Air New Zealand flies Australian troops to Iraq
What's the big deal you may well ask. Well, it's been a big deal here in Wellington since last night, and if anything, it's heating up. What is at stake here is the credibility of the Labour government. Why did they not know that our national airliner was flying Iraq bound Australian combat troops, and thereby contravening the governments policy.
"It may yet turn into a fizzer. The fuss will quickly subside if it turns out the Air NZ flights to Kuwait carried Australian troops doing humanitarian and reconstruction work in Iraq."
It is embarrassing enough for Labour to discover Air New Zealand has seemingly been in breach of Government policy by flying Iraq-bound Australian troops into neighbouring Kuwait.
It is worse that the breach had been made by an airline which Labour saved from collapse and which still has Government shareholding around the 80 per cent mark.
Still worse is that no one told ministers about the two flights and they discovered only a short time before everyone else at Parliament got a press release from Investigate magazine which broke the news.
Perhaps most embarrassing of all, though not surprising given Investigate's strike rate against Labour, is that the news should emerge just as Labour has been relentlessly lashing John Key for his seemingly shifting positions on sending New Zealand troops to Iraq.
Affairs Minister Winston Peters wants answers by the end of the day
about Air New Zealand's flying of Australian troops to Kuwait and what
his Ministry knew about it.
A Radio New Zealand political reporter says the troops are
understood to have gone on to Iraq, causing the Government deep
embarassment, given its stance against the war.
The airline is 76% owned by the Government.
The head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Simon Murdoch, knew in
January that the airline intended to bid for a troop flights contract,
but it appears he did not pass that information on to the Minister or
Wellington, Aug 17
NZPA – Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says the Australian
Defence Force (ADF) will no longer use Air New Zealand "in any
circumstances" after it sparked a foreign policy controversy.
The New Zealand Government is furious it was not told in advance
that the national carrier would be used to ferry troops that were
heading to Iraq to Kuwait.
The airline had told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade about the plans but the information was not passed on.
The flights are embarrassing for the Government which has always
opposed the war in Iraq and has made political mileage out of accusing
National of saying it would have sent troops.