MEMBER For Leichhardt Warren Entsch has welcomed the positive signs for Cairns in the progress report of the Defence Force Posture Review but urged the community to make its voice heard to ensure the expansion of the city’s port facilities and naval base.
Mr Entsch said he was pleased that Cairns received a positive endorsement in the progress report, released on Monday, but warned the city faced fierce competition from other regions.
The progress report recommends the expansion of existing bases in Cairns, Darwin and Perth as part of strategic measures to better position Defence Force assets in the north.
In particular, Mr Entsch said Cairns must lobby for port infrastructure expansion to accommodate the navy’s future Offshore Patrol Vessels and replacement Landing Craft, Heavy (LCH) ships.
“We have to make sure Cairns is front and centre in this posture review and make it known that we need an expansion of port facilities to increase our capacity or take larger vessels,” Mr Entsch said.
“The expansion of our port facilities and HMAS Cairns would provide much-needed stability for the region’s economy.
“Capital cities such as Brisbane and Perth are receiving a lot of attention as potential bases for the bulk of naval assets so we can’t take our foot off the pedal when it comes to lobbying and pushing our case for expansion.
“Our unique lifestyle is a key attractor for navy personnel and our location in the South-East Asian and Pacific Island region means Cairns is ideally placed for naval expansion.
“We must not let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”
The final report of the Defence Force Posture Review is due for release at the end of March.
HMAS Cairns is currently home to about 1000 navy personnel and 14 vessels, but experts believe the base is capable of growing to between 3000 and 4000 personnel and at least one major warship.