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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 782

Defence Land Acquisition

Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. On what date did the minister first advise the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan, or the member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, about the possibility of compulsory acquisitions as part of the expansion of the Shoalwater Bay training area and Townsville field training area under the military training agreement with Singapore?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:51): I do not have that detail with me. To the best of my recollection, those discussions were held in October. If that is not correct, I will of course adjust the record.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, a supplementary question?

Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:51): Why did the minister deceive the voters of Capricornia by not telling them before the 2016 federal election that the expansion of the Shoalwater Bay and Townsville training areas involved compulsory land acquisitions?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:51): I completely reject the premise of the senator's question. There are, in fact, no compulsory land acquisitions underway. I would also remind the senator that this is a very important strategic undertaking both for Australia and Singapore. It is a significant engagement between Australia and Singapore. The planning process for this, which those opposite are singularly incapable of appreciating, is extensive and lengthy and is, indeed, still underway. They appear completely oblivious to the important opportunities available for Central and North Queensland in relation to the investment, and that is hardly surprising because they have no plan for Queensland whatsoever.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, a final supplementary question?

Senator WATT (Queensland) (14:52): Did the minister discuss her plan to withhold the information before the election from the people of Capricornia with the Prime Minister, his office or any other member of the coalition government?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:52): As I said yesterday, I was preliminarily advised about the potential requirements for training area expansion in June 2016. Considerable planning continued in the Department of Defence during that time. It was the subject of internal activities, not external discussions.