Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today assured Capricornia MP Michelle Landry no landholder will be forced to sell their properties under the Defence Department's proposed Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today assured Capricornia MP Michelle Landry no landholder will be forced to sell their properties under the Defence Department's proposed Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion.

SHOALWATER: PM pledges 'no forced sales'

12.20PM: "ANY sales will be by willing vendors,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said about Shoalwater Bay land acquisitions today.

The Prime Minister has made the pledge there will be no compulsory acquisitions after a meeting this morning.

"On Monday I called a meeting with local members to discuss the expansion of the Shoalwater Bay And Townsville Field Training areas,” Mr Turnbull told The Morning Bulletin exclusively.

"After hearing their concerns and concerns of the community I have decided no land owner will be forced to sell their property.

"Any sales will be by willing vendors.”

He said the Coalition Government will continue with the $2.25 billion project which will create jobs and provide economic security for residents in the region.

"This investment will give small business owners a once in a generation opportunity to grow their companies and create more jobs,” Mr Turnbull said.

"This project will put more money in the pockets of residents in the region.

"I have listened to the concerns of people who live in the area and acted accordingly. I thank local MPs Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd, Senators Ian MacDonald and Matt Canavan the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Defence Minister Marise Payne for their tireless work during this process.”

11.35am: PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged 'no forced sales' in relation to Shoalwater Bay expansion.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry has welcomed a pledge from the Prime Minister this morning that no landholder in the Shoalwater Bay district, north of Rockhampton, will be 'forced' to sell their properties' to Defence.

This announcement comes after a number of interviews with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in the past five days about compulsory acquisitions.

The Federal Government is in the media's firing line with attacks by renowned radio presenter John Laws, Steve Austin and other high profile news outlets.

The reports come after Mr Joyce met with landholders at the Stanage Bay property 'Couti Outi' on Friday.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry listening to Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce address a crowd of 30 graziers and business owners at Stanage Bay property 'Couti Outi' on February 3, 2017.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry listening to Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce address a crowd of 30 graziers and business owners at Stanage Bay property 'Couti Outi' on February 3, 2017. Kerri-Anne Mesner

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, who was at the meeting, told the media afterwards she and Mr Joyce would be knocking on doors in Canberra this week as parliament resumes.

Today's pledge has been linked to an intense 24-hour period described by parliamentary colleagues as being directly due to "hard-nosed' lobbying by Ms Landry since she arrived back for the first week of federal parliament, yesterday.

"The Prime Minister has today provided me with assurances that no landholder or farmers will be forced to sell their properties,” she said.

"He has clearly ruled out forced sales to Defence. This will come as a big relief to local landholders.

"I promised the stakeholders impacted in the district that I would sensibly and firmly push, behind the scenes, to ensure that their concerns over the possibility of forced land sales were heard at the highest levels of the federal government.

"I thank the Prime Minister for listening to me and our farmers on this issue behind closed doors. I did not mince my words, when making it clear to him that Defence was dealing with people's homes and livelihoods.”

A map showing the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion zone
A map showing the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area expansion zone

Farmers that do want to voluntarily sell to Defence will, however, still be able to apply to the Commonwealth directly themselves to have their land acquired for use by the military, under a move that could provide them with greater financial compensation. But there is no guarantee that Defence will want to purchase every block on the open market.

"We know there are landholders who want to sell and we know that there and landholders who don't want to sell. So, this pledge will provide a sense of relief to both groups,” Ms Landry said.

In the past 24 hours ahead of the Prime Minister's pledge, the hard-working Federal Member for Capricornia:

  • Met directly with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne for 'intense and robust' talks about the issue
  • Loudly addressed a closed party room meeting of National Party MPs and National Party Ministers, including Barnaby Joyce conveying the plight of local stakeholders
  • And roused her federal National Party MPs to also stand up against forced sales of valuable farmland in the Shoalwater Bay-Marlborough district.

Today's assurances from Mr Turnbull, also follows a visit on Friday by Ms Landry and Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader, Barnaby Joyce to "Couti Outi” - one of the properties Defence had earmarked on their expansion maps. There they met with a group of local landholders, small business and workers representing the entire district.

"It is very clear that the National Party in Canberra and now the Federal Coalition stand with landholders to say, we do not want to see people to be forced by Defence to sell their farms under the Shoalwater Bay military expansion,” Ms Landry said.

Ms Landry said Defence clearly erred when they flagged the scenario of 'forced' land sales as a last resort with landholders, late last year.

Ms Landry reiterated that the $2.25 billion capital injection under the joint Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) with Singapore was good for the Queensland economy. But said it was a relief for farmers to know that will not be forced sell their land and homes.

"Under the Shoalwater upgrade, nearly $1 billion dollars will be spent north of Rockhampton. This revamp will create important business spin-offs for the city in construction, logistics, transport, tourism, retail, hospitality and accommodation. Visiting Singapore troops already inject  $35 million locally.The upgrades of ADF zones are also part of Australia's own national security needs - training our soldiers to be protect us from the growing threats of terrorism in our own backyard,” she said.

