Thank you for coming to this very special occasion for the Australian Defence Force, the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army. This is a magnificent partnership between the State of Queensland, the Port of Townsville, the Australian Defence Force and the Townsville City Council.
The vessels that we will have here, the 28,000 tonne LHD’s that will take several hundred soldiers and more than a dozen helicopters, are a strategic asset that will transform the way Australia does its defence business, not just in Australia, but regionally.
The project to build this facility to port the two 28,000 tonne vessels is a significant project that has run very smoothly, it’s been a great partnership and from Defence’s point of view and the Commonwealth’s point of view, I don’t think it could be more successful.
I want to pay tribute particularly to the Port of Townsville for their foresight and cooperation and the way they have partnered with Navy particularly, in bringing this project forward. It has been a wonderful program and we’re very pleased with the way it’s gone.
I think the people of Townsville can look forward to some exciting times with these very large strategic vessels coming to Townsville in the future, with all of the support, with the soldiers, the sailors and obviously the economic benefits that go with that.
Obviously Townsville is already a very strong garrison city but to see more of a presence of the navy what do you think that will mean for the garrison city?
Well I just think that it will underline the fact that Townsville has a fabulous reputation in terms of the way it is a vital Defence asset, the town is already big on support of Army of the Air Force and when Navy gets here navy will be a part of that. We have no hesitation in acknowledging this is one of the most important towns in our consideration in Defence and I think the way this project has gone has just been something that has underlined the cohesion and the partnership that the Australian Defence Force has with Townsville.
With these facilities do you think that we can have a naval base here in Townsville in the future?
Well these vessels are so large I think you could almost say that when they are here it will be a naval base, I mean seriously I would be very surprised with the 200 metres of length of each of these vessels that you would have anything of this dimension turning up regularly to Townsville of that dimension, of that value and importance strategically to the whole nation. So we are very proud of Townsville and to be part of Townsville in the future with these two ships.
I know that Ewan Jones has got a number of ideas of how we can further cement our Defence relationship here in Townsville, particularly basing more aircraft at the RAAF base and more activities as (inaudible) what about those?
Well look we already have a number of very important assets, the helicopters particularly with the 5th Aviation Regiment stationed here. They are matters that I would expect that the Chief of the Defence Force would take into consideration given how well this program has gone, let’s see what the future holds in that regard, but can I say that I think in terms of the way that Defence is feeling about Townsville now is very positive on a whole host of fronts.