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Darwin second port

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Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has confirmed that the Australian government is considering constructing a second port in Darwin, as the current one is on a 99 year lease to a Chinese organisation. 

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also confirmed that the federal government is considering the project as a countermeasure to the currently leased port.

Contained within the federal budget released on Tuesday is $1.5 billion, designated to new infrastructure in the Northern Territory. This money will be allocated to “new port infrastructure” in the Northern Territory, which indicates the government’s plans to build an alternative to the current Port of Darwin.

Birmingham confirmed on Thursday that $1.5 billion referenced in the budget would, in fact, be directed towards investing in a second port in Darwin. He said that the second port would be separate from the current one but would remain within the geographical Port of Darwin area.

During Senate Estimates on Thursday Birmingham stated that “what we’re doing in the Northern Territory is investing in infrastructure to support a project of economic development championed by the Northern Territory government… that would provide enhanced opportunities for energy exports and wealth generation for the country.”

Minister for Defence, Peter Dutton said that there was a “massive commitment” from the Morrison Government into the Northern Territory, which would look at port infrastructure.

The Defence Minister also indicated there could be defence involvement in the new facilities.

Dutton continued; “that does look at port development and ways in which we might be able to support through contracts through defence, for example the underpinning of a business model. But we will have more to say about that in due course.”

Birmingham backed his colleagues, stating that there is a distinct likelihood that any new port infrastructure would see both economic and defence benefits. He further stated that “as more facilities are developed to support a broader range of industry across a broader geographical footprint, it provides other opportunities or avenues for defence or other users.” The potential for a second port facility could provide the opportunity for defence operations to be situated from there and he added it would “additional and worthy benefit”.

He also stated that, “it is possible that infrastructure built there would provide multiple benefits in terms of industry and defence and that, of course would be welcomed if it could achieve multiple aims.”

The federal government has all but ruled out using its foreign interference powers to overturn the 99 year Port of Darwin lease, leading to the potential investment in a new port instead. The Department of Defence assessed the lease agreement last year and found no reasoning, under national security, to strip the lease from the Chinese organisation.

Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie has criticised the plans, asking the federal government to simply “revoke the lease and give us back our national security,” “goodness me the problem is up there is that that lease should be revoked, it is a national security problem.”

“We can see what’s going on in the Solomon Islands they are infiltrating over there China are. ”And they’ve been doing it in the Top End of Australia for quite some time since the lease was done.”

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