James Shaw grills Defence Minister over Iraq, Afghanistan deployments

Green co-leader James Shaw grilled the Minister of Defence about New Zealand's deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan on Tuesday afternoon, calling it a "seemingly never-ending military engagement".

It follows the Government's announcement on Monday it would extend the deployments until June 2019, despite Labour calling it "mission creep" in opposition.

Mr Shaw asked if the Minister agreed "that continued military involvement of outside forces has actually further destabilised the region and made it easier for terror groups to recruit and has led to an increase in violence rather than a decrease".

Mr Mark said he didn't agree, and was confident the Government made the right decision in extending the deployments.

"For Iraq to become a prosperous nation once again, for its people to enjoy a quality of life that we enjoy, and for them to enjoy the well-being and the support of a good Government such as we enjoy, they need security," he said.

"Security is paramount to the well-being of the people of Iraq, and I think that is the greatest contribution we're able to make at this time."

Mr Shaw asked whether he agreed the public would prefer New Zealand's role to be focused on building schools, roads, and hospitals, "rather than a seemingly never-ending military engagement".

Mr Mark replied that he understood that view, but the most important thing right now was to deliver security.

"For NGOs to be able to deliver to those people, they need security. We've seen examples in Sudan where the wonderful efforts of NGOs have been interdicted by the lack of security.

"I would also point out that in Afghanistan alone, this Government over the years since 2001 has put in over $100 million in aid. There's another $2 million to the UN Development Programme and there is about $3.5 million going into the UN Development Programme around technical assistance for de-mining support," he said.

Mr Shaw asked whether money spent on military deployments would be better spent on humanitarian aid and reconstruction.

Mr Mark said the deployments that were announced on Monday added up to about $31.4 million.

"Of course we'd like to build hospitals. Of course we'd like to help build schools. Of course we'd like to help re-establish the infrastructure.

"Iraq, in particular, is looking at a $100 billion bill for reconstruction - but $31.4 million is not going to build a new school, it's not going to build a new hospital, and it's not going to rebuild the infrastructure.

"It can make a substantive difference to the NGOs who are delivering that sort of support and thereby enhancing security."

The Greens announced earlier this year that they would hand their allocation of questions over to National because they did not want to waste Parliament's time by asking Ministers 'patsy questions'.

The party said it would only ask questions that were necessary to hold the Government to account.