Singapore training initiative is Mick’s business
He was last week appointed as Business and Community Liaison for the ASMTI.
An Army officer for more than 30 years in the ARA and Reserves, he commanded the Joint Task Force deployment in East Timor in 2010-2011 as a colonel, and he has also been a leader in the North’s business community.
He is a former president of the Townsville Chamber of Commerce and a former board member of Townsville Enterprise.
A Rotarian for more than 20 years, he is also the president of the Townsville Legacy Club and he maintains a close relationship with Defence through his consultancy work at the Combat Training Centre at Lavarack Barracks.
He walks in both worlds – Defence and commerce – which is why, he thinks, Defence Minister Marise Payne asked him to do the job.
Mr Reilly is one member of the team established in Townsville to oversee the development of facilities and services to support the influx of Singaporean Defence national servicemen to Defence training areas near Rockhampton (Shoalwater Bay) and Townsville (the Field Training Area at High Range).
A senior Defence public servant Sean Hawkins, supported by an Army major, has been appointed Defence Liaison Officer in Townsville.
They all report to BRIG Tim Bayliss in Canberra who is the senior Australian Defence Force officer administering the ASMTI.
Mr Reilly said his role was to provide a conduit to the ASMTI for business and local communities.
“I will work principally with the businesses in Rockhampton and the Livingstone Shire, and in Charters Towers and the Townsville region,” he said.
“I will want to hear what they can do in business and community engagement to maximise local participation in this initiative.”
He said the ASMTI was one part of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and Singapore.
“There’s 80 different agreements, including a free trade agreement, and, of course, the military training agreement,” Mr Reilly said.
Opportunities for business and industry would most likely come in two forms – first during the construction and
establishment of the infrastructure required, and later when services were required to support the groups sent to train in Australia.
The first step is to expand the training areas, a process to be achieved by purchasing land from willing sellers – and only willing sellers.
The ADF and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are looking at land at Greenvale, Pentland and Ravenswood as well as land around the training area at High Range with owners keen to sell.
Mr Reilly said work during the construction and infrastructure development stages would be acquired in a way very familiar to Townsville businesses – through the normal Defence and government procurement processes.
“It’s the same way it’s always been done, the same way Lavarack Barracks was rebuilt, for instance, and it’s something Townsville is very used to,” he said.
Rockhampton, on the other hand, was well-used to small groups of SAF members undertaking training blocks at Shoalwater Bay.
“They have been training there for 26 years, so it’s nothing new, really,” Mr Reilly said.
He said local business should be looking for opportunities.
“The Minister has been very clear that engagement with local business and industry to develop the training areas is important.”
He said the Singaporeans would be looking at the services required to support their troops and that would be another avenue of opportunity.
Senator Payne said the Business and Community Liaison officer would ensure Defence was actively addressing the needs of stakeholders in Central and North Queensland as implementation of the initiative continued.
“Mr Reilly’s business acumen, combined with his knowledge of the region would ensure local views were objectively represented to Defence,” she said.
Mr Reilly said benefits from the “long game” would be as important, if not more important, than the short-term benefits, for Townsville and Rockhampton commerce.
He said the vast majority of Singaporeans who would be sent to Australia to undertake a significant portion of their training from about 2019 would be national servicemen.
Every male in Singapore for the past 50 years has done national service.
“They come out here to do their training, and, 10 years later, when they’re wanting to go on holidays overseas, they think: ‘I wonder what that nice place in Australia is like now’… that’s how the long game will benefit us.”
Mr Reilly can be contacted by email – ASMTI.firstname.lastname@example.org – and he encouraged people who felt they had something to contribute to get in touch.