Dr WAYNE MAPP interviewed by GUYON ESPINER
GUYON Thank you Dr Mapp for joining us on the programme this morning, we really appreciate your time. We could start, Paul mentioned the White Paper there, now this is a major exercise, the first time this has been done since 1997, it was going to look at basically our strategic risks and what our capabilities are, it was due to be released on 30 March, will it be?
WAYNE MAPP - Defence Minister No it's going to be delayed a bit, and the reason is, it is a 25 year look at things, and part and parcel of that is having an expenditure track that actually takes you over the entire time. There are some challenges, largely due to the recession and things of that nature, that we have to deal with over the next five years, so we're doing a value for money exercise, a deep look into the Defence system to see if we can get resources essentially from the back office to the front. We've got to sort that out because when the report's published, people have got to have confidence that it's affordable actually over the entire 25 years.
GUYON So this White Paper has been delayed by the value for money exercise, when will we see the White Paper released.
WAYNE You'll see it in about six months, end of September.
GUYON So what is this exercise, is it essentially a cost cutting exercise, trying to trim money from the Defence budget.
WAYNE No it's not a cost cutting exercise, what's occurring over the next three years or so, we're receiving nearly two billion dollars of new equipment - helicopters, upgraded aircraft, of course the project Protector fleet. That pushes up the cost of operational costs in particular, and right at a time when the economy is you know recovering, so we do have to be able to shift a bit of resources out from the back to the front, and that's of course in common with other government departments as well.
GUYON How much resource Dr Mapp?
WAYNE We're talking about 50 or so million dollars per year, essentially shifting, and we think we can do that. The work's been started but we want to give the public a good sense that we have an affordable plan that will actually endure.
GUYON So you will take 50 million dollars roughly but you will put that into the front line.
WAYNE In essence yes.
WAYNE And where will those savings come from, I mean presumably there are just people in the military sitting around in back offices doing nothing, I mean where will that fat in the system if you like actually come from?
WAYNE Well there's two major areas, we have three services, they each have their own HR systems, each have you know completely separate training systems, they have you know a lot of complexity around bases and so forth, we think there's opportunities to join some of that up, reduce the costs there and then shift those savings to the front. We also think there's an opportunity for public private partnerships on the bases themselves, particularly buildings and infrastructure.
GUYON So are you saying that possibly some bases could be closed?
WAYNE No that's not the primary focus, but we do think as new facilities get built on bases we need to partner more effectively with the private sector to get the best value out of that.
GUYON That might be difficult for some people to get their head around, what sort of projects can you see private businesses wanting to get involved with in the New Zealand military?
WAYNE Well take the Devonport Naval Base for instance, VT Fitzroy is there, they have a relatively short term contract, doesn't really encourage them to make any worthwhile investments into the longer term facilities, and similarly the government itself directly has built 150 million dollars worth of hangars for the new helicopters, you would think things like that could actually be done by a public private partnership more effectively.
GUYON And who will conduct this value for money exercise, is it an internal one, or do you contract in consultants to do this?
WAYNE Well it's a bit of both, we are going to contract in consultants, we're going through that process right now, not been quite concluded yet, but also internal. In fact, the Chief of the Defence Force, because it's mostly in the Defence Force itself, has been working pretty hard on this already. He is certainly strongly of the view that some real gains can be made here.
GUYON Okay well let's talk about some of the things that the White Paper is looking at, because obviously it looks at our strategic risk, at our environment, and I quote from when you actually put it out you said it was going to address foreseeable risks in our region and further afield. What does the report highlight in this area?
WAYNE Well in our own region you can see already over the last decade in fact, problems with unstable governments, and we have to kind of help them get through their problems, that's a fairly significant challenge. Over the last 12 months you've seen a huge demand on the Defence Forces around disaster relief, ranging from the sinking of the Princess Ashika through to the tsunami and now through to the cyclones. That tempo seems to be increasing and you're seeing throughout the world in fact that defence forces are really the first people you call on for that emergency aid, they have the range of capabilities necessary. In our region we are the very first people that our Pacific neighbours look to, and New Zealanders expect us to be able to respond, and we have to build some capability in that.
GUYON Okay, let's look more strategically though, they're natural disasters often that you're talking about in the respect that the military has a big role there. When you look at Australia's White Paper last year though, it basically called for a build up of naval and air power to counter the potential military threat from China, I mean is that sort of thing addressed in our White Paper and do we share that belief with Australia, that China potentially in the future could be a military threat?
