Defence minister, not panda pimp

While Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee is in China pushing a taxpayer funded deal to bring two pandas to New Zealand, the country’s military look set to be hit with a pay freeze, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“Gerry Brownlee is supposed to be in China on Defence Force business, not on a secret panda-buying mission.

“Pandas don’t come cheap. They might be a nice idea, but Mr Brownlee of all people should know there are higher priorities than a panda division.

“Just yesterday it was revealed hundreds of Defence Force positions will disappear over the next few years, while NZDF’s 2015-2018 statement of intent also signals ‘significant challenges’ in maintaining market pay rates under current funding conditions.

“In plain English, that means a possible pay freeze.

“The cost of housing, feeding and leasing pandas is considerable. Less than three years ago John Key was saying there were ‘higher priorities’ for public spending.

“That hasn’t changed. There still are far more important issues for the Government to focus on, including the 150,000 Kiwis who can’t get a job, the Auckland housing crisis, a $1.7 billion hole in the Health budget and a Defence Force in tatters.

“A secret panda mission doesn’t quite cut it when you put it in that context.”