Prime Minister Scott Morrison will make a surprise visit to the Northern Territory today where it is expected he will announce nearly $750 million in defence spending to upgrade four NT ADF training areas amid rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
He’s also expected to attend the Howard Springs quarantine facility, but it remains unclear if an announcement about the facility will be made.
Part of the defence spending will involve massive upgrades to the Bradshaw Field Training Area near Timber Creek that will see its runway extended, roads and facility improvements and a new medical precinct. The area has also been flagged for upgrades to continue “live fire training, brigade level manoeuvre and aerial bombing”.
It’s expected the upgrades to the four facilities will see more war training exercises with US troops and other allies.
In a statement, Mr Morrison said the defence upgrades would provide a “jobs boom” for the NT as part of an $8 billion defence spend over the next decade.
“Defence investment is a mainstay for the Territory economy and we are investing more than $8 billion over the next decade in the NT,” he said.
“My commitment is keeping Australians safe and keeping Australians in a job.”
Mr Morrison is also expected to attend the Howard Springs international quarantine facility following a $500 million deal with the NT Government that will see it assume control of the international wing from the federal Ausmat team next month.
The deal has been controversial, with the Gunner Government announcing last week it had only hired 70 of the necessary 400 health staff needed to run the facility, nearly a month after signing the deal.
Mr Morrison yesterday suspended repatriation flights from India in the wake of that country’s struggle with COVID-19 and the NT recording its highest number of coronavirus cases of people in quarantine.
It is unclear whether Mr Morrison will make an announcement in relation to the facility or repatriation flights in general.
The other three defence training areas that will receive upgrades as part of the $747 million spend include Roberston Barracks, which will see upgrades to its firing ranges, including a “combat shooting range and urban assault range”.
Mount Bundey Training Area, which has been used for live fire activities, will see refurbishments to its 250 person training camp, “site-wide services and infrastructure” upgrades, as well as the implementation of “Urban Operations Facilities”, including aviation facilities.
The Kangaroo Flats Training Area will also see upgrades, including a demolition range, “rifle and grenade assault range” and demolitions range.
The funding is expected to roll out over the next five years.
Labor says funding old announcement, higher costs now
Labor MP and Member for Solomon Luke Gosling said he was pleased Mr Morrison was finally in Darwin again after two years. He said while he welcomed the defence funding announcement, the money had already been committed to similar projects in 2019.
“What I and others have been trying to get Defence and the Federal Government to do, is to stop pushing the timelines out to the right, as in pushing the work back,” Mr Gosling said on Mix 104.9.
“It might be good for their political purposes, but we need this infrastructure up and running ASAP. [We’ve] got to make sure that local companies get a go and it just doesn’t go to all the big companies from down south.
“What I’m trying to stress is that if we had got the Prime Minister here before the two-year mark, maybe some of this work would have already been going and we could have had all our local companies engaged.”