Northern bases to get $3.8b of upgrades to guard against China threat

The Albanese government will dedicate $2 billion to the Learmonth, Scherger and Townsville air bases, a facility in the Cocos Islands and bases in the Northern Territory.

Australia began bolstering its northern defences in 2011 when then-prime minster Julia Gillard and then-United States president Barack Obama agreed to US Marines and aircraft being permanently rotated through Darwin.

This week’s review, which signalled a need to start projecting force into the region, recommended an urgent and comprehensive remediation of northern bases to better enable the Australian Defence Force to operate from them.

The $19 billion to be spent over the four-year forward estimates period will be fully offset by savings elsewhere in the defence portfolio. Beyond that, however, defence spending, currently about 2 per cent of GDP, will begin to grow as the true cost of the AUKUS submarines and long-range missile programs begin to bite.