"I have previously stated that I support this investment and I still do. But I also support our farmers. As a result I do not support a situation where they were forced involuntarily to sell their homes and land.

"Any expansion plans by Defence must now be an open market arrangement where property owners are willing to sell or want to be acquired. Last year, I promised landholders that I would ensure that their voice of concern was heard at the highest levels of our executive government and I have delivered on that promise,” Ms Landry said.

9.50am: SPECULATION is mounting that the Prime Minister will make a big announcement this morning with regards to land acquisition for the Shoalwater Bay expansion.

The speculation comes after a number of interviews with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce in the past five days about compulsory acquisitions.

The Morning Bulletin has received tips from several sources that the Mr Turnbull is expected to make an announcement this morning.

The Bulletin is seeking confirmation the announcement from the Coalition Government.

The Federal Government is in the media's firing line with attacks by renowned radio presenter John Laws, Steve Austin and other high profile news outlets.

The reports come after Mr Joyce met with landholders at the Stanage Bay property 'Couti Outi' on Friday.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, who was at the meeting, told the media afterwards she and Mr Joyce would be knocking on doors in Canberra this week as parliament resumes.

"We certainly do not want to see compulsory land acquisitions,” Ms Landry said at Couti Outi.

"The Prime Minister has quite clearly stated he doesn't believe in compulsory acquisitions,” Mr Joyce said.

However on Thursday, Senator Matt Canavan said the Government had acquired property against land owners' will before, and they were willing to do it again.

"We did this in Cultana, a training facility in South Australia a couple of years ago, we compulsorily acquired land there and it was difficult for those people, but they did that for their purposes, the Australian military,” he said.

ABC's Lateline program ran a story last night about the Shoalwater Bay land acquisition issue where landholders in Stanage Bay and Marlborough are concerned about compulsory acquisition for the proposed expansion of the Central Queensland military training area.

Renowned talkback radio presenter John Laws interviewed the Prime Minister on Friday about the issue, and the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce this morning.

According to Twitter, Mr Joyce told Mr Laws "we are going to try and turn it around” in relation to the Australian Defence Force land acquisition.

On the John Laws show on Friday, the radio presenter told the PM he thought it was stupid to take land from Australian farmers for Singapore to train its army on.

"Barnaby Joyce is meeting with graziers affected by the Defence Force compulsory land acquisition, which I can never understand,” Mr Laws said in the interview on Friday.

"Why do we have to take land from Australian farmers? I find that infuriating and I also find it extremely stupid. Why are we giving that land to the Singaporean troops to train? Why not put them in the Simpson Dessert?”

Here is the transcript of the John Laws interview:

PRIME MINISTER: Let's get a couple of things straight. There is a big training ground at Shoalwater Bay. It is an Australian Defence Force training ground. The ADF wants to expand it in large part because the nature of training has changed, the nature of operations has changed. There is so much use of mechanised transport, of longer range artillery and so they need more real estate. This is why they want to expand.

JOHN LAWS: But there is plenty of real estate in the middle of Australia.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, but this establishment here in Shoalwater Bay is a very important part of the defence training network. It will be used by Singaporean troops to train on, but it is not being acquired for Singapore. It won't belong to Singapore. It won't be leased to Singapore. It will be used by the Singaporeans and they are putting a couple of billion dollars into building up facilities in both Shoalwater Bay and at Townsville - so it is great investment. But clearly land - and Marise Payne, the Defence Minister and I have asked Defence to make sure that they acquire no more land than they need. They are focusing very much on their needs. And to ensure that acquisitions are as far as possible done consensually, so by agreement. Compulsory acquisition is obviously a last resort. They are working to find a good settlement up there with the relevant parties and I am confident they will.

But, John, I really understand how people feel, you know, when the government comes along and wants to buy their land. I certainly understand how that is a tough ask but having said that we are living in a dangerous world, we are living in a world of increased tension. We are making the biggest investment, peace time investment in our Defence Force's capability ever, in our history. That is my Government that is doing that. My Defence Investment Plan is the biggest investment in our Defence Force's in peace time, on any view. So it is a massive investment. We are increasing the capability of our ADF to keep Australians safe and they need places to train.

JOHN LAWS: Okay, but why prime land?

PRIME MINISTER: They will be seeking to ensure that the agricultural land is used for agricultural purposes but there are areas there that is grazing country that can be acquired. But again, John, I mean, you know, the big exercise, it's all a services amphibious element, the Talisman Saber exercise that is done with the United States every year and other countries are invited to it. That's done. That is centred on Shoalwater Bay. So it is a very important training area. And look, it is a big part of the economy in North Queensland. These are always difficult issues but they have got to be, that they are being dealt with empathy and ensuring that no more land is purchased or acquired than is absolutely needed.

JOHN LAWS: I believe that about 60 properties will go.

PRIME MINISTER: John, that may be the number but I don't think any of that has been finalised yet.

JOHN LAWS: Okay, but if 60, I mean, you're a traditionalist, how would you feel if the family farm that had been in the family for generations was suddenly taken away?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, nobody is taking anything away. I mean governments buy land for government purposes all the time. Ideally, you want acquisitions of property to be done by agreement - that's the objective.



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