Reader response: Northern Australia
31 Oct 2014|

Andrew Davies invited a response to his recent post on Northern Australia. So I thought I would provide one.

My sense is that the whole country was a ‘power projection’ base in World War 2—as was New Zealand. If we get involved in some conflict in Northeast Asia or the South China Sea, though, I wonder whether any part of Australia has any geographic advantage in terms of proximity to the fight.

I note that while the Army was suckered into Army Presence In the North (APIN), the RAAF and in particular the RAN held firm in the southern locales. Apparently the distance to the Defence of Australia air-sea gap was less critical to them.

Coupled with moving a Brigade to Townsville (largely in response to PNG concerns, I understand), I believe that the Army is now very much disconnected from Australian society in the main population centres. The only benefit from the Army’s moves north (against many penalties) is that soldiers become more acclimatised to the tropics.

If we do believe that Darwin is a great joint and combined power projection base then the RAN should be moved up there. It might reduce the range requirements for the new subs while we’re at it. And working with Indonesia and the other Pacific/Indian Ocean corridor states would be sensible.

I spent a lot of my life on nonsensical Kangaroo exercises and two years sweating in Darwin. I would very much like to see some sensible reasoning entering this debate.

Marcus Fielding completed 28 years of full-time service with the Australian Army that included operational deployments to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Haiti, East Timor and Iraq.