Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced April 28 that he will spend A$747 million (about $580 million) to upgrade four major northern military bases and expand joint military exercises with the United States. Morrison said the move is intended to prepare Australia for an “uncertain” world and region.
Speaking to the media in Darwin, Morrison said the investment will upgrade four military bases in Australia’s Northern Territory and upgrade training areas for combat training, including joint military exercises with U.S. forces and other allies. Morrison noted his commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” that would prepare Australia for the current geopolitical environment. He said, “Our goal here is to ensure an area of peace, but also an area where Australia can always provide protection.” He added, “This is an investment that is intended not only to protect the security of Australians, but to advance and protect our national interests in a very uncertain world and in what could become a very uncertain region.”
Mike Pezzullo, secretary-general of the Australian Department of Home Affairs, warned in a 27th contribution to The Australian that “in a world of chronic tension and fear, the drums of war are beating, sometimes faintly and distantly, but sometimes more loudly and ever closer.” He said, “Today, free nations are once again hearing the drums of war and watching with apprehension as issues move in a militarized direction, issues that until recent years we thought were unlikely to be triggers for war.” Pézuro said, “Let us continue to keep seeking opportunities for peace, while at the same time preparing once again for the scourge of war.” He stated, “With our determination and strength, with the weapons we have prepared and our governing strategy, let us set out to reduce the possibility of war, but this cannot be at the expense of our precious freedoms.”
In response to the controversial statement, Pezzullo clarified Wednesday that “that was a lament, and the prime minister repeated it yesterday, (saying) that it was for peace.” He stressed that “we must keep seeking peace.” Morrison also reiterated his commitment to the pursuit of peace in his speech on Wednesday. The upgrades to the military bases in question will reportedly include the renovation of firing ranges for weapons training, land battle scenarios and training camps used by soldiers, all of which will be completed within five years. Morrison said the investment will help “ensure the readiness of our defense forces and their access to the best training facilities available anywhere in the world.”
It is understood that the upgrade will be done at Robertson Barracks Close Training Area (Robertson Barracks Close Training Area), Kangaroo Flats Training Area (Kangaroo Flats Training Area), Mount Bundey Training Area and the Bradshaw Field Training Area.
The Morrison government said the investment plan is part of an A$8 billion ($6.2 billion) fund earmarked for Northern Territory defense infrastructure over the next decade. Last year, the Morrison government committed A$270 billion ($209.1 billion) to Australian military spending as part of its defense strategy update. The Australian government also described this upgrade as increasing opportunities for joint training with U.S. forces under the Force Posture Agreement. The agreement provides for a U.S. military presence in the Indo-Pacific region through military bases established in Australia’s Northern Territory. As part of the agreement, the U.S. Marine Corps rotates about 2,200 Marines per year for military training in Darwin.
Morrison said, “We will work with the United States, our allies and Indo-Pacific neighbors to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly throughout Northern Australia.” He stressed, “Our focus is on a world order that supports freedom, the pursuit of peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Morrison noted that the upgrade will also maximize local employment opportunities through “targeted industry programs that employ local businesses throughout the supply chain.” “My commitment is to ensure the security of Australians and to ensure that Australians have jobs,” he said. Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton also said the funding increase would ensure the Australian Defence Force’s ground combat capability is “equipped with the technology we need to maintain our competitive edge”.