Article by Peter Ker courtesy of the Australian Financial Review.
Billionaire Gina Rinehart says the new government must deploy drones and sea mines in Australia’s north-west to shore up the nation’s defences.
Australia’s richest person said defending the nation was the government’s “first responsibility”, as prime minister-elect Anthony Albanese prepared to fly to Japan on Monday to attend the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with the leaders of the United States, India and Japan.
The Morrison government pledged in March to spend $4.3 billion building a large dry dock south of Perth to enable maintenance work on naval ships and submarines, but Mrs Rinehart said that base should be built in the Pilbara region near the iron ore mines that sustain Australia’s most lucrative export industry.
“I hope with the new government a better decision is made in the interests of West Australians and northern Australia, to relocate the planned navy maintenance investment away from the people and port of Fremantle, and relocate to the north-west, to Cape Preston,” said Mrs Rinehart after Saturday’s election rout of Scott Morrison’s Coalition government.
Cape Preston is located about 1460 kilometres north of Perth near the city of Karratha and about 300 kilometres south-west of Port Hedland; the port through which Mrs Rinehart’s companies Atlas Iron and Roy Hill ship their iron ore.
“This would also save weeks of travel for our already inadequate navy vessels to and fro, what could be precious weeks and longer wasted while out of service,” Mrs Rinehart said.
Chinese state-owned company Citic makes and exports iron-rich magnetite concentrate from Cape Preston, and Citic’s unhappy business partner Clive Palmer has regularly suggested that Citic’s control of an airstrip and the port at Cape Preston is a threat to national security.
Mrs Rinehart did not single out any nation or company as a threat, but called for greater protection of the regions that produce the lucrative iron ore, coal and gas exports, including through the deployment of new technology like “war drones” and an anti-missile defence system.
“Given the lack of defence in Australia’s north-west, despite it being the powerhouse of Australia’s economy, I also hope that smart mines are urgently implemented in abundance in at least our northern and north-west (and north-east) oceans,” she said.
“We need to make our country a ‘prickly porcupine’ as quickly as possible, and to be able to do this, we need to at least cut government tape urgently to get our economy growing.
“Enabling our economy to grow via urgent and significant tape cuts is the best way to increase jobs and opportunities for our youth, our females and our entire population, and the best way to enable wage increases and standards of living to rise, in turn providing revenue for necessities like, healthcare, emergencies, police, kindergartens, our elderly and more.”
Mrs Rinehart reiterated her belief that senior citizens and defence force veterans should not lose their pensions if they choose to work for an income, saying both the community and the economy would be better off if they were able to participate more at a time of labour shortages.
“Restrictions on stopping pensioners and vets from working, restrictions that mean they can only work for a few dollars a week without losing all or part of their pensions, and onerous paperwork, must go urgently,” she said.