Claims Navy may torpedo harbour

THE department planning WA’s outer harbour has acknowledged that national security issues have mainly been run past a state government department rather than Defence itself.

Former premier Colin Barnett has claimed top-shelf advice that Defence concerns about Chinese ships being too close to its Garden Island submarine base will scuttle the harbour project.

Mr Barnett made the claim to the Fremantle Society recently, and while the society has assurances from Navy sources that isn’t the case, defence minister Linda Reynolds hasn’t been quite as equivocal.

“Defence has not formed any specific view about the Western Australian government’s intention in relation to the Westport Taskforce and the Port of Fremantle,” Ms Reynolds said after the society put the claims to her.

But a potential outcome of the outer harbour – a second channel – was something the Navy was keen to see, as it would prevent its submarines being trapped if a vessel was scuttled in the existing channel.

That would be “beneficial to all stakeholders”, Ms Reynolds wrote.

When the Chook asked whether Defence had been consulted about the harbour, Westport said “consistently”, but then added that it was 

“primarily through Defence West”, a WA government department tasked with trying to promote the state’s defence support industry.

“Regarding the consideration associated with deep water entry into Cockburn Sound, Westport options include establishing a second channel,” Westport said in its response.

by STEVE GRANT

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