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Mayor backs push for Gladstone naval base

Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant David Maddison, from Melbourne, stands battle watch commander aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) during an air defense exercise.
Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant David Maddison, from Melbourne, stands battle watch commander aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) during an air defense exercise. MC1 Byron C. Linder

INVESTING in the Gladstone region could save the Australian Defence Force time and money, according to Gladstone's mayor.

Cr Matt Burnett wants the defence force's presence in Gladstone to move from the occasional use of the port, to more full-time visitors.

In a written submission to the senate inquiry into the impact of ADF training activities and facilities on rural and regional communities, he said Gladstone had the affordable living, deep water port and workforce for a naval base.

Australian and other countries' defence force ships offload machinery at the Gladstone Harbour but the economic benefits the region feels in return are too small to record.

In comparison, Rockhampton hosts about 30,000 troops at its bi-annual Talisman Sabre exercise at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

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In his submission, Cr Burnett said Gladstone has "strategic advantages" to open up new defence opportunities.

The inquiry, which will publish a report by November 30, visited Rockhampton on Wednesday, and was in Townsville yesterday.

"At present, (importing equipment) is the only real impact the defence industry has on the Gladstone region and the overall contribution to the economy is too small to be measured," Cr Burnett said.

He wants to see navy ships docked at Gladstone's deep water port between their missions, or during restocks.

He said Gladstone had the benefit of being closer to south east Asia, compared to more southern ports.

"This reduces the time and cost of deployment to the areas of the world that are most likely to be visited by the ADF," he said.

Gladstone's major industry could also play a role in a defence force boost.

"The Gladstone region is already a strong part of the Australian economy and we believe we have significant strengths that would give strategic benefits to the ADF," Cr Burnett wrote.

"Many of these requirements are similar to those in place within Gladstone's major heavy industry and most of the large maintenance and construction companies are ready to meet defence procurement requirements."

"This is a key benefit to the work that is scheduled to be undertaken in the SWQBTA as part of the expansion for the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative."

Topics:  australian defence force gladstone region naval base



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