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Government must come clean on troop deployment and protections

New Zealanders deserve more than to hear about their troops’ deployment overseas from Australian media, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says.

“News from Australia that Kiwi troops are on their way to Iraq this week is another example of the culture of secrecy and unknown protections around the deployment.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra that deployment of troops, which includes 143 Kiwi personnel, would begin tomorrow and would be operational by May.

“It’s ironic that we hear about what’s happening out of Australia rather than from the Government itself. There is a total lack of transparency around what they are doing. Most things we are not being told don’t have security implications.

“We still don’t know the exact nature of the arrangement which replaces a full Status of Forces agreement. If it had full legal immunity of prosecution for our troops then why hasn’t the Government released it? The fact they haven’t may mean it’s a second class agreement.”

Labour has opposed the deployment because of the corruption, incompetent leadership and ethical standards of the Iraqi army which has been discredited in the fight against the barbaric Islamic State.

“We know our people will act professionally – that’s their history and reputation – but we are sending them into an unwinnable war where their lives are at risk and protections unknown. While we are not in favour of the deployment they go with our best wishes and prayers for a safe return,” Mr Little says.