Chief Minister Michael Gunner has shared the extent of his government’s foreign policy while on radio Wednesday morning, saying the NT has “always been a target” for international aggressors but that signing up to trade deals will ensure the NT is not “invaded” by China.
Mr Gunner was asked about the Australian Navy being fitted out with long-range guided missiles and other fire power to defend Australia against Maritime threats in the Indo-Pacific region, when he suggested a potentially increased US military presence in the region would be good for the NT’s economy and the highly touted, taxpayer-funded, $400 million ship lift facility that neither the Australian nor American governments have signed up to use.
“We put the ship lift in place and that was prior to some of these decisions, so the ship lift stacked up, if that makes sense, if you go back a few years,” he told Mix 104.9.
“It got even more value now that we know there’s gonna be even more vessels operating in our area that need to be serviced and maintained, refueled here with that fuel reserve (project).”
Mr Gunner was asked if that made Darwin a target.
“Everyone who lives in the Territory, Darwin in particular, knows that we’ve always been a target,” he said. “We got bombed in 1942, we’re a valuable strategic location.
“That’s why we are a defence town, we have been a defence town obviously for an incredibly long time. We are other towns as well, but yeah, we are also a defence town.”
He was then asked if he held concerns about China’s increasingly fractured relationship with Australia.
“I think that we always need to invest into the global trade between nations,” he said. “So, Japan (and then-prime minister Shinzo) Abe came here a few years back with Inpex opening – that was a deliberate symbol that trade works.
“The current global – the way the world currently works – with how we trade, is how we avoid war. We’ve got to have positive trade relationships.
“If you allow people to buy what they need, then they don’t invade you.”
Mr Gunner has quietly supported China’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative but has not been asked about it publicly in the NT. China has increased tariffs on Australia products as retaliation for critical comments about the country in recent months.
Mr Gunner also said during the interview that he was made aware that newly installed US President Joe Biden had “personally received” the letter Mr Gunner had written to him inviting him to Darwin with “complimentary crocodile insurance” and promises of “a bloody good time” but had not heard back yet.
Foreign policy, national security and defence matters are the responsibility of the Federal Government.
After intense pressure, Mr Gunner recently released a document he had signed while on a trade mission to Shenzhen, China in 2019 that he had kept secret for more than a year that obligated the NT to work with the Shenzhen Bureau of Education on student and teacher exchanges, among other educational initiatives.
The secrecy over the arrangement has still not been explained despite the Opposition CLP calling for Mr Gunner to explain his actions to Territorians. The deal is expected to be vetted by the Federal Government and could be terminated if found not to be in the nation’s interests under recently strengthened federal legislation.