Defence Minister Ron Mark was in ebullient form, telling Parliament this week how much he had achieved in defence since he took over the portfolio from National’s Mark Mitchell. And it does look an impressive list.
“There’s $5.2bn worth of procurement running right now. P-8s—done. Hercules—getting done. Network-enabled army—done. Protected mobility—done. The King Airs, four of them, now flying at Ōhākea—done. New simulator for the NH90s—done”.
So, when a request comes for New Zealand to help in the protection of vital shipping lanes in the Middle East, one might think the Defence Minister would relish the opportunity to deploy elements of the NZ Defence Force.
But what was Mark’s response when asked to link with Australia in its decision to commit a ship, a surveillance aircraft and defence personnel in the multilateral effort to keep the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman open and safe for ships to pass through?
He turned the request down flat, saying he can’t send a ship or a plane because these assets are out of action or overburdened.
National’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee reckons this is simply not good enough. He believes the NZDF Force can offer its partners a range of skills and assets in a multilateral effort such as this.
“Just as oil and other goods destined for Australia moves through the Strait of Hormuz, so too does oil and goods destined for NZ.Australia has correctly identified this situation as a risk to its economy. It is a risk to NZ’s economy too”.
Brownlee points to NZ’s proud history of operating in the Middle East to keep the peace.
“In particular we recently played a significant role on the sea and in the air as part of the blockade of Isil’s trade of illicit goods to fund terror. The clock is ticking on NZ’s response to this very serious threat to our economic wellbeing. The clock is ticking on NZ’s response to this very serious threat to our economic wellbeing”.
Brownlee argues the minister and “his part-time government” need to do better.
So Point of Order wonders if Ron Mark has been over-ruled by less belligerent elements in the coalition?