Gillespie has called the review timely and urgent. Gillespie outlines four areas the review needs to concentrate on including what should be spent on defence. New Zealand currently spends about 1.5% of GDP on defence and as Gillespie writes, the question of how much we should spend on defence is always a difficult one to answer.