SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Tuesday said key naval assets could be relocated north to adapt to a changing security landscape and put personnel nearer to their fields of operation.
Mr Rudd, facing national polls on Sept 7, said moving Sydney Harbour's Garden Island base to Queensland in the east and Western Australia could improve the nation's ability to sustain operations in the Asia-Pacific.
"Our national security challenges of the future lie to our north-east, to our north, and to our north-west," the Labor leader said in a foreign policy speech.
"That has been the strategic logic of Australia's defence policy for the last 30 years.
"This is a continuum in Australian defence force policy."
Mr Rudd said the approach underlined Canberra's enduring interest in regional stability and would better facilitate Australian military responses to humanitarian crises in the Asia-Pacific.
A move would also take defence personnel closer to their fields of activity and at the same time open up Sydney Harbour to the growing cruise ship industry, he said.
Mr Rudd said if re-elected he would establish a future navy taskforce to advise on how best to move some or all of Garden Island's Fleet Base East to Queensland and Perth, in Western Australia.
It would also advise on "developing, upgrading or expanding" bases in Darwin in the Northern Territory, and the northern Western Australian town of Broome.
"The government would expect the relocation of fleet elements north and west to be completed by 2030," Mr Rudd said.
Australia is seen as a critical pillar in the US "pivot" to Asia and the rebalancing of its military strategy, with hundreds of American marines already stationed in Darwin.