WAYNE Well we don't see China as a military threat, in fact the great growth in the Pacific region generally has been the impact of China's economic growth, and everyone's benefited out of that, especially New Zealand over the last 12 months, but also Australia, so it's a kind of an old fashioned way to look at state to state conflict. It's really ensuring that countries can work and co-operate trying and ensure the security of their own region.
GUYON It's a big thing though isn't it Dr Mapp be we are so close in terms of Australia and New Zealand and potentially are close in military terms, yet you're saying their approach to China is in essence old fashioned in a military sense, and we don't share their belief that China is a potential risk?
WAYNE You've also got to remember that Australia is a middle level power, and middle level powers within the Asia Pacific region have a certain level of military capability, they've kind of gotta step up along with everyone else, and that's one of the key reasons for Australia to make their decisions. If they didn't make their decisions they would not be able to sustain their positioning and thus their influence within the region, and New Zealand perfectly understands that. Obviously Australia's our closest defence partner and we intend always to have fully interoperable capabilities. It's in the interests of both countries obviously that the Asia Pacific actually live up to its name and that is being pacific.
GUYON You mention that the closeness of the ANZAC relationship in fact you're considering a joint ANZAC Task Force, what progress has been made on that idea?
WAYNE Both Defence Ministers have essentially tasked our Defence Forces to provide us the options and we expect to get those fully worked up options within the next couple of months, prior to essentially us both meeting a bit later in the year, so that we can essentially present to our Prime Ministers, these are the best things to do, and we've talked in the past, both of us in fact, the need to get some complementary capabilities from the Pacific, also to work more effectively together with disaster relief and also stabilising states.
GUYON What sort of scale are we talking about cos obviously you're not talking about any sort of merger, what sort of scale, what sort of task force are we looking at here, how large?
WAYNE Most of the discussion has been around a company size group, 150 or so, but it's more really around planning actually, to ensure that we can work effectively together for these events, that there isn't sort of kind of a rewriting the rule book each time you do it.
GUYON Are you talking about these people being based together as a unit in Australia or New Zealand, or do they come from their respective positions to the theatre?
WAYNE And that's the sort of work that's being undertaken at the moment.
GUYON Just before I leave the idea of defence partnerships and alliances, a relationship that's not always been so smooth on the defence front is with the United States, they have completed a review of their defence relationship with New Zealand, and presumably you've been briefed on that. What changes are they proposing to the relationship?
WAYNE Well that's really a progressive improvement on what's occurred since really 2005. You've seen the relationship improve over the last half decade or so, that process will continue and it's a practical approach around training, to ensure that our Defence Forces get the right sort of training when they're doing work together.
GUYON The Assistance Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell said on this programme last year, he agreed that it was absurd to have the two countries being able to fight together but not to train together. So presumably the military ban which was in the wake of New Zealand's anti nuclear stance, that military ban from the United States will be lifted will it?
WAYNE Well in the areas where it's relevant to do so, and that really means where we're working reasonably close together, and also of course the interests are within the Pacific, for instance we had a bit of assistance when we were working up the Canterbury which of course is used for disaster relief, that's the kind of practical partnership that the two countries are able to do.
GUYON So in essence though the military ban will be really in name only from now on.
WAYNE Well the two countries do have strong views on certain things of course, and you well know that New Zealand is nuclear free, the United States understands that, so that sort of sets a bit of a parameter, but in practical things we can actually work together.
GUYON I guess the most topical issue for a lot of New Zealanders, as was mention in the introduction to this programme, is the presence of the SAS in Afghanistan, and particularly Willie Apiata has been controversial after he was photographed in Kabul. Given he had such media exposure a few years back when he won the Victoria Cross, did you or other ministers, or Defence chiefs discuss at all whether such a well known soldier should be sent as part of largely a secretive force to Afghanistan?
WAYNE Well Corporal Apiata of course is a member of the SAS and his decision to stay meant that he wanted to be able to do the full range of activity that his comrades would do.
GUYON Was that discussed though Dr Mapp, you must know whether that was discussed about whether he should go over there or not?
WAYNE Well that level of detail is actually largely left up to Defence Force level, but I was aware that he was going to end up going, and we respected that choice.
GUYON Did you have any concern about that though? Because he is such a visible member of the SAS, Jon Stephenson has written in the Sunday Star Times about this issue again, there's been a lot of comment about whether someone who's so well known and so publicly known should be part of a so-called secretive force, and whether that actually endangers them, and places them in greater risk.
