Misfire in our Defence plan

A BOLD council push for a ramped-up military presence in the Rockhampton region may have missed its mark.

An Australian Defence Force Posture Review interim report, released on Monday, recommends an expansion of explosive ordnance storage facilities at Bajool and Port Alma.

However the report, by former defence department secretaries Ric Smith and Dr Alan Hawke, falls short of recommending any projects for large-scale military activity in Central Queensland.

It says there are restrictions on future activities at Shoalwater Bay due to the department's high standard of environmental stewardship and the area's proximity to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

And while the Rockhampton region's diverse economic base and capacity to support a significant permanent ADF presence is recognised, the interim report makes no further mention of expansion here despite a submission from the Queensland Government pushing for Defence to review its preliminary plans for Rockhampton Airport.

A key Rockhampton Regional Council priority is pushing for a larger and more permanent military presence in the region.

Yesterday Mayor Brad Carter said he still held hope for an increase in activity and expansion of operations at Shoalwater Bay and the airport.

Cr Carter, who hadn't had an opportunity to read the report by early yesterday, said he'd had a lot of discussions with defence representatives and was optimistic about the region's future prospects.

The report says the Shoalwater Bay Training Area is heavily used by the ADF and foreign forces "and has very little capacity for any additional activity, although in the future some capacity may be freed up" if the ADF uses other areas more intensively.

"Under the current treaty-level Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2009, Singapore is allowed exclusive use of Shoalwater Bay for 45 consecutive days per year until the end of 2019.

"In 2010, SAF access was extended to 65 days per year until 2012 and this was recently re-extended to 2015."

It says Defence might consider the option of further developing the existing explosives ordnance loading port at Port Alma and investing in improved explosives ordnance storage with a Defence precinct at the nearby Queensland Government facility at Bajool, to support both maritime task force and amphibious operations.

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