A guest post by National Defence Spokesperson Chris Penk:
Today you are visiting Linton Army Camp / Base, I understand.
Your visit today is the reason I was not allowed to visit that venue yesterday. I did visit the bases at Waiouru and Ohakea yesterday, however, along with my colleagues Ian McKelvie and Joseph Mooney. I was highly impressed – as always – with the skill and professionalism of our troops.
It is fair enough that scheduling priority has been given to the PM, over the opposition spokesperson. In your role you have a much greater ability than almost anyone else to improve conditions for our serving personnel.
The question being asked by the NZDF, however, isn’t about your ability to help. It’s your government’s willingness that is in doubt.
I have previously written to you and the Defence Minister about various issues with defence accommodation: you have exempted the government from “healthy homes” standards you impose on others, rents rose sharply in April and contaminated soil around defence housing has not yet been remediated.
I hope you actually ask our troops about these matters. More importantly, I hope that you listen when they tell you the truth about having been neglected by your government these past four years.
In particular, I recommend that you ask to see mouldy walls of the buildings in which our fine women and men spend considerable time serving (as well as being out in the field, of course). When your government first took over, you made much of allegedly mouldy walls in buildings administered by District Health Boards. Let us now see if your concern was genuine or merely a political ploy, now that you have the ability to make change for the better.
None are more deserving than those whom this country sends into harm’s way to protect and promote our interests.
Earlier I noted that your ability to improve conditions was greater than that of “almost anyone else”. I refer to the Defence Minister. Please know that your appears distracted from his duty to advocate on behalf of the NZDF. I hope you know what I mean by this.
Importantly, this is not merely my impression but the impression of our troops.
I am visiting all the NZDF bases and am listening carefully to the feedback they entrust me to hear.
I hope you enjoy your visit to Linton likewise. As I will not have the opportunity to do so myself on this occasion, for reasons I have explained, please thank on my behalf – and yours – for their service.
Chris Penk MP
National spokesperson for Defence
PS. If you are not yet aware of a difficult and embarrassing issue regarding our soldiers’ pay then I’d respectfully advise you to ask the Defence Minister about this. Your attention to the matter is clearly needed.”