Navy ships may move to Northern Australia

Queensland LNP Senator Ian Macdonald has put the re-location of substantial naval assets from Sydney Harbour to Northern Australian waters back on the national agenda.

In answer to questions put by Senator Macdonald to the Defence Minister at Senate estimates hearings today, Minister Johnston said that the current berthing arrangement for the Navy's new Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) vessels at Garden Island in Sydney could be re-evaluated in the future, depending on circumstances.

The Minister acknowledged Defence's significant investment in infrastructure at the Port of Townsville to accommodate the LHDs. He also acknowledged that the Second Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), which is based at Lavarack Barracks, would be providing the personnel to crew the vessels.

"The Minister has indicated that the question of locating the LHDs near to their operational environment to the north of Australia is one that may be given further consideration," Senator Macdonald said.

"I have been advocating for this since the LHD program was first announced.

"The co-location of forces in and around Townsville makes it the principal step-off point for military operations. Quite simply it passes the common sense test for the LHDs - and the infrastructure that supports them - to be based where the vessels will be operating.

"My concern at the moment, however, is that large sums of tax-payers dollars are being spent to update facilities at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour to accommodate the LHDs when it seems no final decision about their home port has been made.

"This money should, perhaps, be being spent in the North.

The Defence Minister confirmed that the LHDs are currently undergoing sea-trials and any decision would be made following the outcome of these trials.

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