Strengthening Australia's Northern Bases

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

Media contact

Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

The Hon Pat Conroy MP

Minister for Defence Industry

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

Media contact

(02) 6277 7840

General enquiries

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27 April 2023

The Albanese Labor Government will bolster investment in Australia’s northern bases, committing $3.8 billion over the next four years. 

A key priority area identified in response to the Defence Strategic Review is improving the ability of the Australian Defence Force to operate from Australia’s northern bases.

It is clear that given our strategic circumstances, the Australian Army must be optimised for littoral operations in northern land and maritime spaces, and provide a long-range strike capability. Air Force must also be equipped to support operations in the north through surveillance, air defence, strike and air transport.

In order to realise this, the Government has directed Defence to deliver upgrades and development of the northern bases network as a matter of priority, including:

  • $2 billion for critical air bases stretching from RAAF Base Learmonth through Cocos (Keeling) Islands, as well as air bases in the Northern Territory and northern Queensland;
  • $1 billion for upgrades to land and joint estate capabilities;
  • $600 million in maritime estate investments including HMAS Coonawarra, HMAS Cairns and the Harold E Holt Naval Communications Station, and;
  • An additional $200 million towards the acceleration of additional projects.

In line with the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review, work across northern air bases will include upgrades to runway and apron capacity, fuel supply and storage, accommodation and security.

Investment in land and estate will be centred on major training area upgrades in the Northern Territory, and upgrades at Robertson Barracks in Darwin and Lavarack Barracks in Townsville.

This immediate work will be complemented by the inaugural National Defence Strategy in 2024 which will further progress the Government’s investment for this important priority. 

The $3.8 billion is part of the Albanese Government’s $19 billion commitment over the forward estimates to implement the six priority areas outlined in response to the Defence Strategic Review.

Quotes attributable to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles:

“As the Defence Strategic Review rightly observes, our northern bases are a huge asset and critical to Australia’s ability to project.

“Our immediate investment in these bases will ensure our Defence Force is able to operate from them effectively.

“This is an important opportunity which will ensure the ADF has the infrastructure and capabilities it needs into the future.”

Quotes attributable to the Minister for Defence Industry, Pat Conroy:

“Under the Albanese Government the future for northern Australia looks bright.

“We are investing in the north as we reshape and modernise Defence, building the capabilities Australia needs for the future.”

“This will mean more opportunities for defence industry in northern Australia, which will mean more jobs in communities across the north.”

Quotes attributable to the Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite:

"Defence bases and infrastructure in the north are essential enablers for Australia's capability and major drivers of economic activity.

“Strengthening bases in the north further supports Defence operations and provides key economic opportunities in regional and remote areas.

“The Albanese Labor Government is committed to maximising these opportunities for local industry and Indigenous companies to be involved in delivering works.”

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