Federal govt embarrassed over backlash to its plan to expand Shoalwater Bay military training area
Defence told to look elsewhere as plan to seize Queensland cattle country sparks outcry
PM tells defence to find other sites to train foreign troops amid anger at plan to expand Shoalwater Bay training area, Guardian, Joshua Robertson, 2 Feb 17, Malcolm Turnbull has ordered the Department of Defence to find alternative sites for foreign military training in Queensland after uproar over plans to take over as many as 60 grazing properties in prime cattle country.
The state opposition leader, Tim Nicholls, on Thursday said the prime minister intervened after a growing backlash over the prospect of compulsory acquisitions, revealed months after an election campaign in which the federal government trumpeted a $2.2bn training deal with Singapore.
The controversy prompted Nicholls to write to Turnbull imploring him to step in after what he said was defence’s mishandling of the proposed training site expansion at Shoalwater Bay and near Townsville.
The federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, wrote to Turnbull on Wednesday calling for him to urgently review the matter and explain what “alternatives to acquiring prime grazing land” had been considered.
Nicholls’ statement raised doubts about what other options defence, which has compulsory land acquisition powers, had explored to date for expanding training bases to host 14,000 Singapore troops a year………
The LNP this week joined state and federal Labor, Katter’s Australian party and One Nation in publicly criticising the process for the land expansion, after the federal government signed the deal with Singapore in May last year to train 14,000 of its troops.
The parties all warned the loss of drought-resistant grazing land in areas that contain up to 100,000 head of cattle would have a dramatic and harmful impact on the beef industry.
In November landholders in the Marlborough and Charters Towers regions first learned of the possibility their properties would be acquired in letters from defence, which had planned an expansion of about 170,000 hectares.
Defence is yet to decide which properties it will target but the defence minister, Marise Payne, recently ordered the process be sped up with those plans to be revealed next month.
Those under pressure include federal backbencher Michelle Landry, whose central Queensland seat of Capricornia is one of the nation’s most marginal……….https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/feb/02/defence-shoalwater-bay-queensland-compulsory-acquisition?CMP=share_btn_fb
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