22 Oct 2014

Defence chief urges security debate

6:46 am on 22 October 2014

The chief of the Defence Force believes there is a "cultural cringe" about debating issues of security in New Zealand - and that needs to change.

Lieutenant-General Tim Keating

Lieutenant-General Tim Keating Photo: NZ Defence Force

Lieutenant General Tim Keating made the comments at the New Zealand Defence Industry Association's international forum in Wellington yesterday.

About 500 people registered for the two-day event, including oversees defence personnel from up to 18 countries.

Lieutenant General Keating said New Zealand has a condition of naiveté - geography being a part of that - believing that security issues are not paramount to the country.

"I don't what drives it actually, it's a sort of cultural cringe about debating these issues and building forums on matters of security."

"We need to bring the issues of security out in the open and it's a conversation for all of us."

The Defence chief said that he, along with the Secretary of Defence Helene Quilter and the Government, were "keen to open up the conversation" to New Zealand.

Lieutenant General Keating attended a meeting of 22 countries in Washington last week, called to discuss the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The New Zealand Government is considering what help it may be able to offer, with Prime Minister John Key saying Lieutenant General Keating will be involved in a range of discussions.

Lieutenant General Keating has 32 years of military experience.

He was commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamyan, Afghanistan, in 2005 and holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania.

Brownlee not briefed yet

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said he is yet to receive a detailed briefing on last week's top level military meeting in Washington and has only had a chat with Lieutenant-General Tim Keating.

Mr Brownlee said Mr Keating had not told him any of the specific details of that meeting.

"New Zealand was there because we're considered to be part of a group that generally can be described as abhorred by the activities of Islamic State. So there was obviously some discussions but the specifics of that is not something that we've sat down to discuss at this point."

Gerry Brownlee said he would receive a proper briefing by Tim Keating in due course before any decision is made on what contribution New Zealand might make.

"What we are doing is considering how we might fit in and the Prime Minister has made that clear over the past few days. We've just got to see this for what it is.

"These people are hungry for a particular type of power and they are very, very intimidating. We've got to work out what that means for us as a country and then work out what is the most appropriate way for us to contribute to the demise of this outfit."

Mr Brownlee said any response from the Government would be not rushed because the situation in Iraq and Syria would be around for a while.

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