Silence on Singapore defence spend

Posted May 12, 2016

Townsville Field Training Area

There are more questions than answers around how the local supply chain will benefit from the the new defence support agreement with Singapore.

Townsville Chamber of Commerce met with Member for Herbert Ewen Jones and LNP Senator Ian Macdonald at a board meeting yesterday.

They were seeking clarification on the announcement that more than $2 billion would be spent in facilitating the training of up to 14,000 Singaporean military personnel for up to 18 weeks a year.

It includes upgrading Shoalwater Bay Training and north of Rockhampton and the Townsville Field Training Area.

The board was left empty-handed, according to chamber president Troy Popam.

“We raised the issue with them in today’s (Wednesday, May 11) board meeting and neither can fill us in, apart from a reference to road and airport upgrades in Rockhampton,” Mr Popam said.

“Neither Ian nor Ewen can confirm the commitment other than the (amount of) funding. They are either holding back or because they don’t know or they know but aren’t saying.

“All Ewen gave us today was that there’d be more announcements along the way. ‘It’ll be announced over the next 52 days (prior to the election)’, he said. That’s all we know.”

Mr Popam agreed that the supply chain was overflowing with excess stock and plant and needed the confidence of knowing that there was work in the pipeline.

In recent media releases, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry has referred to defence infrastructure, roads and hi-tech hardware with spin-off benefits for tourism and retail.

“In a time when CQ is suffering a major mining downturn and in need of a jobs boost, the spins-off for potential new employment opportunities, business and construction contracts, retail spending and tourism could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to local businesses over time,” Ms Landry said.

“Singapore defence already spends on average $35 million a year in Capricornia for Exercise Wallaby. This includes recreational retail and tourism spending, accommodation, hospitality, and engaging local contractors for logistics and supplies. This is now set to skyrocket.”

Ms Landry said she has urged the government to ensure that Singapore must use local suppliers where suitable.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would benefit from increased access to Australian military training areas, including up to 14,000 Singaporean military personnel participating in training in Australia each year, Mr Jones said.

“This will bring us closer as defence partners and generate significant local economic activity in Queensland,” he said.

The ‘massive’ defence spend in Townsville would boost confidence, generate economic activity and create jobs, Mr Jones said.

“Importantly, this arrangement will require infrastructure to support it. Defence recognises that local contractors should be given every opportunity to participate in this construction work,” he said.

“This is a real win for our local contractors and proof that my Tenders for Townsville campaign is being listened to and acted on by the Turnbull Government.”

Neither Ms Landry nor Mr Jones’ office return calls yesterday.

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