SHOALWATER: Ludwig demands answers from Prime Minister
THE impact of the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area (SWBTA) expansion is starting to take shape with 31 per cent of Livingstone Shire's land mass now owned by the Department of Defence.
And Livingstone Mayor Bill Ludwig has told Scott Morrison: "Prime Minister, this certainly does not pass the 'pub test' of a fair go."
"Combined, the likely ongoing total loss of rates revenue from ADF occupying close to one-third of our land mass will be well in excess of $2 million annually, and we have been informed that more acquisitions are still being negotiated," Cr Ludwig wrote in a letter sent to the Prime Minister on Friday.
Livingstone Shire Council has released a map outlining the land acquisitions that have taken place so far.
Cr Ludwig said the map was created based on information the council received from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines - the department which deals with land ownership and titles.
He said requests for information from Federal departments and ministers who could provide an update on where the land acquisition process was had been unsuccessful.
The Morning Bulletin has been able to ascertain two more blocks to the northwest of the existing SWBTA have also been snapped up for the expansion.
Rick and Barbara Bowman will now have the Defence Force as neighbours on two sides of their Lorna Vale property.
Mrs Bowman said the people who owned those properties when the land acquisition notices were sent out in November 2016 had moved on and had sold to the Defence Force.
The Morning Bulletin believes one of those properties once belonged to Sir Graham McCamely.
The Glenprairie property was sold at auction to North Queensland grazier Peter Camm for $28 million in June 2013.
Mr Camm sold Glenprairie cattle station to Defence in January 2017 "for as much as $45 million" (The Australian).
Cr Ludwig said yesterday he had heard many of the owners who have sold received premium prices for their properties.
He said locals had told him they were still in negotiations with Defence.
Cr Ludwig pointed out that Australia has had five Defence ministers since the Shoalwater Bay expansion was first announced.
"It's just a revolving door," he said.
"None of them could get up to speed with the issues."
"Three years on from first finding out about ADF's forced acquisition plans to expand Shoalwater Bay Army Training Area so more foreign troops can train there, the community are still waiting for answers to some major questions.
"Last Saturday's revelations of the extent of the vast areas of highly productive beef land that ADF have already acquired now require appropriate answers to those outstanding questions from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and our local (Capricornia) MP (Michelle Landry).
"Vague responses that it is still 'too early' in the planning stage to give the community simple answers to issues that will impact so heavily on them are simply not good enough.
"If this election is about trust, after three years of detailed planning by ADF and the Federal Government, Livingstone ratepayers and residents have a right to know and get real answers to the following five questions."
In his letter to the Prime Minister on Friday Cr Ludwig wrote: "Livingstone Shire and our community have always been committed supporters of ADF, SAF and the important role SWBTA plays in our nation's defence requirements and joint training initiatives with the US Armed Forces and other allies. Despite this we have effectively been sidelined and kept in the dark as to the full extent of land acquisitions.
"Monitoring of State property transfer data has revealed the SWBTA has now increased from 24.7 per cent to almost 31 per cent of Livingstone Shire's total land mass. Combined, the likely ongoing total loss of rates revenue from ADF occupying close to one-third of our land mass will be well in excess of $2 million annually, and we have been informed that more acquisitions are still being negotiated.
"Just three weeks ago Assistant Minister for Defence David Fawcett told us that not one single dollar will be made available to addressing pressing road safety upgrade issues.
"This was despite the $1 billion SWBTA expansion expenditure, and the $2 billion road infrastructure funding announced in your Government's recent budget.
"Prime Minister, this certainly does not pass the 'pub test' of a fair go.
"Every Livingstone ratepayer and the small townships of Marlborough and Stanage Bay need to know how, if re-elected, a Coalition Federal Government will compensate our community for the huge financial cost and long-term negative economic impacts of these massive land acquisitions, bring the army access roads up to a safe 'fit for purpose' standard and make an equitable contribution to ongoing maintenance as the major road user and land owner.
"To date, Labor is the only side of politics that has genuinely listened and made a $21.6 million commitment to Stanage Bay Road sealing upgrades that will also create tourism and economic development opportunities for the Stanage Bay community."
The Morning Bulletin requested responses from the Prime Minister's office, Ms Landry's office and Liberal Senator Matt Canavan as Cr Ludwig also sent the letter to Ms Landry and Mr Canavan. No responses were received by The Bulletin by deadline yesterday.
Cr Ludwig issued a press release yesterday with a list of questions he says needs answering urgently:
- Exactly what plans have been put in place to address the accumulative impacts on Livingstone ratepayers through loss of rates revenue, $35 million loss from the regional beef industry and the direct social and economic impacts on both Marlborough and Stanage Bay townships?
- If re-elected to Federal Government does the Coalition have any intention of contributing to the next stages of upgrading army access routes to a safe "fit for purpose'" standard and to making a fair contribution to maintaining the local roads they use?
- How much of the promised $1 billion touted to bring economic benefits will be left following the huge amount spent on acquiring the vast areas of highly productive grazing properties so far?
- What will the operational impacts be on the handful of primary producers left in those areas?
- Without former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull there to intervene, will ADF eventually revert to forced acquisitions again to squeeze out remaining property owners?