Newshub Nation: Political panel discuss Defence Force funding and AUKUS

Newshub Nation's political panel sat down on Saturday morning to discuss the state of the NZDF and the country's approach to AUKUS.

Stuff political reporter Thomas Manch says that the Government's recent Budget announcement to fund the Defence Force with an additional $419 million is a "keep the force viable situation" at this point. 

"Wage inflation is going to carry, it almost feels like they're playing catch-up and you've seen that in the Chief of Defence putting $60 million into one-off payments."

Former Defence Minister Ron Mark said that this is a "good start".

"Hats off to Andrew Little because he's done more in two months than we've seen in the last two years".

Mark also believes that "there's been a distinct uplift in morale at all levels of the Defence Force based on what he's doing".

However, Mark believes that Treasury and Finance Minister Grant Robertson have to continue to up funding for the Defence Force to get back on track. 

Former Labour candidate and political commentator Josie Pagani said "we certainly do have to up our game with defence". 

"We have an amazing reputation as honest players who work well with local communities", but continued funding is needed to maintain this," she said.

With regards to AUKUS, she said it is not just about money, but also about "where we position our defence forces". 

"We've got this geopolitical world where we've got the US bloc on one side, a China bloc on the other side, we're being asked to make choices all the time." 

Instead of choosing sides, she thinks we should be making our own friends.

She suggests New Zealand "find countries like us", giving examples like Japan, Canada, and Korea who are also stuck in the middle. 

Manch observed a change in Andrew Little's approach to AUKUS during his interview with Newshub Nation, suggesting that he had backed down because of a desire to preserve the perception of maintaining independent foreign policy. 

Watch their full lively discussion in the video above. 

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on Three & Three Now, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.