Western Australia is “massively under-defended” against foreign threats compared to the rest of the country, according to state Defence Industry Minister Paul Papalia.
Papalia’s comments came after the Albanese government announced an urgent review of the nation’s defence amid fears $44.6 billion in annual spending is not doing enough to prepare the country for growing threats to its security.
The review, to be led by former Labor defence minister Stephen Smith and former defence force chief Sir Angus Houston, will take place as the government considers pivotal decisions on nuclear submarines, a fleet of guided-missile destroyers and plans to build a bigger army.
Papalia argued more army assets needed to be based in Perth and the state’s north-west to protect the nation’s mining assets.
“When they do [the review] it will be inevitable that they decide they need to put more army and air force assets in Western Australia,” he told Radio 6PR.
“Western Australia is under-defended, we have navy assets here, but only the Special Air Service Regiment is the regular army unit and the air force has no combat elements here.
“When you look at where the assets of the nation lie, in the Pilbara which generates some 40 per cent of the nation’s revenue, we have the Pilbara Regiment, which is great, but they are a reserve regiment under strength and not very powerfully armed, and they are not enough.”
Papalia claimed the army was disproportionately located in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
“Well, if the Australian Defence Force is supposed to defend Australia, you’ve got to ask why aren’t we defending the most attractive resources the nation has because that’s what the Pilbara has: iron ore, gas, critical minerals and of course the agriculture sector,” he said.