EX­CLU­SIVE: PORT STA­TUS UP­GRADE PAVES WAY FOR GROWTH

Cairns in a unique de­fence po­si­tion

The Weekend Post - - Front Page - CHRIS CAL­CINO edi­to­[email protected] face­book.com/The­Cairn­sPost www.cairnspost.com.au twit­ter.com/The­Cairn­sPost

THE Cairns sea­port’s cru­cial role in Aus­tralia’s mil­i­tary ad­vance into the South West Pa­cific has been recog­nised with des­ig­na­tion as a crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture as­set.

It paves the way for ma­jor wharf-side up­grades and new in­fra­struc­ture nec­es­sary for Cairns to play a chief role in main­tain­ing the grow­ing fleet when Aus­tralia opens a joint naval base with Pa­pua New Guinea on Manus Is­land.

Le­ich­hardt MP War­ren Entsch said the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs clas­si­fi­ca­tion meant Cairns was the only east coast naval base and mar­itime precinct ca­pa­ble of sus­tain­ing and main­tain­ing mar­itime op­er­a­tions north of Syd­ney.

“This des­ig­na­tion in­cludes ar­eas of wa­ter, be­tween the land of the port and the open wa­ters out­side the port, in­tended for use by ships to gain ac­cess to load­ing, un­load­ing or other land-based fa­cil­i­ties,” Mr Entsch said.

“The Cairns Port sup­ports some of our big­gest in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing tourism, de­fence and com­mer­cial trans­port, so to make it a crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture as­set was a no-brainer re­ally.”

The clas­si­fi­ca­tion is a re­sult of cam­paign­ing by ma­rine precinct op­er­a­tors and for­mer army chief Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral (Ret) John Grey, who pressed the is­sue dur­ing the Con­voy to Can­berra lob­by­ing mis­sion at Par­lia­ment House.

They were push­ing for the city to achieve “strate­gic port” sta­tus, but af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tion Mr Entsch said it al­ready had that des­ig­na­tion all along.

In April 2016 the Queens- land Gov­ern­ment qui­etly clas­si­fied Cairns as a strate­gic port – a term the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment does not use – be­cause it was an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of the na­tional and state trans­port net­work, sup­ply chain and de­fence sys­tem.

“There is a stark dif­fer­ence un­der Queens­land leg­is­la­tion be­tween a ‘strate­gic port’ and ‘pri­or­ity port’,” Mr Entsch said.

“Put sim­ply, un­der Queens­land leg­is­la­tion (Sus­tain­able Ports De­vel­op­ment Act 2015) a ‘pri­or­ity’ port can­not be de­vel­oped.

“The leg­is­la­tion clearly states the four state-de­clared ‘pri­or­ity ports’ (Gladstone, Ab­bot Point, Townsville and Hay Point/Mackay) must op­ti­mise the use of ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture.”

With­out the strate­gic port sta­tus, the State Gov­ern­ment would have been un­able to pur­sue new wa­ter­side in­fra­struc­ture projects like the global tourism hub casino de­vel­op­ment.

It is un­clear whether the new des­ig­na­tion will af­fect the pro­posed casino, and the for­eign own­er­ship it will en­tail.

“Given the cur­rent ‘strate­gic’ des­ig­na­tion of the Cairns Port, there is ab­so­lutely noth- ing from a fed­eral or state per­spec­tive stand­ing in the way of the Cairns Port be­ing de­vel­oped and we need to take full ad­van­tage of that,” Mr Entsch said.

The clas­si­fi­ca­tion could mean lit­tle in it­self, but it must be taken into se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion in the on­go­ing mas­ter­plan­ning of the precinct, with an em­pha­sis on in­creas­ing the city’s naval fleet main­te­nance ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The port has also been des­ig­nated a se­cu­rity reg­u­lated port un­der the Mar­itime Trans­port and Off­shore Fa­cil­i­ties Se­cu­rity Act.

“A se­cu­rity reg­u­lated port is de­fined as one that is in­tended for use ei­ther wholly or partly in con­nec­tion with the move­ment, load­ing, un­load­ing, main­te­nance or pro­vi­sion­ing of se­cu­rity reg­u­lated ships un­der s13 of the act,” Mr Entsch said.

“A se­cu­rity reg­u­lated ship is de­fined as be­ing a pas­sen­ger ship that is used for over­seas voy­ages or a cargo ship of 500 gross ton­nage or more.”

SUP­PORT: Fed­eral Trea­surer Josh Fry­den­berg and Mem­ber for Le­ich­hardt War­ren Entsch on a visit to the HMAS Cairns naval base in 2016 with the then Cap­tain of HMAS Cairns, Com­man­der Carl Cap­per. Pic­ture: BREN­DAN RADKE

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