Change of tune from the PM on need for new 757s

There appears to be bi-partisan support for replacing the Defence Force’s Boeing 757s after the Prime Minister said it can’t be put off much longer.

Defence Minister Judith Collins has said the plight of the Defence Force planes is more likely to be resolved now than it has over the past few years and that sentiment has been echoed by Christopher Luxon in Japan.

Luxon said successive governments had put off a necessary upgrade, and that could not continue.

“We are in a place where we need to make sure we can replace that 757.”

It is a change in tune for Luxon, who has previously said it was not the time for such a big-ticket investment.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins told Morning Report he backed replacing the planes and as prime minister had asked his defence minister to look at into it.

“It needs to happen we should just get on with it and make it happen.”

Hipkins said when Labour came into office the 757s were Defence’s newest planes.

“Having replaced the Orions, having replaced the Hercules, which were big decisions taken by our government, the 757s then became the oldest planes in the fleet and so I asked him to look at options to bring forward their replacement, I think it’s something that we need to do.”

He accused Luxon of politicising the matter.

“Saying he’d never travel on a Defence Force plane and then travelling on it, regularly, actually damages his own credibility.”

The 757s were crucial and were about more than just VIP transport, Hipkins said.

Defence capability review

Luxon said the government was currently reviewing its defence capability and – as part of that – would look at potential replacements for the 757.

Luxon had to take a commercial flight to Tokyo this week after the 757 broke down during a stopover in Papua New Guinea.

Christopher Luxon at Costco Tokyo

Collins faced questions on the breakdown at a select committee during scrutiny week at Parliament.

It is a politically fraught issue, because no one wants to spend up large on what has been called the “PM’s plane”, but the new Chief of Defence, Air Marshal Tony Davies, wanted to remind New Zealanders that it did not just carry the prime minister.

“Just to highlight just how busy it is, in the last three months it’s done 96 flights and during those 96 it had some minor technical issues, but it only had one that involved altering its mission.”

The two-hour select committee also raised wider issues of investment in the Defence Force.

Collins spoke of the sadness she felt when she inherited the portfolio and understood the state of the force.

“I felt morale was down. I felt that there was a feeling of having to basically apologise for doing the work defence needs to do.”

But she felt things were changing for the better.

“I do feel very hopeful for defence now. I think my colleagues in government get how important defence is, and particularly in this world which is very geopolitically unstable.”

Not going far enough?

Labour MPs on the committee thought the government was not going far enough.

Defence spokesperson Peeni Henare said he did not think the government took defence seriously.

“It’s hard to imagine that these things will be resolved given the downward trajectory of funding for defence over the next five years,” Labour’s Damien O’Connor said.

Collins rejected that notion, saying O’Connor had not seen the Defence Capability Plan (DCP).

That is the plan which outlines investment options for defence in the near future, which Collins expected to be able to share more detail on later this year.

Collins said it was significant.

“I think we live in a very difficult time.

“We have to up our game because everything is changing very fast.”

But Henare said there had already been a DCP.

“You can’t improve defence on reports alone, you’ve got to have money.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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