Darwin’s location is of strategic importance. We are at the doorstep of one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors and we have the only functional deep water port on the north coast of Australia. Our location is pivotal for national security.
It is imperative that all of the Territory’s elected members cast aside partisan politics and support the Ship Lift project.
My advice to all elected representatives is to either get on board and back the project or get out. This is what Territorians expect of us.
Instead of shielding the Federal Government from legitimate criticisms on their lack of investment in the North, we must work together to secure the best deal for Territorians.
The Northern Territory needs immediate investment in our infrastructure and our people, to develop our economy and set us up for a more sustainable future.
When I was down in Canberra for the first Parliamentary sittings following the recent Federal election, one of my first meetings was with the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.
We discussed it being in our nation’s best interests to invest in the development of the Territory, including in investing in an Australian owned and operated Ship Lift in Darwin.
A Darwin-based ship refit and sustainment program would offer significant strategic benefits to Defence and its contractors, Border Force and industry in terms of operational availability, as well as reduced logistics costs and savings to the Australian taxpayer.
Michael Shoebridge, Director of Defence and Strategy at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) recently said,
“Infrastructure that can serve civilian and national security purposes like capable ship maintenance facilities is a sensible long term investment to make in Darwin— particularly if the ship lift is large enough to deal with new classes of vessel like the Navy’s Offshore Patrol Combatant and future Border Force vessels.”
The facts are that Darwin’s current ship lift infrastructure is nearing end of life and is not able to service the Nay’s new fleet of OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels).
When the HMAS Coonawarra ship lift is decommissioned by 2024, Darwin will only have one 40 year old, privately owned ship lift that is unsuitable for Defence.
The construction of an East Arm Ship Lift is keenly supported by the Territory business community, with its capacity to unlock future investment in Darwin as a marine maintenance and servicing hub for Northern Australia and the surrounding Indo-Pacific region, diversifying the economy and creating long term local jobs.
This can be a game-changer for the Territory. A booming NT marine service and maintenance industry could mean up to 4000 extra full-time jobs over twenty years, injecting billions into our local economy.
While the Ship Lift is of course not the complete answer to the Territory’s strategic economic future, it is an important part.
To fully capitalise on these opportunities, the facility needs to be in place by late 2022 or we risk losing this industry to an overseas or southern port. If the Federal Government is serious about the Territory, the time to invest is now.
Boosting trade in our region and bringing forward of tourism, Kakadu, roads and Defence infrastructure will all be key. I look forward to working with my Federal and Territory colleagues to secure the best for Territorians.
Published in the Sunday Territorian on 21 July, 2019.