Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Northern Territory military bases get $747m boost after Pezzullo’s ‘drums of war’ warning

Australian military bases will be upgraded, with the announcement coming just days after a top national security chief warned the “drums of war” were beating. Prime Minister Scott Morrison will travel to the Northern Territory on Wednesday to announce a $747m revamp of four military training bases across the Territory. The upgrades were designed to facilitate joint training exercises and war games with the United States amid rising concern over Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance in the Pacific. Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews stressed Australia’s trade relationship with China remained “very strong”, highlighting the Coalition had always outlaid significant amounts on defense.

“It goes to making sure that we are prepared, that we are alert. We are not alarmed, but we are prepared, and we need to make sure our defense forces are ready,” she told Sunrise.

The announcement comes just days after Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo warned the “drums of war” were beating, and Australia should be prepared to send its “warriors to fight”.

Ms. Andrews conceded Mr. Pezzullo’s tone was “direct” but stressed he did not single out any particular nation. “He was making it very clear that our overarching responsibility is to work towards peace,” she said. We will always be alert, but not alarmed, about threats that may be facing our nation.

Mr. Pezzullo’s intervention was widely interpreted as a reference to China, which has been locked in an escalating diplomatic stoush with Canberra lasting more than a year.

Those tensions were inflamed further last week when the federal government used new powers to scrap the Belt and Road initiative, signed between Beijing and the Victorian government. On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Australia was “sick” and needed to “take medicine” to repair relations.

But Ms. Andrews would not be drawn on whether China posed the biggest threat in the region. “I know that you’d like me to quote which nations, but we are very conscious of the various threats that are apparent right across our nation,” she said. Concerns have been raised Beijing could react to the beefed-up security measures in the NT.

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