Strategic principles underly Commonwealth resumption of land for military purposes

Compulsory resumption of farmland can be heartbreaking for owners or leaseholders and naturally controversial. Such measures stem, however, from any Government's reluctant but necessary application of key principles to the long-term strategic security benefit of every Australian. While resulting controversies are often inevitable, they need to be discussed and justly resolved based on facts, the principles involved and patient listening to all concerned. Claims by any side based instead on emotion, simplistic pseudo-solutions or other subjective views simply exacerbate and needlessly prolong the controversy without actually helping anyone.


Letter to The Australian Financial Review 
Monday, 05 December 2016
(published Tuesday, 06 December 2016)

As part of the eventual post-World War II modernisation of the ADF, the resumption of freehold and leasehold land for the High Range and Shoalwater Bay military training areas, in north and central Queensland respectively, was greatly assisted by the 1967 drought depressing prices.

But Commonwealth resumption of land, even on just terms under Section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution, can involve heartbreak — as can not efficiently using our continental landmass for strategic purposes to the benefit of all Australians over the long term.

All Australians, and indeed our natural environment, have benefited from our defence force having permanent access to, and stewardship of, large-scale training areas.

The strategic, operational and financial efficiency of High Range is particularly boosted by its proximity to the Army’s largest combat force base in Townsville.

Being on the coast, Shoalwater Bay is used by all three Services and our allies. Its contribution to Australia’s security and diplomacy is substantial and enduring.

Finally, simplistic claims that our defence force should instead be based in widely separated and far-flung areas no good for anything else ignores that members of the ADF and their families are fellow Australians.

As they often don’t get to choose where they live, isolating them for decades in remote places is both unfair in terms of community standards and ineffective economically.

Not least in incurring high financial and operational costs when personnel retention rates rise due to family discontent.


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