Today Defence Minister Marise Payne made an explosive admission she was privy to the possibility of compulsory Defence land acquisition being made before the 2016 Federal election.
During Senate Question Time today, Senator Murray Watt asked:
“On what date did the Minister’s Department first advise her of the possibility of compulsorily acquisitions as part of the expansion of the Shoalwater Bay training area and Townsville field training area under the Military Training Agreement in Singapore?”
Payne attempted to avoid the direct question a number of times, before finally admitting:
“I as Minister for Defence was preliminarily advised about the potential requirements for training area expansion in June.”
Watt further probed:
“Did the advice to the Minister include the possibility for compulsory acquisitions? The advice she was provided in June?
“I was preliminarily advised about the potential requirements for training area expansion in June 2016, that goes to all aspects of the process under the Land Acquisitions Act.”
It has taken far too long for Payne to come clean to the Senate, affected landholders and the Australian people.
After announcing the Singaporean Defence partnership at the height of the election, proudly touting it as a win for the Shoalwater Bay community and economy alongside Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry, it is utterly clear Minister Payne kept this vital piece of information a secret in order to avoid jeopardising an election win.
Meanwhile, her Coalition counterparts have added salt to the wounds of local landholders by failing to stand up for their constituents.
Payne’s admission poses serious questions about what exactly Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce knew about the possibility of acquisition of agricultural land. As a member of the National Security Committee it is highly likely he too was informed before the election about the proposal for land acquisition.
Affected landholders were sent letters threatening possible compulsory land acquisition in November, and before last week’s embarrassing back down, were cruelly kept in the dark. They were subjected to a torturously anxious wait over Christmas with their livelihoods up in the air.
Malcolm Turnbull must hold his Minister’s and Michelle Landry to account and answer whether the Parliament and the Australian community were intentionally misled.