17 Sep 2013

Defence boss not being forced out - minister

8:11 pm on 17 September 2013

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman is rejecting claims he is forcing Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones out as the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF).

Mr Coleman on Tuesday confirmed Lieutenant-General Jones would stand down when his three-year contract ended, as was usual practice. However, he admitted Lieutenant-General Jones would have liked to stay on for an extra year.

Labour Party defence spokesperson Phil Goff said Lieutenant-General Jones was being used as a scapegoat by the Government. He was adamant problems with the New Zealand Defence Force's civilianisation programme and a critical report into its safety regime were being blamed on the outgoing CDF.

The Government had forced Lieutenant-General Jones to find savings of $400 million, and to cut corners, Mr Goff said.

"He was given a hospital pass," he said.

"... the Government is using him as a scapegoat for the multiple failures in defence in New Zealand."

But Dr Coleman said Lieutenant-General Jones was not being forced out, and the Government was happy with the job he had done.

"No, he hasn't been pushed out of the job. It was the end of his three-year contract and we are now advertising for a new CDF," he said.

"But there's no way that you can say that he's been pushed out of his job. You can ask the CDF himself and he will tell you that that's not the case."

Lieutenant-General Jones is not commenting but said in a brief written statement he agreed with Dr Coleman that three-year postings for senior defence force jobs encouraged talented people to strive for advancement.

A new CDF appointment will open up jobs for several others, he said.

Lieutenant-General Jones' contract started in January 2011.