John Blaxland writes in The Conversation (8.2.17) about the recent controversy over federal government plans to acquire additional land around the Shoalwater Bay military training area, providing Singapore’s military with an expanded area in which to conduct exercises. The author points out that the small city-state is an important regional ally, and Australia should work hard to maintain that strong relationship.
‘Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has said the Australian government has “no intention” to forcibly acquire farmland north of Rockhampton in Queensland for military purposes. While this may come as a relief to landowners fighting against the acquisition, the Australian Defence Force is still in agreement with Singapore to provide land for military exercises.
‘The existing defence training areas in Shoalwater Bay and near Townsville were earmarked for expansion to honour the deal, under which the number of Singapore’s troops on rotation in Australia will increase from 6,000 to 14,000.
‘This all begs the questions: why do we need to provide land to Singapore at all and what do we stand to gain from the arrangement? The answers lie in our historical relationship with Singapore and our strategic place in the region.’