Sunday, January 2, 2011

Relief from Singapore for Rockhampton floods?

The Wet: Rockhampton Airport (ROK) surrounded by floodwaters. The airport will be familiar to all SAF servicemen who have taken part in the Exercise Wallaby war games. (Source: Queensland Police. Many thanks Mike Yeo) 

Without going to Google, name the key newspoint for Exercise Wallaby staged last year by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Defence-aware netizens will probably recall the gushing editorials from the Singaporean press that commemorated the 20th year of SAF war games in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia... and the gaffe by the 90 cents newspaper that placed Rockhampton south of Perth.

The town best known to Singaporean troops who have been to Wallaby, Rockhampton, is once again in the news. This time because of massive flooding that has had an area as large as France and Germany combined under water.

News streaming out of Rocky reports the worst is yet to come as inland floodwaters drain out towards the low-lying coastal areas. D Day is Wednesday when floodwaters are expected to peak and inundate Rocky for at least two days.

To show it is no fair weather friend, Singapore should prepare itself for a flood relief mission in Rocky. The close defence relations between Australia and Singapore make our circumstances different from all other friends of the Lucky Country: no other country trains its military as extensively in Oz as we do. We therefore have an obligation to offer help, without the host country asking for it.

The flood relief mission will not come cheap with Avgas prices spiralling skyward. But surely the bilateral ties between the Lion City and the Lucky Country are worth far more than the dollars and cents that such a mission will inevitably chalk up?

Help is closer at hand than you imagine: the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has flown its detachment of Super Puma/Cougar helicopters from Oakey for many years.

Relief flights by RSAF airlifters or chartered Singapore Airlines MegaArks to Brisbane would also put relief supplies within reach of Queensland authorities.

The goodwill such aid will generate with Queenslanders will outshine the public relations mileage that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) whipped up in 2010.

It would also show that Singaporeans are the best kind of friends one can ask for: the blokes who are there for you, unasked, come rain or shine.


Anthony said...

Good to know!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes sending assistance unasked can inadvertently provoke sensitivities with the receiving nation. Presumably somebody has already quietly asked Kevin & Julia if Australia would mind some assistance?

Agree that it would be good for Singapore's perception with the locals if we were seen to be helping. Might also make Singapore's investments more palatable.

Mike Yeo said...

The problem is not with assets at the moment. The ADF has a significant amount of assets in Queensland, with one sqn each of Blackhawks, Chinooks and MRH-90 in Townsville (700km to the North), and C-17s at Amberley (700km to the south).

The problem is accessibility, Rockhampton Airport has been closed after being inundated as several roads in and out of the town. The town is by and large cut off. Helicopters are an obvious choice, but the nearest major towns are Yeppon (50km away), Gladstone (100km) and MacKay (350km). The former two towns either lack an airport or its too small to bring in large quantities of supply in. While MacKay's is large enough but its pretty far away for helicopters to operate in support of Rocky.

A pretty complicated situation, all up.

Anonymous said...

Australia is the Lucky Country, although that moniker may be somewhat inappropriate here given the diluvian extent of the floods.

David Boey said...

Anonymous on 2 Jan 2011: We may have to wait for WikiLeaks to find out what was said and the gossip that civil servants from both sides mouth about one another.

If the New Zealanders were still at Dieppe Barracks and, say for argument's sake, that Orchard Road was drenched by another one of those once-in-50-years floods. Wouldn't we think well of the Kiwis if they came out to offer a hand clearing up?

Anonymous on 3 Jan 2011: You're right. Will amend. Many thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

i live in rocky..the media coverage is a total overkill....95% of rocky is high and dry...the only parts of rocky with any water are depot hill, parts of wandal and park avenue..these are very old suburbs and have seen dozens of floods over the past 100 years.

i tell you with 110% certainty its business as usual with most of rocky..

for sure there is a lot of water around the area but most of it bypasses most of the residents who live here...ask any local they will tell you.

do a search on google, you will see the media pump up the rocky floods year after year as its the only story around of significance this time of year.

rocky is fine as a whole and is totally dry..its the crappy low lying areas that cop the water and frankly they are use to it.

places like emerald, theodore further inland is where the real help is required...


all the best.

FinalFive said...

The funny thing is, I'm always wondering whether there is any real depth to the phrase "good defence relations". In some cases, there is - like with the US, the Brits, and other hush hush nations. Evident in the beautiful purchase of technology which isn't exactly offered to any other country.

Australia, I'm not so sure. It's more commercial than anything else isn't it? Sure we thank them for letting us use the length and breadth of Shoalwater Bay for integrated live firing exercises, but we pay for it. Make no mistake - Many an Armour logistics officer would recall fondly (like scratching an old keloid) the Australian field ranger (not our Rangers) walking around the area after our mighty charge-up-the-knoll pointing at fallen trees:

"Oi, that's one tree down, AUD5 grand mate."
"That a shrub, come on."
"Looks like a tree to me."

There are no permanent allies, only permanent interests.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was a shame if our "mighty" SAF did not lend a hand to help. But only if allowed to lah.

On the other hand is it really true that the disaster was hyped up?

ex Ex Wallaby participant

Anonymous said...

Is MINDEF hearing this?

At least offering to help speaks volume, whether the Australian government accepts the offer or not.

Good opportunity for SAF to practise their disaster relief operation and hone some experience. And learning how to traverse inaccessible terrain...

diCam said...

Singapore has offered assistance to the Australian...