'A Chain of Fortuitous Circumstances': the sudden rise of a military base in Townsville

White, Patrick (2015) 'A Chain of Fortuitous Circumstances': the sudden rise of a military base in Townsville. History in the Making, 4 (1). pp. 65-78.

[img] PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

View at Publisher Website: https://historyitm.files.wordpress.com/2...


The idea of developing northern Australia generated strong public interest in Queensland during the 1960s. The incumbent Coalition government suffered heavy losses in Queensland at the 1961 federal election. This result sharpened the awareness of both the Coalition and the Australian Labor Party of the potential to obtain political currency from the politics of northern development.' This generated interest in, and support for, initiatives that could be classed as 'northern development.' Subsequently, in 1964, when national security considerations drew 65 the Federal Government's attention to the North's sparsely populated expanse, one of the most enduring projects associated with northern development was undertaken: the establishment of Lavarack Barracks in Townsville. In 2007, the establishment of Lavarack Barracks was described as a local consequence of global events. Expanding on this theme, this paper argues that Lavarack Barracks was established as a consequence of Australia's deepening alliance with the United States. Australia demonstrated its commitment to the alliance by deploying troops to fight with American forces in Vietnam and increasing investment in defence. After reviewing defence force infrastructure in 1964, the Australian government committed to building a new army base. Suddenly, the idea of building a new military base in Townsville gathered momentum. Australia's escalating defence commitments in Southeast Asia added urgency and, within two years, Lavarack Barracks was opened in Townsville. Locating the new army base in Townsville was, at first, a pragmatic decision by the Federal Government: northern Australia provided strategic benefits to an active Australian military force, and Townsville had better credentials than other northern cities. But leading into the 1966 federal election, Prime Minster Harold Holt described the project, orchestrated by the Coalition, as a notable triumph for northern development. Holt alleged that Coalition ministers pushed for a northern location in the interests of northern development and overruled the military's recommendation the new base be built in Victoria. Holt's assertion was politically motivated and his interpretation became the subject of a dispute detailed in this paper. Perhaps the real triumph was the rapid completion of a project without preliminary planning. The sudden emergence of the Lavarack Barracks project led to a competition of interests between the army and all levels of government. Influential forces drove the project forward: Australia's foreign policy and defence commitments ensured powerful executive support. The politics of northern development added political legitimacy and hopes of a positive outcome for civilian development.

Item ID: 38653
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2200-4777
Keywords: Northern Development, Lavarack Barracks, Townsville, military history, army base, Vietnam War, Rex Patterson
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2015 00:01
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 7
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page