Government signals support for Qld naval base expansion
THEIR throats still bear the telltale claw marks of political scrapping but at last the state and federal governments have shown a modicum of unity on future Cairns naval expansion.
The Cairns TNQ Convoy to Capital Q notched up its first win yesterday with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk throwing support behind the city's designation as a naval regional maintenance centre.
It might seem an arbitrary no-brainer at first blush - but as the owner of the port and surrounding marine precinct land, having the State Government's official support behind expanding HMAS Cairns and related industries is a big deal.
Advance Cairns executive chairman Nick Trompf said having that formal policy position also had to lead to state spending on infrastructure.
He said Cairns was in a race with Darwin to become the major naval hub for the Pacific - and the geographically logical choice for that title was losing due to a lack of State Government investment.
"Now we need to see the whites of their eyes and how they're going to back it up," Mr Trompf said. "The Northern Territory Government has its chequebook on the table."
A former chief of the Australian army, Lieutenant General John Grey (retired), led the convoy's defence and marine sector delegation.
He said it was time for Queensland to get serious about its only naval base.
"The Northern Territory Government is already putting in significant money - $100 million, and they've had funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility of a further $300 million," he said.
"That's $400 million they're putting in to support their regional maintenance centre. We've got to watch that."
The usual political games were playing out despite the positive feeling among the Cairns cavalcade.
The Premier issued a statement saying the Federal Government was yet to reveal its future defence sustainment and maintenance commitments for Cairns.
Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch responded with an annoyed letter to State Development Minister Cameron Dick, saying HMAS Cairns' masterplan - details of which were published in the Cairns Post in October last year - was a matter of public record.
"I note the Western Australia and Northern Territory governments have been extremely proactive in the space and already invested heavily to ensure that their ports will play a future role in the sustainment and maintenance of the Royal Australian Navy fleet," he wrote.
"To date there has been zero commitment either materially or financially from the Queensland Government - in fact, this is the first time you have actually supported this initiative."