A group of regional councils have called for a major Australian defence hub to be moved closer to their area amid emerging security threats in the South Pacific.
The plan would see the ‘high readiness’ 7th Brigade of the Australian Army, currently based at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera, Brisbane, moved to Rockhampton in Central Queensland.
The area’s Regional Organisation of Councils put its defence strategy forward on Wednesday in a $4.5billion plan that would involve building new army bases in Central Queensland, giving the Australian Defence Force scope to launch longer missiles.
Members of the 16th Regiment armed with RBS-70 look on as US Army Apache Attack helicopters strut their stuff at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland
Defence Minister Peter Dutton (centre) has said the only way to preserve peace in the South Pacific ‘is to prepare for war and be strong as a country, not to cower, not to be on bended knee and be weak’
The 7th Brigade (pictured) could be shifted up north to Central Queensland, based in Rockhampton under the plan proposed by Central Queensland councils
Its goal is to better position the nation to face off against potential security threats in light of last month’s signing of a security pact between the Solomon Islands and China.
Tensions have been high between Australia and Solomon Islands since the island nation, located around 2,000km from the Queensland coast, signed up to the security deal.
CQROC, which consists of various councils including the Rockhampton, Livingstone, Gladstone, Banana, Woorabinda and Central Highlands shires, want federal support for the plan.
Their 48-page plan outlined the ADF’s urgent need to boost military advantage, arguing the need for defence reinforcement had ‘accelerated faster than anticipated’.
The councils claimed the plan would create over 20,000 jobs, bring in an influx of residents and create an economic boom for the less populated parts of the state.
The strategy involves establishing an Army barracks in Rockhampton, as well as an RAAF base at the airport.
It proposes the now Brisbane-based 7th Brigade, and future US Marines and British Armed Forces rotations, should be moved to the barracks in Rockhampton.
Other parts of the plan include setting up a Fleet Base North at Gladstone Port and a School of Armour at Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
The council are also requesting federal support for a centralised depot of Army armoured vehicles.
CQROC deputy chair and Livingstone Shire Mayor Andy Ireland said the new bases will put the nation in a better position to counter threats and promote strength within.
The Councils said the ‘high readiness’ 7th Brigade of the Australian army, based in Enoggera at Brisbane (pictured), is urgently needed in the northern parts of Queensland
‘Building new bases in the region will enable quicker response times to strategic threats in the region – more training more often – better security for our Northern Approaches and the South Pacific and more secure and self-reliant supply chains,’ Cr Ireland said in a statement.
‘A centralised armoured vehicle storage and maintenance depot could be built at Shoalwater Bay Training Area to overcome the challenge of moving the ADF’s new over-size and over-mass combat vehicles between bases and training areas.’
If delivered the move is forecast to create 21,866 new jobs and bring an additional 36,618 residents to Central Queensland in a $4.5bn economic boost to the region, though no timeline for the plan had yet been established.
The ambitious plan comes after Federal Defence Minister Peter Dutton warned last April that the country should brace itself in view of the emerging tensions.
‘The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war and be strong as a country, not to cower, not to be on bended knee and be weak,’ he said on Anzac Day.
A centralised armoured vehicle storage and maintenance depot could be built at the Shoalwater Bay training area off the coast of Central Queensland (pictured)