EDITORIAL: All is not ship shape in our navy

By ROGER MORONEY


Our navy has been having a rough run of things lately.

The latest additions to the inshore and outshore fleet have not yet had time to attract barnacles and there are already issues with crewing them.

Basically, there are not enough salts to go around.

At the heart of the issue is the lure of better money in Australia, and while some well-trained sailors are embarking on a new naval career with the Royal Australian Navy, a lot more are setting the compass bearings for the mines of Kalgoorlie.

They are fit, disciplined and many possess experience with machinery and technology.

Overnight they double their money.

The navy, like other sections of the defence force, have effectively been told to cut their cloth.

They have been given a budget and a bottom line.

Millions must be saved.

I dare say as the sleek patrol vessels are tied up at Devonport because they are short of a crew, the well-crewed deep-sea trawlers skippered by fish-hunters prepared to have a lash at waters they have no right to, will be delighted.

Some may argue that this fleeing of the fleet will open more places for new recruits - young people looking not just for a job, but for adventure and the opportunity to forge a career.

I don't think so ... because they're all off to the money pits of Western Australia as well.

I have a great deal of respect for our navy, as I do for the other branches of the service because they instil good values in their people, do an excellent job in often challenging conditions and put on great breakfasts for journalists when they call.

To further add to the listing morale of the navy was the most remarkable broadside of irony I have encountered in a long time. Despite being invited by the US to join the Rimpac exercise in the Pacific, our frigate HMNZS Te Kaha was barred from tying up at the Pearl Harbour military base.

It was sent to moor with the "civvy" ships in Honolulu instead - as a reaction to the 1987 anti-nuclear policy which barred nuclear-propelled or armed ships from entering our ports.

So the US has stayed away - sticking to a "we will neither confirm nor deny" policy.

So they won't come here, and resultingly we can't tie up at any US military base.

Oddly enough, we accept British, French and Chinese navy hardware into our ports and none get a nuclear checkover. We assume they're toeing the line.

The Prime Minister said the "you can't park here" situation in Hawaii was not a snub, but I disagree.

It is. It has to be, because guess which navy is perfectly welcome to tie up in Pearl Harbour?

The Japanese.

The best that can be said is at least they know the way there.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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