Campaign Promises to Replace Australia’s Chinese-Owned Port

By Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson
Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Contact him on
April 12, 2022Updated: April 12, 2022

Australia’s governing Liberal-National Party—currently in caretaker mode due to an election—plans to build a new $1.5 billion port facility in the country’s far north city of Darwin to replace an existing China-leased port, the country’s incumbent deputy prime minister has announced.

On the campaign trail in Darwin on April 11, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce unveiled details of a new port facility at Middle Arm, which he said would bring in close to $16 billion worth of private investment and strengthen the country’s resilience in the face of geopolitical instability in the Indo-Pacific.

The new port would be built near Darwin Port at East Arm, which the Northern Territory government leases for 99 years to Landbridge, a Chinese company with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

“Our nation must become as strong as possible, as quickly as possible, and what we’re doing here at Middle Arm with $1.5 billion just in this announcement, $1.5 billion dollars is going to be transformative, bringing in close to $16 billion worth of private investment,” Joyce said, NT News reported.

“Assisting us in growing our gas exports, our critical mineral exports and development of hydrogen. It is making sure that this port becomes one of the premier ports in Australia.

“[We have] the greatest opportunity to be part of the massive wealth and the massive growth from Indonesia that is racing ahead to be one of the biggest economies in the world,” he said.

The new port investment would make it a world-leading industrial hub for gas processing and high-value minerals processing and refinement, Joyce said.

“Our investment will deliver this, supporting port infrastructure, including a wharf and offloading facility, and dredging of the shipping channel,” he said.

The plan includes $440 million to build new logistics hubs at Alice Springs, Katherine, and Tennant Creek, and $300 million for low-emissions LNG and clean hydrogen production at Middle Arm, together with associated carbon capture and storage infrastructure.

Additionally, there is $200 million to further develop the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct, delivering a rail spur and new road network and $110 million to continue to upgrade and further seal the Tanami Road.

The Nationals plan to invest $7.1 billion in key regions as part of their Energy Security and Regional Development Plan to transform them into next-generation export hubs, the party outlined in a campaign document (pdf).

Speaking to the anticipation of a defence presence at the Middle Arm facility, Joyce noted that Darwin was “at the front” and had already “had experience of what it’s like to be at the front,” referring to when Japanese troops bombed the city in 1942.

“You don’t have to be Nostradamus to realise that defence is a large part of our budget, the massive increase in defence expenditure, taking it over two percent of GDP,” Joyce said.

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