Politics

Airbases to get $428 million upgrade as government switches back to national security

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The Coalition is looking to reassert its national security credentials with half a billion dollars in upgrades for airbases after its handing of a Solomon Islands security deal with China came under scrutiny.

The RAAF airbases of Amberley in Queensland, Pearce in Western Australia and Richmond in NSW, and the Navy’s helicopter base HMAS Albatross near Nowra will share $428 million to remediate contamination, resurface their runways and replace airfield lighting.

HMAS Albatross near Nowra is one of four Defence airbases that will have runway and lighting upgrades.

HMAS Albatross near Nowra is one of four Defence airbases that will have runway and lighting upgrades.

There are known problems related to contamination at airbases around the country from toxic PFAS chemicals used in firefighting. In 2020, the government reached a settlement in three class action lawsuits with communities near Defence bases in Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine.

Work on the upgrades is expected to start by the end of the year and be finished late in 2024. The funding was included in the March 29 budget, meaning it is already allocated no matter the election result.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will announce the upgrades on Friday, with a focus on the jobs created as well as the government’s record on security.

“In these uncertain times, it’s vital that we take steps to invest in our defence force and ensure our ADF have the best technology and facilities so that Australians are protected,” he said.

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In March, the government pledged it would increase the size of the Defence Force with an extra 18,500 people enlisted by 2040 to take it to almost 80,000 soldiers, sailors and pilots. This is estimated to cost $38 billion over the next two decades.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said it was vital that bases were looked after properly so that the men and women of the Defence Force had the tools they needed to do their job.



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