Leader of the opposition Bill Shorten was in Townsville for a town hall meeting at the Cutheringa Bowls Club. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Leader of the opposition Bill Shorten was in Townsville for a town hall meeting at the Cutheringa Bowls Club. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Labor’s plan to bring Navy to Townsville

A PERMANENT Royal Australian Navy maintenance hub based in Townsville would generate hundreds of local jobs under a Labor plan to bring more defence industry to the North.

Following a public town hall meeting last night, Opposition leader Bill Shorten will remain in Townsville today where he is expected to announce a plan to increase the presence of the Navy's two Amphibious Assault Ships, also known Landing Helicopter Docks, at the Port of Townsville.

The HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide are the Australian Defence Force's flagship vessels and are based at Sydney's Garden Island Naval Base.

If elected Labor would look to establish a permanent rotation of the two LHDs to allow the maintenance to be done in Townsville, which could create between 200 and 400 new ongoing local jobs.

 

The Australian Defence Force currently has an agreement with the port that includes an allocation of up to 45 days a year for naval requirements.

Mr Shorten said the regular docking of the LHDs at the Port of Townsville would create a continuous program of maintenance work for locals.

"It would also facilitate important exercise activities, including most critically those related to the joint amphibious capability of the ADF," he said.

Mr Shorten said the policy was informed by the Federal Government's 2016 Defence White Paper, which recognised existing port arrangements would come under increasing pressure as major new naval platforms come online.

"Labor recognises the future need to balance porting arrangements through providing supplementary options in logical locations to take pressure off permanent bases such as those in Sydney," he said.

Royal Australian Navy landing craft unload during an exercise.
Royal Australian Navy landing craft unload during an exercise.

"Townsville could be a major beneficiary in meeting these requirements, and is a logical location as a supplementary port for the LHDs, given it is home to the Army's multi-role and rapid response 3 Brigade and the amphibious light infantry battalion, 2RAR."

Herbert MP Cathy O'Toole said the jobs generated through the plan would be welcome news to locals.

"Labor has a real plan for jobs in our community and our commitments are showing that," she said.

Port of Townsville chief executive Ranee Crosby said she welcomed Labor's acknowledgment the region had capacity to increase its naval activity and was looking forward to further detail on the proposal.

Royal Australian Navy landing craft unload Australian Army vehicles on to the beach at Upstart Bay during amphibious landing training as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 17.
Royal Australian Navy landing craft unload Australian Army vehicles on to the beach at Upstart Bay during amphibious landing training as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 17.

"Doing maintenance here would add flow on effects for services industries and have a big impact on jobs," she said.

"We have a current contract with the ADF which we agreed to in 2011 when the new LHDs were being built so what we would need to work out if there was a plan to increase visitation … is if they need a new berth or anything dedicated."

Ms Crosby said the Port of Townsville was the only port in the region with an outer harbour planned approved so could build "whatever the ADF need" to meet their strategic defence capabilities.



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