SA-BEST calls for Army battalion to be based in Whyalla under PM’s $80 billion Defence plan

10 March 2022

SA-BEST candidate for Giles, Tom Antonio, says the party will strongly lobby the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Peter Dutton to establish an army battalion in Whyalla. 

The Prime Minister will announce today a 30 per cent increase in Australian Defence Force numbers over the next two decades – the biggest expansion of the ADF is more than 40 years - as political tensions increase in the Asian region, the conflict in the Ukraine involving Russia continues and Australia’s deteriorating relations with China all posing security concerns for the nation. 

Mr Morrison has flagged an extra 20,000 uniformed defence personnel by 2040 in the $38 billion call to arms that will also incorporate air and missile defence capabilities, cyber warfare, and space satellite systems. 

Tom said Whyalla was the ideal location for a second South Australian battalion because of the Army’s existing training facility at El Alamein, 30 kilometres northeast of the town, and its proximity to a seaport and a rail line. 

“Whyalla is ideally suited to accommodate an Army battalion,” Tom said. 

“As well as having an existing, operational port and rail line, the Whyalla Airport could easily be further upgraded to accommodate Defence transport aircraft,” he said. 

“Whyalla’s economy would benefit enormously from the exercise instead of it being solely reliant on the steelworks. 

“Having the steelworks here and now operating profitably and efficiently could also open the door for other Defence manufacturing opportunities as well as supplementing existing freight services. 

“I strongly believe having a battalion based here, Whyalla will boom and we can become the second biggest regional city in the state within a decade. 

“With up to 1000 personnel stationed here, there would be a huge boost to our businesses which suffered during the pandemic and would also be a welcome boon for the construction industry because so many more houses would be needed for military families. 

“This is something I’ve been calling for over recent years and the state must start making overtures to Canberra to get the ball rolling now. The possibilities for us are endless and exciting.” 

The Royal Australian Regiment, the umbrella regiment for infantry battalions, consists of seven battalions covering mechanised infantry (3), motorised infantry (3) and amphibious infantry(1). 

The 7th battalion is based in Adelaide. 

SA-BEST MLC and Defence spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, said he would write to Prime Minister Morrison and Defence Minister Dutton today to outline Whyalla’s compelling case for an Army battalion to be based there. 

He would also seek the support of Canberra colleague, Senator Rex Patrick, a Whyalla-raised former submariner, for the creation of an additional infantry battalion based in the Spencer Gulf region. 

“An Army battalion based in Whyalla would complement our naval shipbuilding program at Outer Harbor,” Frank said. 

“I doubt there are many other regional locations around the country with the ready-made infrastructure facilities Whyalla already has that are essential for a Defence force base – plus the brownfields for the Army to build the facilities it needs to accommodate a a battalion – than Whyalla,” he said. 

“I also strongly believe it could also be the catalyst to revive the state’s forgotten country rail network, which has been left to decay by successive transport-negligent Labor and Liberal Governments and neglected by One Rail (formerly Genesee Wyoming) the rail company given contractual responsibility to maintain the tracks to a working standard.”

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