WA Governor backs greater NW defence presence

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Pilbara Regiment members in action during a training exercise on West Lewis Island.
Camera IconPilbara Regiment members in action during a training exercise on West Lewis Island. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr

WA Governor Kim Beazley has underscored the need for a major defence presence in the North West to protect key infrastructure, saying that the region’s strategic position is poised to only become more complex in the years to come.

During a visit to the region at the weekend, Mr Beazley said the protection of billion-dollar natural gas and iron ore facilities on the Pilbara coast would come into greater focus in coming years with the region’s growing importance and changing international environment.

In a speech to open the Cossack Art Awards on Saturday, he said the Pilbara would become more strategically important in coming years as its ready supply of minerals needed for the “fourth industrial revolution” would make it an even bigger economic powerhouse for Australia.

“This is not just the future location of WA prosperity, or Karratha’s prosperity, it is the location of our national endeavour,” he said.

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“Our principal contribution to the globe is going to emanate from this area, and the most difficult defence challenge we could conceivably have is also in this area.”

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long welcomed the Governor’s comments, saying the City had long advocated for a heightened defensive presence in the North West.

“A greater defence presence is important because we’ve got so many assets — 38 per cent of our nation’s commodity exports come out of here and we’ve got hundreds of billions of dollars worth of investment,” he said.

“If anything is needed quickly, we don’t have any aircraft or ships. When you’ve got this much investment here it seems quite obvious to have that, and all the politicians agree but it just has never happened — but we should have it.”

Cr Long said the campaign was gaining steam after Pilbara and Kimberley local government representatives discussed North West defence as a common agenda at the recent Developing Northern Australia Conference.

“We’ve been told that it’s better to get together and have a unified voice, so we’re looking at getting a North West defence alliance or something similar under way to speak together on this,” he said

Currently the Pilbara’s only permanent defence presence is the Pilbara Regiment, one of three regional force surveillance units in WA.

Pilbara Development Commission chief executive Terry Hill said the commission was supportive of any moves to boost defence in the North West.

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