Prime Minister John Key says NBR journalist Jock Anderson's comments that Australian soldiers were lazy bludgers and thieves are offensive and inappropriate, especially so close to Anzac Day.

Anderson made the comments during a panel discussion about a new book by an Australian author on Radio New Zealand last week, saying Australian soldiers "have been reluctant at the best of times".

"They've been essentially lazy bludgers, some of them, and excellent black marketeers, scavengers, poachers and thieves."

He said while Australians had had their moments on the battlefield "but there is no way they can hold a candle, in my opinion, to the Kiwis".


News of his comments has reached Australia and Mr Key said today that while he agreed New Zealand forces were superb in their work "denigrating the Australians as part of that analysis, I don't think, is appropriate".

"I regret those comments. I've seen the Australian Forces in a number of situations when they've been in places like Afghanistan, in Gallipoli and various other places. The spirit of the Anzac tradition is alive and well - it was a tradition forged on the battlegrounds of Gallipoli and to take away from their efforts I find quite offensive."

Anderson's comments were made during a panel discussion on a book by former Australian army officer and Department of Veterans Affairs historian Graham Wilson.

Australian veterans yesterday condemned the comments.