By ERWIN CHLANDA
“There is no proposal to revoke the lease” over the Port of Darwin given by the NT Government for 99 years to the Chinese company, Landbridge.
This is part of the reply from a Department of Defence spokesperson to questions put by the Alice Springs News Online to Defence Marise Payne (pictured) about the controversial deal.
The spokesperson also explained the powers the Federal Government has over the port: “Section 63 of the Defence Act contains a general power for defence purposes.
“It states that the Governor-General may do all matters and things deemed by him or her to be necessary or desirable for the efficient defence and protection of the Commonwealth or of any State.
“The scope of this statutory power would be dependent on the circumstances, including the nature of the threat faced, but could include steps such as taking control of the Port of Darwin for defence purposes.
“In general, Defence uses a Deed of License negotiated with the Northern Territory Government as the basis for accessing the commercial Port of Darwin,” says the spokesperson.
“The Deed agreement provides Defence with a contractual right of access. It grants Defence the exclusive right to use and occupy parts of the commercial port at specific times. It also grants Defence the right to access the port at its discretion during a declared Defence emergency, during peak periods, and during declared contingencies.
“The lease of the Port of Darwin to a private operator is also governed by a suite of Northern Territory legislation which ensures that the Northern Territory Government maintains certain rights and powers for the safe and proper operation of the port. This provides additional legislative protection to Defence’s contractual rights.”
The spokesperson also clarified when and how the Federal Government was made aware of the involvement of Landbridge: “Defence was advised by the NT Government in early 2014 of its plan to seek private investment into the commercial Port of Darwin.
“Defence was advised in May 2015 that Landbridge was a potential bidder. Defence undertook an assessment of the lease arrangement prior to the completion of the transaction. Defence does not have security concerns with Landbridge operating the commercial Port of Darwin under a lease from the Northern Territory Government.
“Defence was advised by the Northern Territory Government of the lease to Landbridge a few hours before the Chief Minister’s announcement on 13 October 2015.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA