CITIZENS FOR DEFENCE
Robert Bond Director Citizens for Defence
Move navy to northern bases
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd intends to form a task force to look into closing the Garden Island naval base in Sydney harbour and moving the ships to HMAS Sterling, Broome, Darwin, and possibly Brisbane Townsville and Cairns.
At last we have a politician who can see the future need to build up our defences in Northern Australia. This task force will have a serious job to do in shaping our defence posture for the rest of this century.
Whether short sighted politicians will follow through when the time comes will be another Question.
Garden Island naval base is on the dearest real estate in the land and is nestled in the centre of Sydney. In any conflict it will be one of the first bases targeted by the enemy and in a severe attack hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders could be killed or injured.
There is limited space to berth big ships. The time to move is now with the proceeds of the sale of the site put towards establishing another naval base on the east coast of Australia to carry out heavy maintenance and servicing of our ships and submarines as well as three battle hardened bases in Northern Australia to berth, fuel up and arm our battle fleet for extensive exercises in northern waters in order to defend the nation or carry out humanitarian tasks in event of natural disasters.
Brisbane may be a suitable site for a ship maintenance base but harbours in the Townsville Cairns area should be closely scrutinised for suitability as it would be much closer to where the warships are based. Gladstone and Mackay are other areas that may support a base.
The three hardened naval bases on our northern shores should be at Broome near the bare base RAAF Curtin, Darwin and Weipa in Cape York Peninsula near the bare base RAAF Scherger. These RAAF bare bases should be made fully operational over time to combine with the naval bases and provide air cover for the navy.
At present it takes ships at least 4 days to sail from Sydney or HMAS Sterling to Darwin and this is just too big an advantage to give an enemy if Australia is under attack. With the ships stationed at Broome, Darwin and Scherger the enemy can be engaged immediately further out to sea and this could be crucial in achieving a satisfactory naval engagement.
Rudd has said that these relocations would not be funded out of the defence budget but I assume by special grants and sale of the Garden city site. Other bases in the south of Australia could be partially or totally sold off or reduced in size and those proceeds and savings put towards the proposed new bases.
These changes could lift our defence forces out of the present pathetic apathy because of governments starving them of funding. These new bases could double the effectiveness of our fighting forces in defending this nation at minimal additional cost when taken over thirty years.
Governments may see value for money in implementing this new plan and generously fund the changes resulting in the first time ever Australia reaches a point where it can defend itself with some vigour and purpose.