Minister for Defence Marise Payne and her counterpart Singapore Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen visited Townsville and met with local government and business leaders today.
CAPTION: Singapore Army soldiers demonstrate urban assault techniques at Shoalwater Bay Training Area. File photo by Corporal David Cotton.
The visit was a side gig of a visit by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his delegation to Australia, during which Minister Payne and Minister Ng signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Military Training and Training Area Development.
The MoU allows for up to 14,000 Singapore Armed Forces personnel to conduct unilateral – that is, on their own, with no Australian participation – Army training in Australia for up to 18 weeks per year.
While in Townsville, Minister Payne and Dr Ng received a briefing on plans to accommodate the increased training activity, which will include significant upgrading of the Townsville Field Training Area at High Range and in Shoalwater Bay Training Area near Rockhampton.
Key community stakeholders were also briefed on the implementation of the MoU and opportunities that may be forthcoming.
As part of the memorandum, priority will be given to local businesses around Townsville and Rockhampton, in support of both the phases of development and the ongoing training activities, boosting regional jobs and growth.
Construction companies as well as local butchers, bakers, grocers, farmers etc etc are likely to benefit.
Defence also anticipates in the retail and tourism sectors as foreign soldier are allowed local leave.
About $2 billion will be invested in the training areas to support the increased training activities over the next decade.
Defence will begin engaging with community groups next month and will appoint a dedicated community liaison officer in Queensland to ensure business and the community receive timely updates on implementation plans.
Singapore’s training presence will begin to increase from next year.
As this presence increases, the demand for support services and opportunities for local businesses will expand.
Major construction activities are not expected to commence before 2019..