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Defending Australia from itself

By Stuart Ballantyne - posted Tuesday, 14 December 2021

World War I saw a significant tactical blunder by the Commonwealth countries in regards to Gallipoli where 480,000 allied forces were dispatched and more than half of them became casualties.

In World War II, with the wonderful benefit of hindsight, who could believe that Allied Forces tacticians in Singapore would have even remotely considered that the enemy would come from the north? Another huge blunder. Of course, the Japanese trundled successfully down the Malaysian Peninsula, knowing full well that the Singapore shore guns were all pointing seaward through a nice sector from east, south, and to the west with nothing looking north or at the causeway.

The fall of Singapore, like Gallipoli, was a tactical disgrace.


In my previous life meandering as a marine consultant for 46 years, I have been optimising ships and shore infrastructures with many projects in the South Pacific.

Around 30 years ago, I was engaged by Norfolk island. After a full feasibility study, I recommended adding sea walls around Ball Bay and Cascade to allow both large and small vessels to finally have a port of refuge in this 560,000 square miles expanse of the South Pacific, and for a regular container roro service to use these harbours. At the time, cargo arrived in older geared cargo ships discharging small amounts of cargo via union purchase derricks into small lighters that could only carry five tonnes at a time. This would happen on the lee side of the island, either at Kingston or Cascade (wherever the wind was not blowing).

Two years ago I was tasked with the same exercise. Now, there are no geared ships and attempts to handle containers via lighters or barges have resulted in injuries, groundings, and ongoing inefficiencies. And yes, I came up with the same recommendations; build a big seawall and make a good harbour in Ball Bay, Cascade, or both.

Alas, Norfolk is governed by the over-regulated Australia, and for such a seawall to be approved (forget the actual build) it would take eight years to get through the obstructive Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that are already obstructing sensible infrastructure progress right across Australia.

Oh, how we need a Donald Trump to rollback most of this nonsense!

The Norfolk lighterage system continues. Containers cost around $25,000 to get to Norfolk, and airfreight is around $8,000 per tonne for groceries – which is about 20 times the normal rate for your local small supermarket.


So, my recommendation to Norfolk Island is as follows:

Watch 'The Mouse that Roared' to absorb Politics 101 for a small territory. Then, get on the phone to China's Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi and Russia's Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov. Invite both of them to bid for a lease of Ball Bay and Cascade for 10 years on the proviso that they build the seawall and some berths. You could have the proposals before Christmas and the harbours built before Easter.

The Chinese are ahead of the game here, having a fleet of 'fishing vessels' sitting in the 40 mile gap between the Norfolk and Lord Howe territorial waters for most of this year. They are certainly not there for fishing, but try and find someone in Canberra who cares.

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This article was first published in The Spectator.

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About the Author

Stuart Ballantyne is just a sailor who runs Seat Transport Solutions who are naval architects, consultants, surveyors and project managers.

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