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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 613

Ms LANDRY (CapricorniaDeputy Nationals Whip) (12:44): I rise today to provide an update on plans by Australian Defence to expand facilities at the Shoalwater Bay military training ground. Shoalwater Bay is north of Rockhampton and is located in the Shire of Livingstone. Singapore is one of the many countries that train at Shoalwater Bay with our Australian troops.

In the middle of last year, under a joint Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Singapore pledged to invest $2.25 billion in Queensland based military training sites at Shoalwater Bay and Townsville.

Late last year, as Australian Defence leaders began further outlining their plan to expand the Shoalwater Bay facility, it emerged that the military might require additional surrounding grazing land. Some graziers struck a deal and willingly sold their properties at a large profit. However, during the course of this process, fears were raised about the prospect of Defence enforcing legislation to compulsorily acquire farmland as a large resort. For the past two months, this has caused great anxiety, uncertainty and anger amongst the landholders, seafood sector workers and small businesses in that district. Families like the Geddes at Couti-Outi station feared their historic family property would be consumed by Defence.

Last year I met with stakeholders and promised that I would sensibly and firmly push behind the scenes to ensure that their concerns over the possibility of forced land sales were heard at the highest level of the federal government. I was in constant contact with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and defence minister. I got the defence minister to Rockhampton to meet with the stakeholders, and last Friday I took the Deputy Prime Minister out to Couti-Outi station to talk with a group of farmers, small business owners and workers representing the entire district. On Monday back in Canberra, the member for Flynn and I met with the Prime Minister and the defence minister for further robust discussions. We met again with the Prime Minister, defence minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

On Tuesday this week, I welcomed a pledge from the Prime Minister that no landholder in the Shoalwater Bay district would be forced to sell their property to Defence. This has come as a big relief to local landholders. Farmers that do want to sell voluntarily, however, will still be able to approach Defence themselves. A press release from the Minister for Defence stated:

… Defence will only purchase land from willing sellers around Shoalwater Bay Training Area …

The minister said:

… it is clear that the community have significant concerns and it is important forced sales are ruled out to alleviate these concerns.

The $2.25 billion capital injection under the joint Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Singapore is good for the Queensland economy. Under the Shoalwater Bay upgrade, nearly $1 billion will be spent north of Rockhampton. This revamp will create important business spin-offs for the city of Rockhampton in construction, logistics, transport, tourism, retail, hospitality and accommodation. Visiting Singapore troops already inject $35 million locally. The upgrades of ADF zones are also part of Australia's own national security needs, training our soldiers to protect us from the growing threats of terrorism in our own backyard. I have previously stated that I support this investment, and I still do, but I also support our farmers. As a result, I support this week's decision that will see no forced sale of their homes and farms. I sincerely thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the defence minister for listening to concerns from local landholders, and we look forward to welcoming more Singapore and Aussie troops to our region for increased training in the future.