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'Broken promise' claim as frontline Defence jobs slashed

Published: 6:33PM Thursday February 16, 2012 Source: ONE News

  • Soldiers at Burnham military camp (Source: ONE News)
    Soldiers at Burnham military camp - Source: ONE News

Figures obtained by ONE News show frontline Defence staff are the biggest casualties in budget cutbacks.

Almost 300 uniformed personnel have been made redundant in the past year and Labour says that breaks the Government's promise that it would be office staff losing jobs.

The National-led Government's call was to make back office cuts to save costs and it wants the Defence Force to find over $350 million in annual savings by 2015.

But Labour says it is the frontline that's suffering, and figures released to ONE News confirm that.

The axe has fallen on 485 Defence Force positions in the last year and 295 of those made redundant were in uniform positions.

But no one has been cut from Ministry of Defence offices in Wellington.

Labour's defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway says National has broken a promise.

"What we've seen of course is frontline personnel having their jobs cut first while the back office people in the ministry have been safe from the Government's razor. So that's not what National promised at all. In fact it's exactly the opposite," Lees-Galloway said.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman says the Defence Force needs the people in head office.

"I wouldn't say that the people in the ministry are not vital to the organisation because they are," Coleman said.

"Without those 70 people in the ministry it would make it very hard for the NZDF ultimately to produce the outputs we need it to."

Figures also show that aside from the cuts more than 1200 people quit the Defence Force in the last 12 months.

"Morale is measurably down," Lees-Galloway said. "The Air Force attrition has doubled over the last year."

Coleman says attrition is to be expected.

"You get that with any sort of change programme, there's no question about that," he said.

"But you've got to remember you've got guys in there who've been there 25,30 years. They've been used to that job for life culture. The reality is the NZDF has to come into line with the rest of the world."

ONE News political reporter Michael Parkin says the 72 staff at the ministry in Wellington will be hoping Coleman's view that they are vital is shared by the Prime Minister, who is preparing to announce another round of state sector cuts in the next fortnight.

The NZDF expects to cut a further 150 uniformed positions this year.