Interview of Senator Marise Payne with Paula Tapiolas - 14 October 2016

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Senator the Hon Marise Payne

Minister for Defence

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  • Henry Budd (Minister Payne‚Äôs office) 0429 531 143
  • Defence Media (02) 6127 1999

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14 October 2016

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Let's talk more now about that enhanced relationship between Townsville and Singapore. A delegation from Singapore is in Townsville at the moment to see the High Range military Training Area where the Singapore Army will be investing millions of dollars. The Australian and Singapore Governments have signed a $2.2 billion 25 year deal to expand training in Queensland. The Defence Minister Marise Payne spoke to Paula Tapiolas about the plans for High Range and the timeframe for the construction.

[Excerpt]

MARISE PAYNE:

This is our framework to implement the increased Singapore Armed Services Army training in Australia. As well as our Townsville Field Training Area and its upgrading, we'll also be upgrading the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, which is of course closer to Rockhampton. And this is going to deliver quite significantly enhanced training outcomes for both the Singapore Armed Services and the Australian Defence Force.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

In what way?

MARISE PAYNE:

Well, we will be ... creating some quite significant infrastructure upgrades which will be important for the increased number of personnel who will be using the facilities. So it will include up to 14,000 Singapore Armed Forces personnel who are going to conduct Army training in Australia for up to 18 weeks a year. The current arrangement has us see 6600 personnel at Shoalwater Bay only at this point for six weeks a year. So 14,000 over 18 weeks between Shoalwater Bay into Townsville is a very significant increase. The training presence will start to increase next year, and by 2021 it will certainly be doubled.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

And what will be built at the High Range Training Area to facilitate those extra troops?

MARISE PAYNE:

So Paula, it will include the sort of basic infrastructure that you might imagine: hard stands, roads, accommodation, wet areas, medical facilities, and storage facilities, the things that go with the basic operation of military activity. And as well as that, we will of course see a number of Singaporean personnel locating themselves in Australia for periods of time throughout the year to run the training, as well as the young soldiers who come to Australia themselves.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

So will there be a support base in Townsville for those Singaporean Forces?

MARISE PAYNE:

I think that that is a decision Singapore will make in due course. Obviously, they make their own decisions in terms of how they base and locate people. But I think what is a very positive opportunity, particularly for Townsville - and something I've been discussing, for example, with my colleague Senator Ian Macdonald in recent times - what is a really positive opportunity is the chance for local business, whether it's in the planning phase or the development phase, to participate in this process, and we do have a real focus on including local business in that.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

So how- how formal are you going to be in that? I mean, are you actually going to write that into the contracts? What's your aim in terms of employing local businesses?

MARISE PAYNE:

It's actually part of the Memorandum of Understanding. It is part of the arrangements I indicate for both the development and for planning process that priority should be given, as far as practicable, to local businesses in the communities.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

Do you imagine it'll be one major contractor overseeing the work in Townsville?

MARISE PAYNE:

Paula, I think that's slightly ahead of us in terms of the preparation. Those details have yet to be finalised.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

Okay. What will you be doing while you're in Townsville?

MARISE PAYNE:

Paula, I'm taking the opportunity to bring my Singaporean Defence colleague, Defence Minister Ng to Townsville to give him a chance to see the Townsville Field Training Area, to meet with some key stakeholders in the local community, including business and Local Government, and of course to introduce him to the beauties of Townsville as you might imagine.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

And so with the business community, is that to forge links in terms of getting started on the work? What sort of timeframe are you looking at?

MARISE PAYNE:

Well, this is the very, very beginning of the process, and I think it's important to emphasise that. This is a significant undertaking. The Singaporean Government is expending a significant amount of money - as I said earlier, $2 billion or thereabouts - and we are at the beginning of the preparation of business cases, of master planning, but we hope to see construction occurring in 2019.

Long before that happens, though, and starting from literally today's signing, we will be commencing our engagement within the business community across a range of areas. So whether we're talking trades or services and those sorts of things which Townsville has significant strengths in, we'll be working with those people. We'll take business delegations coordinated through my colleague, the Minister for Trade Steven Ciobo to Singapore with appropriate business representation from both of the key areas in Rockhampton and Townsville. I look forward to that starting early next year, and to us presenting a really united, coordinated, professional front to Singaporean business community and the Singaporean Government.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

And- so when would you like to see construction start?

MARISE PAYNE:

Well, looking at the requirements in terms of preparation of the business cases and the development of the master plan, looking at the need to work with State and Local Governments, I think an ambitious target of 2018, 2019 is appropriate. There's a lot of work to be done, as I said, and we want to make sure we do this properly. It's very important for the local community; it's very important for the environment, and it's very, very important for the Australian Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces to get this right and do it properly.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

In the meantime, will there be any Singaporean troops in the region training at High Range for that date you're talking about, 2018, 2019?

MARISE PAYNE:

So that is a matter for the Singaporean Government at this stage. They of course have their own training schedules and training plans. But we will continue to work with them and encourage them to use the facilities as much as they possibly can.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

And what were the environmental concerns you mentioned just a moment ago?

MARISE PAYNE:

Not environmental concerns, but we must of course observe the appropriate State and Local Government guidelines that are in place in terms of the work that we do.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

And will this be your first opportunity to see the High Range Training Area?

MARISE PAYNE:

No. I have had the opportunity to visit before with my old mate Ewen Jones and members of the ADF who've taken me there previously.

PAULA TAPIOLAS:

And just in relation to the Air Show this weekend, will you be able to stay to enjoy some of those activities with your delegation?

MARISE PAYNE:

I wish I could, but unfortunately, other matters call.

[End of excerpt]

MICHAEL CLARKE:

Lots of other people will be enjoying it, though. That is the Defence Minister Marise Payne, speaking there with Paula Tapiolas.

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