EXCLUSIVE: The push to relocate the cavalry to Rockhampton
KEEPING Matt Canavan as a senator has become even more important to Central Queensland.
The Rockhampton-based politician, whose parliamentary future remains in limbo pending an October High Court decision on his dual citizenship issue, is backing the relocation of an armoured regiment from Brisbane to Rockhampton.
That is a big step up from Senator Canavan's position following last year's election when he only supported the transfer of an armoured vehicle maintenance section here (up to 40 staff).
To move a regiment would mean about 500 personnel and their families moving to Rockhampton in a major boost to the local economy.
"I fully support the relocation of a tank regiment here," Senator Canavan said in an interview in Rockhampton last week.
"That would be hundreds of personnel: not just maintenance staff, but all the operators should all be based up here.
"If I was made defence minister tomorrow, that would be the first thing to do. I'm not going to make promises I can't keep but that's what I'd be fighting for."
He said Capricornia MP Michelle Landry also supported the push.
He didn't name the regiment but the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) is located in Brisbane and is a regiment of the Australian Army and forms part of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.
Senator Canavan said the first step would still be moving the maintenance staff to Rockhampton.
He said to move transport vehicles "back and forwards from Brisbane every time" there was a Shoalwater Bay exercise was "ridiculous".
He said the transfer of the full unit to CQ was now a priority.
"I'll be pushing this case," he said. "That's my position."
But he said Central Queenslanders could not expect the process to be a quick one.
"It's not going to happen in the next year or even two. You have to be realistic about what you can achieve in politics," he said.
"We can't move people out of their homes in a matter of months, but long term we should be looking to get the whole regiment up here. Why not?
"Michelle (Landry) and I and others will continue to push the case just as we have done with Rookwood (weir) and the property rights at Shoalwater Bay."
"We went back (to Canberra) and we got the results."
Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne welcomed Senator Canavan and Ms Landry's support for a large, permanent base here, but he cautioned on how long such a transfer would take.
"It would take six months to design and then two years to build a cavalry base, but I reckon that would be great," he said.
"I've been pushing for it for years. Permanent positions, demand for housing services, 500 permanent jobs parachuted into the local economy."
He said hundreds of military jobs had been eroded from the region over the past 20 years as the Australian Government moved towards establishing super bases, but the case for moving people back into the region was compelling.
"I had this conversation with (former ALP Member for Capricornia) Kirsten Livermore, that we needed a permanent army presence in Rockhampton.
"We could take a battle group here where we have the best training area in the country up the road from here, more than enough space.
"We are the perfect fit, best live firing on the east coast, and the Port of Gladstone is just down the road, a short distance from Shoalwater Bay."