MELBOURNE: Australia will invest 747 million dollars in upgrading four key military training areas and ranges in the Northern Territory to defend the country's interests and support greater engagement with the Indo-Pacific neighbours and allies, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday, amid China's increasing assertiveness in the region.
Morrison announced the multi-million dollar investment stating that the objective was to pursue peace rather than sending any message to China.
The multi-million investment would upgrade four key training areas and ranges in the Northern Territory to enable the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to conduct simulated training exercises and remain battle-ready.
Essential upgrades will be made to four key military training areas and weapon ranges in the Northern Territory, including Robertson Barracks, Kangaroo Flats, Mount Bundey and Bradshaw.
"These defence training areas and facilities will support greater engagement with our Indo-Pacific neighbours and our allies, and to conduct small and large scale military exercises across a number of different scenarios," Morrison said.
"This investment will deliver a jobs boom for the Northern Territory," he said, adding "We continue to invest more than 270 billion dollars in defence capability across Australia over the next decade, ensuring we have a capable defence force to meet a changing global environment while backing thousands of ADF men and women with the newest technology and training.''
"Working with the United States and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia's interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly across Northern Australia."
"Our focus is on pursuing peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific, with a world order that favours freedom," he said.
Australia along with India, Japan and the US, had in 2017 given shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.
Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarizing its man-made islands in the past few years.
Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea.
But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims.
In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.
This investment will also maximise local jobs through a targeted industry plan to contract local businesses throughout the entire supply chain, Morrison said.
"My commitment is keeping Australians safe and keeping Australians in jobs," he said.
"All of our objectives through the activities of our Defence Forces is designed to pursue peace," he said during a press briefing.
"In a region as uncertain as this you need to ensure that you have the Defence capability that enables you to protect and defend Australia's interests in that region.
"And this enables us to ensure there's an appropriate balance -- particularly in partnership with our United States allies to ensure we can promote an environment where peace will be the outcome."
In an official statement, Defence Minister Peter Dutton said this significant investment would ensure the Australian Defence Force continues to deliver world-class training and our engagement with allies and other nations through the conduct of joint training exercises, including with the US Marine Rotational Force - Darwin.
"This investment is critical to ensuring that our ADF land combat capability is equipped with the cutting edge technology it will require to maintain our competitive advantage," Dutton said.
These works will provide a strong economic benefit to the region, with significant opportunities for the local construction industry over a five-year delivery phase programme.
Subject to parliamentary approvals, construction is expected to commence in the second half of 2021, with completion expected by mid-2026.
The fraying of China-Australia ties that began with Canberra banning China's Huawei from its 5G networks in 2018, worsened after Australia called on China to allow international investigators into Wuhan to probe the origins of the novel coronavirus last year.
Beijing placed crippling tariffs on Australia's barley exports and halted beef imports from four large meat plants.
China also put embargoes on Australian cotton.