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Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works - 04/11/2015 - Delamere Air Weapons Range Redevelopment Project, Northern Territory

BROWNING, Group Captain Ian, Executive Director, Capital Facilities and Infrastructure, North West, Department of Defence

HARNEY, Mr Bill, Wardaman Traditional Owner

LARTER, Wing Commander Mark, Senior Australian Defence Force Officer, RAAF Base Tindal, and Commanding Officer, No. 17 Squadron, Department of Defence

MURRAY, Mr Lindsay, Project Director, Capital Facilities and Infrastructure, Department of Defence

SARRI, Mr Kieran, Managing Contractor's Representative, Lend Lease

TAYLOR, Mr James, Senior Project Manager, Point Project Management

Committee met at 10:50

CHAIR ( Senator Smith ): I now declare open this public hearing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works into the Delamere Air Weapons Range redevelopment project in the Northern Territory. Before I call the witnesses, I call upon a member to move that this committee receives as evidence and authorises for publication supplementary submission to this inquiry No. 1.2 from the Department of Defence.

Mr PERRETT: I so move.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Perrett. I also call upon a member to move that this committee receives as evidence confidential supplementary submission to this inquiry No. 1.3 from the Department of Defence.

Ms RYAN: I so move.

CHAIR: Thanks, Ms Ryan. I call the representatives of the Department of Defence and others 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. 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 a contempt of parliament. Group Captain Browning, would you care to make some brief introductory remarks before we proceed to questions?

Group Capt. Browning : Yes, thank you, Senator Smith. Before I begin, and with your permission, I would like to acknowledge and welcome Mr Bill Harney, who is a traditional owner of the Wardaman people and a signatory to the Indigenous land use agreement for Delamere Air Weapons Range.

CHAIR: Welcome.

Mr Harney : Thank you very much.

Group Capt. Browning : This proposal seeks approval of the Delamere Air Weapons Range redevelopment project for the Department of Defence. The Delamere Air Weapons Range redevelopment project will provide new facilities and upgrade existing infrastructure at Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory to support the continued operation of this range as an important training area for the Australian Defence Force.

The proposal before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works is to provide new range operations working accommodation and range control living accommodation and maintenance workshops—all to be constructed in a new location to maximise the utility of the range. The proposal will also provide a new high-explosive impact area, extensive civil and service works, and upgrades to boundary fences, internal roads and the airfield at Delamere Air Weapons Range.

The proposed works will support the Australian Defence Force and foreign military training requirements, will address deficiencies with the current range facilities and is aligned with the operational capability need. The estimated out-turn cost of the facilities project is $74.4 million, excluding goods and services tax. The cost estimate includes construction cost, maintenance and design fees, information and communications technology, furniture, fittings and equipment, and allowances for escalation and contingencies.

Subject to parliamentary approval of this project, construction is expected to begin in mid-2016, with all construction being completed by mid-2018. Senator Smith, that concludes the Defence opening statement. The Defence witnesses are now ready to answer questions from the committee.

Mr PERRETT: In the evidence we heard yesterday it was said that the boundary fence is often removed or destroyed, that this was quite commonplace. What security measures are currently employed to ensure the safety of defence force personnel and local residents? What protocols are in place should an unauthorised person breach the existing boundary which may or may not be destroyed? And, given the very poor state of the boundary, is it Defence's intention to complete this scope element first?

Group Capt. Browning : I might pass that question to our PMCA as far as the programming of each of those individual parts. When we said we can start in 2016, obviously the most important part of that is the construction of our workers construction camp. Most of the works will be completed during that 2017 period. But I might pass to Mr Taylor to talk about when the fence part will be constructed.

Mr PERRETT: Can I just clarify. When we are talking about the boundary fence, do we mean the SIM card or the outer boundary? If you could clarify both of those. I would assume that the SIM card is the key bit, inside which bombs go off.

Group Capt. Browning : I might pass that to Group Captain Larter, but—as we spoke about yesterday—that inner SIM card shape was the original defence practice area, and the rest of it was buffer. It has now been declared that whole area, except for that bottom paddock, is now the defence practice area.

Wing Cmdr Larter : Mr Perrett, you are correct in what you just mentioned about the original defence practice area, that SIM card shape that I mentioned yesterday. That is secure. That is where most of our weapon templates will be assigned to.

