OPERATION DOUBT: It is unclear when Exercise Wallaby would take place at Shoalwater Bay in 2020. This picture from a previous exercise captures Singaporean Staff Sergeant Rithish Pillai unwrapping the gun of a SM1 tank. Photo: Paul Linam
OPERATION DOUBT: It is unclear when Exercise Wallaby would take place at Shoalwater Bay in 2020. This picture from a previous exercise captures Singaporean Staff Sergeant Rithish Pillai unwrapping the gun of a SM1 tank. Photo: Paul Linam

COVID-19 throws CQ’s massive Exercise Wallaby into doubt

THOUSANDS of Singaporean troops usually converge on CQ's Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area for the annual Exercise Wallaby, but with COVID-19 restrictions closing our borders, there is uncertainty about when it would now proceed.

The viral pandemic has overshadowed ambitious plans for a large scale operation to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our relationship with the Singapore Armed Forces for Exercise Wallaby 2020.

Usually occurring between September and November,it was unclear if or when the exercise would now proceed.

Singapore Armed Forces troops during Exercise Wallaby 2017 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
Singapore Armed Forces troops during Exercise Wallaby 2017 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

A Defence spokesperson confirmed that Singapore and Australia had both implemented restrictions on overseas travel due to COVID-19.

"We are working closely with Singapore through arrangements for training and exercises proposed for later this year," the spokesperson said.

Resource economist Professor John Rolfe regards defence as "the sleeper" in terms of future economic potential for our region.

Chair of the Airport Committee councillor Neil Fisher said last year that Exercise Wallaby not only strengthened our relationship with Singapore but had massive flow-on effects for our economy with the troops visiting our tourism operators, shopping at our businesses and eating at our restaurants.

"(In 2019) the airport saw just over 3,300 troops arrive and depart to Singapore between September and November with 10 international charters touching down in Rockhampton including the Air New Zealand and Royal Brunei Boeing 787 Dreamliners," Cr Fisher said.

"In fact, you could say that Rockhampton Airport is now a hub for Dreamliner flights, having welcomed more 787's than most regional Airports in Australia.

BIG JET PLANE: Rockhampton Airport Chair Neil Fisher loves seeing the massive Antonov AN-124 cargo plane on the tarmac at Rockhampton airport for Exercise Wallaby.
BIG JET PLANE: Rockhampton Airport Chair Neil Fisher loves seeing the massive Antonov AN-124 cargo plane on the tarmac at Rockhampton airport for Exercise Wallaby.

"And of course one of the highlights is always seeing the world's largest cargo carrier, the Antonov, parked on the tarmac."

Situated 80km north of Rockhampton, Shoalwater Bay has been one of Australia's prime military training areas since 1965 when it was first used to train troops being deployed to Vietnam.

A billion dollar expansion has now commenced to upgrade the 453,700ha site over the next two decades in a joint enterprise between the Australian and Singapore defence forces.

"Singapore and Australia are close partners with a shared commitment to regional stability," the defence spokesperson said.

"Singapore has committed to investing $2.25 billion in (Central and North) Queensland over the next 25 years under the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative."

Singapore Armed Forces troops during Exercise Wallaby 2017 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
Singapore Armed Forces troops during Exercise Wallaby 2017 at Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

When the ASMTI reaches maturity, up to 14,000 Singapore Armed Forces personnel will conduct training in Central and North Queensland over 18 weeks each year.

On March 23, a treaty on military training and training area development was signed by Australia and Singapore which would provide greater certainty of the ASMTI's long-term future and viability, and the local economic opportunities and benefits that will be delivered across the ASMTI's full lifespan.

Further information on the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative is available at: www.defence.gov.au/initiatives/asmti/

To find out how your business can get involved, visit: www.defence.gov.au/initiatives/asmti/BusinessOpportunities/Default.asp

 

The Singapore Army during Exercise Wallaby at Shoalwater Bay.
The Singapore Army during Exercise Wallaby at Shoalwater Bay.

 

1st sergeant Lawrence Lim Min Ho sits on a Primus tank at Shoalwater Bay during Exercise Wallaby.
1st sergeant Lawrence Lim Min Ho sits on a Primus tank at Shoalwater Bay during Exercise Wallaby.

 

Apache helicopters at the Rockhampton airport for Exercise Wallaby.
Apache helicopters at the Rockhampton airport for Exercise Wallaby.

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