A SECRET military communications base complete with high-frequency eavesdropping and direction finding capabilities is operating in the Riverina, it has been claimed.
Built more than a decade ago, a $200 million Royal Australian Navy Defence Communications station west of Wagga is home to some of the most advanced technology in the world.
That’s according to information in a regional profile compiled by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment – and not many of us are aware it exists.
It comes after Australia recently found itself embroiled in controversy over the collection of data through its embassies in neighbouring countries.
Fairfax Media recently revealed Australia’s electronic spy agency – the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) – was intercepting phone calls and internet data in cities such as Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili, along with the high commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby.
It revealed the DSD was tapping into Indonesian naval and military communications through a secret radio listening post on the remote Cocos Islands.
Information obtained by The Daily Advertiser from the Defence Materiel Organisation website confirmed a Modernised High Frequency Communications System (MHFCS) operates in the Riverina.
The MHFCS nationwide network is made up of four remotely-operated transmitter and receiver stations that are controlled in Canberra.
The Riverina transmitter station and a management facility are located between Collingullie and Lockhart, while the receival site is near Morundah.
The Advertiser has learned the DSD – which recently rebranded as the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – operates other bases around the country which are linked to the network, including in the north-west cape area of Western Australia, at Shoal Bay near Darwin and another near Townsville.
It is understood the Shoal Bay station and the previously unreported Cocos Island facility form a crucial part of Australia’s signals intelligence collection efforts targeting Indonesia.
The Queensland base is believed to work with radio transmissions in Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific – with similar operations undertaken at the Riverina site.
The Advertiser contacted the department for comment yesterday, but a response couldn’t be provided before deadline.
Residents concerned by station
WHEN plans for the station were initially mooted, Collingullie landholder Anna Dennis was a staunch advocate for concerned property owners.
Mrs Dennis said at the time no one knew what was going to happen and the impact it would have on property value, coupled with poorly handled negotiations from the Department of Defence, were a cause for unease.
“There’s very little activity down there, as far as I’m aware (but) people are certainly aware that it’s there,” Mrs Dennis said about its current operation.
In June 2000, the department issued a statement outlining the Riverina site would provide “all the infrastructure needed to support a modern, high-technology, high frequency radio communications network for use by the Navy, Army and Air Force”.