A shared defence industry innovation and simulation training facility has secured federal funding of $32 million three years after it was proposed, with Labor following through on its election commitment on Thursday despite no commitment to train personnel at the facility.
The Australian Defence Force has no formal agreement to train any troops at the facility which will be adjacent to a major barracks with existing simulation facilities.
The funding paves the way for work to begin on the North Queensland Simulation Park (NQ Spark) proposed in 2020 as Australia’s first collaborative industry hub focused on developing sovereign defence industrial capability.
The new simulation and research facility is also supported by the Townsville City Council, the state government, and James Cook University. It will be built between the university, Townsville University Hospital and Lavarack Barracks.
“This is a unique integration of industry sectors such as health, emergency services and universities, with flow-on social and economic benefits to the broader community,” Defence Industry minister Pat Conroy said.
“This facility will bring these sectors together through defence industry, to deliver world class simulation training. NQ Spark can set the benchmark for similar initiatives across the country.”
Federal Labor committed to funding the project during last year’s election campaign as a point of difference from local LNP candidate, who ultimately retained the seat.
The Townsville City Council has pushed for the facility for years, pointing to a favourable feasibility study and business case that said NQ Spark will create hundreds of jobs and significant economic output.
However, when federal Labor committed to the project last year it did so reportedly without a commitment from the Australian Defence Force to use the facility.
It is understood no agreement has been reached since and Defence will consider any potential future arrangements with NQ Spark in line with its standard procurement and contract arrangements.
“Once constructed, the NQ Spark facility will be used by a range of industries, including emergency services, information technology and defence industry,” a Defence spokesperson said when asked about any commitments to the facility.
The office of Defence minister Richard Marles did not respond to questions on whether any commitment has been made by Defence forces to use the new facility.
When the commitment was announced last year, then-shadow Defence minister Brendan O’Conner dismissed concerns about a lack of commitment or presence of Defence officials at the announcement.
“In the course of an election campaign, often the ADF doesn’t want to be involved in announcements like this,” he said in April last year.
“But I can assure you… they want to see more investment in this type of training.”
This article has been updated to include a response from a Defence spokesperson.
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