WA appears to have been dudded over plans for an increased US military presence – and the economic benefits it brings – at the Stirling naval base in Cockburn Sound.
Back in November 2011 former US president Barack Obama and Australian prime minister Julia Gillard announced a staged build-up of US troops on Australian soil.
The increase was to be split between marines in Darwin and ships and submarines operating out of the Stirling naval base in Cockburn Sound.
However, while Darwin is now buzzing with a record 2500 marines (that milestone was passed in July), the US appears to have gone cold on the Stirling plan in favour of a new port near the northern capital.
In June the ABC discovered secret planning had begun for a new port about 40 kilometres north-east of Darwin, while a recent US Congressional bill outlined $300 million had been set aside for “navy military construction” in Darwin.
WA premier Mark McGowan’s office told the Herald they’d not been advised of any future increases in US Navy visits to WA. In fact, it was noted, visits had dropped off in recent years.
“Visits are primarily for refuelling and crew changeover, which provides some level of economic benefit,” his office said in an unattributed statement.
Mr McGowan’s office dodged the question of whether WA was again being ignored by the federal government in favour on an interstate competitor:
“We have been working with the federal government to secure more maintenance and sustainment activities and upgrades…”
by STEVE GRANT