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Why a New Port May Not Occur

The Fremantle Society attended the Inner Harbour Community Liaison Group meeting this week and the main topic was the new port in Cockburn Sound, the one being pushed down our throats by the Labor Party and Alannah MacTiernan.

The Fremantle Society and the Fremantle Council and most Fremantle people want the working port to continue inside the mouth of the Swan River, but we have not been given that option.

Westport Taskforce, with a seemingly predetermined outcome, recommend a new port for Cockburn by 2032, just 12 years away.

Two of the key issues are environmental and defence.

The health of Cockburn Sound has suffered for decades, especially from the destruction of seagrass by private companies like Cockburn Cement. When the Fremantle Society representatives at the meeting asked what the environmental impacts would be of a new port, the Taskforce member said they don't know. But Westport Taskforce do have a budget of $100 million and we were told that that money will ensure extensive research is done. They agree it is a huge issue and it will take some 6 years for the research. One wonders what will happen if the environmental impacts are found to be highly significant.

The other issue, not talked about anywhere, is that of defence.

Some weeks ago ex Premier Colin Barnett told the Fremantle Society that a new port would not be allowed in Cockburn Sound because the Navy won't want Chinese container ships near their submarines. That prediction was checked with Nicole Lockwood, in charge of the Westport taskforce, who said that in fact the Navy welcomed the second channel that would be built. The Fremantle Society also checked with sources inside the Navy and they agreed. The Fremantle Society met again with Colin Barnett about this feedback, and he is adamant that his source much higher up has said a new port will not happen.

So, the Fremantle Society wrote to fellow Western Australian Linda Reynolds, the Minister for Defence. In a letter received today she says:

"As you may be aware, HMAS Stirling, located on Garden Island, is the homeport for the Royal Australian Navy's warships and submarines on the west coast of Australia. As an enduring base and the west coast foundation of Australia's Two Ocean Naval Basing Policy, Stirling underpins our ability to project national maritime power into the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.

On 1 July 2020 I announced that the Australian Government will make a $2.5 billion investment over the coming decade to support the redevelopment of Defence facilities in Western Australia through the 2020 Force Structure Plan. This investment will include significant redevelopment and expansion of Stirling in direct support of the Collins Class and Attack Class submarine programs, Hunter Class frigates, and Arafura Class  offshore patrol vessels. There will also be investment in facilities in the Henderson Marine Precinct to support the introduction of these new maritime capabilities.

Defence has not formed any specific view about the Western Australian Government's intention in relation to the Westport Taskforce and the Port of Fremantle. However, I understand the Navy is supportive of  consideration being given to establishing a permanent second navigation channel through Cockburn Sound, which would be beneficial to all stakeholders."

So, that does not rule out what Colin Barnett has said.

Defence is a major issue, and ironically it was at Stirling Naval base some years ago that a very senior politician, one of the very few getting full security briefings, said privately that "Australia is at war, and Australians don't know it."

This meeting of the  Inner Harbour Committee was the last for CEO Chris Leatt Hayter, who is sadly leaving after 12 years as CEO. He and the staff, unlike Fremantle Council, have taken an interest in the recent report done by the Fremantle Society "The Wooden Streets of Fremantle" and have promised to see if they can do a display of wooden blocks on the port.

The genuine community consultation of Fremantle Ports is in wild contrast to the sham consultation carried out by Fremantle Council, who think so little of their community they have actually cancelled the biannual Community Satisfaction Catalyse Survey.

At the end of the community meeting the Labor councillor for Beaconsfield Hannah Fitzhardinge, running for mayor in 2021, attacked Fremantle Ports for not opening up a Leighton car park to help " children and Nippers", and said Council didn't have enough money to macadamise it as required by the Port. One of the community members present interjected loudly: "That's because you waste all our money on your stupid projects."

Date for Your Diary

Wednesday 2 December Fremantle Society AGM at Fremantle Arts Centre

5-6pm        Exhibition Design Freo

6pm           AGM Pavlich Room

6.30pm      Dr Carmen Lawrence "Doing Density Differently"
Book your seat (only 50 allowed): 0409 223622

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
0409 223622

19 November, 2020


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