On the eve of the Tindal RAAF Base’s 30th birthday, a transcript of a speech given by Prime Minister Bob Hawke at Tindal in October, 1984.
It gives me great pleasure to be here today to commemorate the redevelopment of the Tindal RAAF Base.
The construction of the base itself will be a major undertaking with significant economic benefits for the Northern Territory as a whole and for the Katherine region in particular, and in a few short years Tindal will become the home of a squadron of F/A-18 Hornets, one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world and a potent deterrent to major aggression against Australia.
Taken together these developments will really put Katherine on the map as a focal point of our defence capabilities in North West Australia.
Coming to Tindal is a powerful reminder of just how big our country is and of the fact the vast majority of Australians live far away in the South and East.
Although we face no present military threat it is a simple fact of geography that any major conventional attack on Australian would have to come from or through our northern and northwestern approaches.
Despite the lessons of the Second World War we lost from sight this basic fact for too long.
It is true, that not so long ago the great preponderance of our economic activity took place in the south and east.
This is no longer the case.
In particular, the larger-scale exploitation of our vast mineral resources has transformed what used to be the remote areas of the North and West into areas of dynamic growth that now make a vital contribution to Australia’s economic well-being.
These are among the basic reasons for my Government’s commitment to the development of defence facilities in north and northwest Australia.
In this regards I would also mention that new patrol boat bases have been established at Darwin and Cairns, A new airfield is under construction near Derby and major naval facilities have been established at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia.
Furthermore, the Defence Force already has the capability to deploy at short notice, and operate, quite substantial forces within Northern Australia.
As I mentioned, the development of RAAF Base Tindal is a large project with very substantial economic benefits for the area and particularly for the town of Katherine.
Construction of the base and associated facilities in Katherine is expected to result, directly and indirectly, in the expenditure in the region of $155 million over the next 5 years.
Once operational, the base is expected to generate flow-on expenditure of about $9 million annually.
Another big project that will be proceeding simultaneously is a $95 million up-grading of the Darwin civil airport.
The Government has been conscious that this large injection of money and people will strain the resources of the Northern Territory and inevitably give rise to problems of adjustment.
I applaud the positive spirit in which the people of the Northern Territory and particularly the Katherine community have approached this whole enterprise.
Nevertheless, every effort will be made to keep these growing pains to a minimum, with close cooperation between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments and the Katherine Town Council.
Similarly, the Government has been conscious of its obligations in relation to Aboriginal sacred sites and discussions have already begun with the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Authority to reconcile the boundaries of the base with confirmed Aboriginal sites.
The decision to go ahead with the base was preceded by a major environmental impact study. The conclusions of of this study have been factored into facility design. Furthermore environmental considerations will be the subject of ongoing consultations between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments and the Katherine Community.
RAAF Base Tindal will make a significant contribution to the security of future generations of Australians and give a major boost to the economy and quality of life in the Katherine area.
As such it is a vital initiative and one all Australians can support.
Accordingly it is my particular privilege now formally to commission the start of the major re-development of this base.