27 August 2013
(Motion, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
Garden Island should retain its naval presence and any discussions about its future should be done in consultation with all levels of government and, most important, the affected community. Therefore, I will support the motion.
Discussions about the future of Garden Island should not be done in the heat of a Federal election campaign. Defence has long had a naval presence at Garden Island and Potts Point and I support this continuing in the future in some form. I understand that Garden Island provides 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in my electorate. Many HMAS Kuttabul employees live in the local area. They take their kids to the local schools, shop locally and care about their neighbourhood. Their contribution to community is vital in Potts Point and Woolloomooloo. It would be a serious loss to businesses and the community if the naval base were to be relocated. It is not just naval personnel who work at the base; a number of businesses and professions that support the Royal Australian Navy, including the Australian Defence Force Credit Union and other associated businesses work onsite.
The Federal Government's independent review of Garden Island looked at how docks at Garden Island could be used for visiting cruise ships. This was not about removing the naval presence but about making the best use of it. The cruise passenger industry is growing rapidly. It contributes significantly to the tourism industry in New South Wales and we are running out of space to berth ships. Cruise ships are also becoming larger and many are unable to pass under the Sydney Harbour Bridge to dock at a terminal. Sydney needs more berthing capacity. Garden Island is one of the last remaining accessible dock facilities near Sydney and provides an opportunity to berth cruise ships east of the bridge. However, this could be done with retention of naval activities.
Some naval activities could be relocated from Garden Island because of their impacts on local residents. Ship refitting, for example, is noisy and not appropriate in what is one of the most densely populated residential areas in Australia. But other activities play an important role in the Sydney region and should stay. I have visited the base with my grandfather, who served in the Pacific during the Second World War. We toured HMAS Ballarat. It is a great site and many people associated with the Royal Australian Navy feel passionate about it remaining at its present site. Garden Island needs to provide public access to the northern tip to provide a critical link in the Sydney Harbour foreshore walkway and some space could be used as parkland. There also should be ferry connections to Circular Quay to reduce traffic congestion and provide a direct entry to the city that is not impacted by traffic. The decision on the future of Garden Island should be made following consultation which involves the local community and all levels of government. It should not be about political point-scoring.
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