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Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works - 20/05/2015 - 17th Construction Squadron Relocation Infrastructure Project

PISASALE, Councillor Paul, Mayor, Ipswich City Council

Committee met at 12:57.

CHAIR ( Senator Smith ): I declare open this public meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works into the 17th Construction Squadron Relocation Infrastructure Project at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland. I call Mr Paul Pisasale, Mayor of the Ipswich City Council, to the table. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these hearings are formal proceedings of the parliament and consequently they warrant the same respect as proceedings of the parliament itself. Giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. Mr Pisasale, would you like to make an opening statement to the committee?

Councillor Pisasale : It is a great honour for me to speak here in terms of the city and especially our relationship with the Defence base and also with the resulting community and the impact on that community. One of the things that we have always realised whether it is the Air Force or it is the Army is that we look at the impact on the community and we work together with the base to address the community concerns. One of the things first up that would be the highest priority for the committee would be the roads. I can assure you from a council point of view that we will be addressing all the needs in partnership with the state and federal government to address those community concerns. I have before me a lot of information in regards to the City of Ipswich—our demographics and our population growth in some of those areas—that will strengthen my discussion today. I would like to table that as a document.

We have a had a proud partnership with Defence since 1940 and it is one of those things that has grown and grown. Some of the things that we have put in place as a city to make sure that relationship keeps getting stronger and stronger is things like our town plan. The town plan is based in such a way that the noise buffers, the five kilometre buffer zone we have put around the whole Defence base, are there to protect both the base and the City of Ipswich. We also recognise that the military and what is happening here today is more than just the Army and more than just the Air Force. It is a vital part of our community in regard to their efforts in P&Cs, P&Fs and sporting organisations, and just general support, such as in times of natural disasters such as the floods.

So we are a well-formed community. In this city Defence is part of a well-known partnership. We see it as the sound of freedom, because the movement of trucks is part of everyday life, so we need to work together as a community. One of the things we have instilled in our community is an understanding of the role of Defence—the issues in regard to deployment and transfers. We understand the pressures that are on families and we have set up mechanisms where the city is there to support the whole family.

So, while we are here talking about the amount of money that is going to be spent on the facility out there, we understand that you have to get not only value for money but we have to make sure that it is well appreciated and respected by the city. I can guarantee that that has happened for many years in the city. From our point, we have a great philosophy in the city. If you see someone in uniform we go up and shake their hand and so thank you. I think it is important, and we are hoping that more and more Australians actually recognise the effort and sacrifice that people in our defence force have made. One of the things we have generated is a coin, which I have with me and will give as a piece of evidence. We produce 6,500 of these coins for every person who serves in our Defence base. This is to show that we appreciate the service and sacrifice.

We continue to generate little things that show we are part of the community. We have just finished the Ipswich Show and we made sure that Defence families got in for half price. It is not only the price, but it is about the reasons why. It is so important for us to identify that.

So I just wanted to come today to speak very quickly about the relationship. It is more important that when you spend money in a community you have a community that appreciates the investment and appreciates the families and the people who will be posted here from all over the place and will be there to support those families. We have done that on an ongoing basis to make sure that they feel like they are part of a great city. That is why the Defence base here is probably the number one posting in the country for Defence personnel. We will continue to make it not only a strong base but one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. I am happy to take any questions you might like to ask me.

Mr PERRETT: I want to commend you, Major, for your support for the ADF. I know we are here representing parliament rather than the ADF, but we do get to go to a lot of bases around Australia, because Defence obviously undertakes a lot of public works. I think you would have to be the most strategic and supportive local government representative we have met. We appreciate what you do. I wanted to get some feedback on how the council gets feedback from ratepayers about their thoughts about ADF expansions and activities.

Councillor Pisasale : I spent a lot of time this Saturday as once a month I have chat times around the whole community. One of the issues I ask residents about—and I have just asked this of Bill, who is here today and who lives out that way—is their concerns. They do not have any concerns in regard to Defence, but they do have concerns about the effect it has on their home and their lifestyle. We have a great strategic advisory group that works together. We have one at the base and we will form one with the Army. We can address all of those issues and then put—

Mr PERRETT: Like a standing committee of council representatives, who are able to feed on information to the—

Councillor Pisasale : Correct. We have one with the Air Force. George Hatchman out there keeps me posted on what is happening out there, and we will do the same with the army. So we address those issues. One of the things that affect the Army—

Mr PERRETT: The issues that come through the consultative committees—

Councillor Pisasale : The biggest issue is going to be the roads and the traffic. We have to make sure that it is safe for the Army, as well—that we have good roads. So we will be working with state and federal governments to look at our road networks and also the impact on communities so that everybody lives happily ever after. Those things happen in every community. It is about giving people the opportunity to discuss it and making them feel that they are part of the process.

Mr PERRETT: I have Archerfield airport in my electorate. It has been there for 80-odd years. They, too, have a standing community consultation process.

Councillor Pisasale : Just talking about the issues is the most important thing, before they fester.

Senator GALLACHER: Quite often the committee hears from local communities about traffic issues and those sorts of things. What you are saying here is that there is nothing to see; it is all manageable. It is not like with Enoggera, where there were detailed representations about egress and things like that. And she is saying here that it is all managed, under control—consultation is working; there is nothing to see.

Councillor Pisasale : If you could get me some more money I would appreciate it! And I can fix the motorway as well. That would be good.

Mr PERRETT: The chair is a member of the government, so he might be able to sign off on something now, if you ask him!

Councillor Pisasale : We have half a motorway. We just need the Brisbane part, the Rocklea to Darra part, finished off.

CHAIR: I am a Western Australian, and you are sounding very much like a Western Australian when we talk about getting more money!

Councillor Pisasale : Queensland and Western Australia always have something in common, very much. We might have to work together. But I think there will always be issues, no matter where you are. I think it is about how you address those issues, how you make sure that the public does not feel that they are not listened to, and together we can address those issues. What we have in place in Ipswich is a perfect mechanism, a great relationship already existing. We have a great understanding and a community importance of defence, and we would not be sitting here without the defence force that we have in this country.

Senator GALLACHER: Fair enough.

CHAIR: I have two questions for you. Are you satisfied with the consultation process that the Department of Defence has undertaken for this particular project?

Councillor Pisasale : Yes. I would say it is second to none. We have had a number of briefings, and it is just good to see the style of communication and the briefings when the community gets in contact with me, and the relationship. There have been a number of stories in the community. We have not hidden anything. Facebook and Twitter are going strong, and the relationship we have had with the communication has been excellent.

CHAIR: Has the City of Ipswich been able to do any economic modelling or any economic forecasting in terms of how this specific project might benefit the city?

Councillor Pisasale : Yes, we have, and we can give you some of those figures. But the most important thing is just the continuing relationship of creating a nice base out there. We used to talk about the base, then we talked about superbase and now megabase. The community has adjusted to that terminology, and I think it is important. We also talk about having the largest air force base in the Southern Hemisphere. We have gone from talking about air force base to talking about defence base now. So we are very pleased, and I can see that with what we have been able to create here and the work out there we are in a great position to take more and more growth in the base, because it is actually ideal to free up some of the other land you have around Australia that will make some money when you sell it.

CHAIR: There are no other questions, so, thank you very much. I am sure your vote of confidence in Australia's defence forces is shared by many Australians. Would a member like to move that we accept the document that Mr Pisasale has brought here?

Mr PERRETT: It is so moved.