Calls by the State’s Defence Industry Minister to increase defence personnel in the Pilbara come have been backed by a local Pilbara council. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Defence Minister Richard Marles announced on August 3 a “vital” sweeping strategic review of the Australian Defence Force, set to be the first in 10 years. The Defence Strategic Review is aimed at assessing the structure and preparedness of the ADF for emerging security challenges from 2023 to 2033 and beyond. WA’s Defence Industry Minister Paul Papalia said it is essential a sweeping review of the ADF recognises the State — rich in mineral resources — has been left “essentially undefended” apart from the presence of the navy. His concerns were echoed by City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long, who when speaking to the Pilbara News recently said there was $200 billion in exports in the Pilbara defended by 30 personnel. “I always use the example in Townsville, where there used to be 8000 defence personnel, they change all the time,” he said. “You’ve got 8000 defence personnel guarding the Great Barrier Reef and you’ve got $200b worth of export income coming out of the Pilbara and we’ve got 30. “So it doesn’t seem quite right. Everyone actually agrees but it’s a big step between doing more and making these things happen.” Mr Papalia warned the capability to defend WA was greater 80 years ago during World War II than it is now, with the Army disproportionality located in Queensland and the Northern Territory and most combat elements of the Air Force on the eastern seaboard. He also called for major ADF exercises to be conducted in the Pilbara, home to the lucrative iron ore export industry and highly sought-after critical minerals needed for advanced space and defence industries. “WA generates the vast majority of export revenue for the nation, most of it originates from the Pilbara and we have no defence presence there other than a very good, but understrength and underarmed reserve unit. “The ADF hasn’t even exercised in the Pilbara for decades — other than the (reserve) Pilbara Regiment —so it’s essential that that be recognised.” At the July 25 meeting, local councillors approved a motion to provide $5000 to extend its membership to the North West Defence Alliance. The NWDA is a group of nine councils from Exmouth through to the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley and includes Broome, Karratha and Port Hedland. Mr Long said the group was formed on the back of the 2019 Developing Northern Australia conference when participants expressed their concerns about the lack of defence infrastructure in the North West. “We’re basically just a volunteers group, and we try and promote the case for spending more money on both people and infrastructure in the North West,” he said. Former Labor defence minister Stephen Smith said a “very important” part of the review would be looking at the changed situation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly the impact on the nation’s “northern and western approaches”.