State Govt finds upside to Adelaide soldiers marching north

Reports that army units based in Edinburgh could be moved to Townsville and Darwin have led Premier Peter Malinauskas to find a silver lining in potentially vacant housing.

Sep 14, 2023, updated Sep 14, 2023
7RAR at Edinburgh. Photo: Australian Defence

7RAR at Edinburgh. Photo: Australian Defence

In Parliament yesterday, Malinauskas addressed reports about Adelaide-based army units 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (7RAR) and 1st Armoured Regiment (1ARMD) being moved to the country’s north.

While he said Defence Minister Richard Marles had confirmed that no decision had been made, Malinauskas said if the move was to happen under the federal government’s Defence Strategic Review, it could help with the state’s housing crisis.

“(What) I think is interesting and worthy of contemplation from the state government’s perspective is the issue of the housing,” Malinauskas said.

“We don’t want to see 7RAR move. Let’s be clear about that. We have made that known to the Commonwealth.

“But in the event that it were to occur – we are not planning on it occurring, but in the event that it were to occur – I think there is a very serious question that has to be raised about what happens to that housing.”

It was in late 2010 that 7RAR was relocated from Robertson Barracks in the Northern Territory to its current headquarters in Edinburgh, and there has been significant government investment in accommodating the move.

While Malinauskas reiterated the state government’s preference was to keep the army personnel in Adelaide, he did say that in terms of the housing shortage “any opportunity that presents itself to address it, we are up for it”.

“We have some big challenges coming our way in terms of workforce,” he said.

“We are in the market for any solution we can get our hands on in respect to housing, which is why the Treasurer has been working so closely with the Minister for Planning along with the minister responsible for the Housing Trust.

“We are open-minded to that, and that is something that we will be turning our minds to. That said, our preference, of course, would be not to see that challenge present itself through the retention of 7RAR themselves.”

Malinauskas was firmer on his opposition to other speculation about the federal government’s current surface ship review potentially leading to less than the promised nine Hunter Class ships being built for the Royal Australian Navy at Osborne.

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This time, the Premier said he has warned the Deputy Prime Minister that any “chopping and changing” of the state’s anti-submarine war frigates program could impact the national nuclear-powered submarine project also based in South Australia.

He told parliament that the potential scaling back of building Hunter Class ships in Adelaide under the review is “contrary to our interests in building up the workforce” for surface ships and submarines – a position he said the state government made clear in its submission to the review.

“The key message that I seek to impose upon the Commonwealth is that any chopping and changing to the Hunter program now would act contrary to our interests in building up the workforce that is going to be required for the surface ship program as well as the submarine program,” Malinauskas said.

“I have made it very clear to the federal government, particularly the Deputy Prime Minister, who is of course the Minister for Defence, that the South Australian government expects, hopes and advocates for the retention of the Hunter frigate program.”

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