Compelling reasons to keep status quo at Fleet Base East (Garden Island)

The Gillard Government's backtracking on limiting cruise-ship access to the naval base at Garden Island again elevates party-political expediency and local pork-barrelling above the national interest.

Letter to The Daily Telegraph (Sydney)

Monday, 16 July 2012
(published Tuesday, 17 July 2012)


Your understandably Sydney-centric, but deeply flawed, editorial unwisely lauded the PM for “accurately judging there is no practical reason why Garden Island cannot be a dual use facility” ("Gillard cruises in with good news for city's tourism", July 16).

There are, in fact, numerous and compelling strategic, operational, financial, geographic, oceanographic, maritime trade and national equity reasons preventing this already overcrowded base being used as a “cheap fix” to bail out NSW Governments and various industries for not investing in deep-water wharfage for cruise ships.

And they were explained again as recently as March this year, when an independent report on defence force basing was handed to the PM which noted that such dual use was not a viable or long-term solution.  

Fleet Base East - as the name denotes - is long-established and irreplaceable national defence infrastructure built up over a century  to defend all Australians, not just Sydneysiders.

No other location on the Australian east coast can replicate its strategic, operational and industrial facilities and advantages.

Claims that the base could or should be moved elsewhere are particularly farcical. Every vaunted alternative location is strategically, practically and/or financially impossible, not just unsuitable.

Your editorial massaging selfish local views ignores that the national taxpayer should not have to foot the bill, or cop the many other costs, because successive NSW governments have neglected harbour infrastructure.

Nor should the long-term national defence requirements of all Australians ever be sacrificed for short-term and local political expediency.

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