Stephen Smith says Australian bases won't be expanded to service US carrier groups (photo : Militaryphotos)
Defence Minister Stephen Smith has flatly rejected a proposal to expand a naval base in Perth to accommodate US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier groups.
The idea for a $7 billion US carrier base on Australia's Indian Ocean seaboard is one of many canvassed in a report commissioned by the US Defence Department from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
Mr Smith says while increased US access to the HMAS Stirling base is on the cards in the long term, American aircraft carrier groups - including submarines, destroyers and fighter jets - will not be based in Australia.
"The report is an independent report to the United States government. It's not a United States government document," he said.
"We don't have United States military bases in Australia and we are not proposing to. What we have talked about in terms of either increased aerial access or naval access is precisely that - greater access to our facilities."
The West Australian Premier and Opposition Leader have also ruled out the aircraft carrier base idea.
Mr Smith says increased access for US ships at Australian naval bases is a long-term possibility, but only after the current troop rotation through the Northern Territory and the increased access to airfields in northern Australia is in place.
"What we are looking at down the track is the possibility of further or enhanced naval access to HMAS Stirling," he confirmed.
"The strategic rationale for that is the growing importance of India and the growing importance of the Indian Ocean rim, particularly in a naval and maritime sense."
Mr Smith also rejected another idea in the report that would see a significant increase in the numbers of US Marines in Darwin.
"There is no suggestion being made to us that Australia should receive such a large number of marines transferred from Okinawa or from Guam. We're proceeding on the basis of the agreement between the Australian Government and the United States administration of a six-month rotation out of Darwin," he said.
The Defence Minister was speaking in Canberra as he gave an update to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute about the Defence white paper due in the first half of next year.
He says the Australian Defence Force's tasks and priorities will remain the same, but the paper will respond not only to the rise of China, but also India.