WAYNE Corporal Apiata is a man who knows his own judgement about these things, and frankly he's got the right to make these judgements about staying in the unit, being deployed.
GUYON But Dr Mapp would it be his decision though? Surely, it's not his decision about whether he goes ultimately, it's the Defence Force and ultimately it's yours, isn't it?
WAYNE No actually it is his decision, if you're a member of the unit you expect to be able to play a full part in the unit's activities, that's a reasonable thing to do, and anything actually less than that would not be respecting his role.
GUYON So can you answer my question though with respect, was there any consideration about whether sending him would compromise the unit?
WAYNE It wasn't really ever put that way, there was a recognition that he's a member of the unit and therefore has the right and indeed the expectation that he be able to conduct the full range of activity.
GUYON Is he still over there?
WAYNE Well he's part of the current tour.
GUYON So he's still in Afghanistan?
WAYNE Well the tours get rotated every six months.
GUYON And so he's still there.
WAYNE Well as I said he's part of the current tour, the tour hasn't rotated yet.
GUYON The tour largely and publicly has been reported as supporting the Crisis Response Unit in Kabul, presumably it doesn't take 70 SAS operatives to do that, what are the others doing?
WAYNE Well as you know they're there to support essentially the mission as a whole, beyond that I'm not really prepared to go further.
GUYON But you can say that not the whole 70 are in Kabul?
WAYNE I can say they have a range of tasks, and beyond that I'm not prepared to go further. It is, as you say, a special forces unit and I'm not going to say anything that would compromise their operational security.
GUYON Okay, can we turn to our other portfolio in the remaining time that we have got, and that is also the other strand of this programme, science. The report on Crown Institutes is out, and what's striking to me is that it claims that the government has tended to use CRIs almost exclusively as if they were for profit businesses. Would you implement the recommendation from the task force that you do not look to the Crown Research Institutes for direct commercial return?
WAYNE MAPP - Research, Science and Technology Minister Well New Zealand doesn't own, or the people of New Zealand don't own Crown Research Institutes to make money, that's not the principal reason. They're there actually to do science of relevance to their particular sectors that will drive growth in New Zealand, and our whole approach on this, appointing the task force, was to get more effectiveness out of them, it was a strong expectation when I became the Science Minister that we can power up the system to drive growth, and we've done a whole series of things, of which this is one, to lead to that outcome. So you'll see essentially there are two strong recommendations - more clarity around the purpose of the CRIs, and secondly longer term and more strategic funding of the CRIs.
GUYON Exactly, so let's quickly talk about those two things and can you answer that question, which is the first part of your statement about the main points. Will you accept that they don't have to provide a direct commercial return?
WAYNE Well they've got to be financially viable, they've gotta be able to cover the cost of funds for them, but it's not the fundamental purpose we have them, it's to strengthen....
GUYON But are you still going to take dividends from them Dr Mapp?
WAYNE Well there's a lot of discussion around dividends which I think is frankly a bit overwrought, but we don't own them to actually get dividends. Will dividends come from time to time? Yes.
GUYON Okay, so you're not going to take that recommendation up are you? Essentially that's what you've told us.
WAYNE Well the recommendation actually says you can have dividends but when you do have them you should bring them into a pool and then using it to build the science infrastructure.
GUYON One of the other major impediments that is identified in the report is the whole governance structure that is involved around these entities. Essentially it recommends a single entity for funding and for policy, that's what's you're looking at isn't it, a merging of the Ministry with the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology?
WAYNE Well we certainly have work done in that area, it's not actually been considered by Cabinet yet, but across a range of areas we're trying to get a more efficient way of government and also to be able to shift some of the resources to the front line.
GUYON That's what you favour though isn't it, one entity?
WAYNE Well certainly you can see advantages. When I have meetings in my office, I have them with both the Ministry of Science Research and Technology the their CEO and also the CEO of the Foundation and I find it's not effective unless they're both in the room at the same time.
GUYON Just a quick final question. We've been told no new money for a lot of government departments for three to even five years, is Science going to be the exception?
WAYNE Well you have to look for the Budget, but the Prime Minister made it very clear that we're going to boost innovation spending particularly as it connects to business, because we don't do science for science sake, we do science in the CRIs and more broadly actually to drive economic growth, you'll have to way for the Budget to see the announcements on that.
GUYON Good place to leave it, thanks very much for your time this morning Dr Mapp, we appreciate it.