Mr PERRETT: Did we see photos of that yesterday or did we see the outer boundary?

Wing Cmdr Larter : That was the outer boundary. That was an area on the north-west of the now new defence practice area. That was just adjacent to the Buntine Highway that feeds some of those cattle stations that, again, were mentioned. Yes, with that increase in land area, the range boundary, we are missing elements of fencing now. We are hoping that might be addressed with this new project. We still have fencing around most of the new defence practice area. But, as you saw from that illustration yesterday, it is in a state of disrepair.

Mr PERRETT: I am just looking at the PowerPoint now.

Wing Cmdr Larter : I just want to reassure you about some of the safety measures that we do take.

Mr PERRETT: This is beside a public highway.

Wing Cmdr Larter : It is beside a public highway, yes, it is.

Mr PERRETT: Not the most travelled public highway in Australia, but nevertheless.

Wing Cmdr Larter : No, it is not. There are a couple of cattle stations that that road will lead to, north to south, and then that leads down to an area called Top Springs. If we are deploying some of the weapons that are larger and more sophisticated, we will also take extra security measures by making sure that we have sentries posted out there so—as best we can—there is no encroachment or limited encroachment into that defence practice area. We are concerned about humans, of course, but sometimes cattle will go in. They will venture in and trample down what is, in a sense, that old fencing that has been in existence for about 27 years now.

Ms RYAN: You said that when we were looking yesterday at the SIM card shape the rest was a buffer. I did not hear that clearly yesterday—that now the whole site is considered a practice site. So there is no buffer now, no ostensible buffer?

Wing Cmdr Larter : Yes, that is correct. There is no buffer now, but we will still, where we are able to, deploy the weapons safety traces around that original SIM card shape. Effectively there is no extra buffer. The DPA is that increased area comprising 2,200 square kilometres, but we still apply the operations into that 320 square kilometre bit, that old defence practice area. So it is still very safe.

Ms RYAN: So 27 years ago when this was established a buffer was determined. Under legislation?

Wing Cmdr Larter : Under legislation, yes.

Ms RYAN: So now we have removed the buffer without reference to legislation?

Wing Cmdr Larter : No. Back in 1988 when it was commissioned and gazetted as a Defence practice area, that was the official practice area which we, as Defence, were required to confine operations to—that smaller Defence practice area. But it was recognised when that was gazetted that the additional land area there, comprising the 2,200 square kilometres, was Defence land. That was the area that we were responsible for in making sure that there was appropriate signage up to stop people wandering into that area inadvertently.

Ms RYAN: Generally speaking, under the law the proprietor should own the buffer. So that makes sense. My concern is that, if we have changed that, in that now there is no legal buffer, then Defence can give assurances that they will be careful and safety-conscious, but there is nothing stopping the use of that land. It was not something that I picked up yesterday; it is something that I would be concerned about.

Wing Cmdr Larter : Could I add another point there, Ms Ryan? Although the gazettal of the Defence practice area has been changed with that government approval, the operations that are conducted at Delamere are still within that original safety template—that old Defence practice area. So nothing has changed in that regard.

What has changed is the sophistication of the weapons that we are now employing. Of course, as we move over in time, we have gone from unguided to now guided, more precise weapons—GPS- and laser-guided. Because of the additional kinetic energy boundary of the weapons, that just means that there is a bigger safety template that we have to consider with the placement of that range control. But there is nothing going out, extending, really, above the encroachment from that original Defence practice area.

Ms RYAN: That was my understanding from the presentation yesterday—that things were going to stay inside the SIM card radius in terms of direct hits.

Wing Cmdr Larter : Yes, that is correct.

Group Capt. Browning : The impact areas on the range—including the new one that we plan to build—are still within that original Defence practice area.

CHAIR: Group Captain Browning, have any works been conducted at Delamere since it was commissioned in 1988?

Group Capt. Browning : In terms of 'works', you are talking about capital works?

CHAIR: Capital works.

Group Capt. Browning : I do not have the answer to that, obviously other than the original construction. There probably has been construction, as we did speak about—even the base has done some works there. But I will ask Wing Commander Larter if he knows of any capital works that have occurred in that.

Wing Cmdr Larter : The original range complex really is as it was when it was introduced in 1988, with the exception of some of the accommodation that we had to put in when we went from the manning of six. We knew that we had to have visitors and observers in there, so some additional demountable accommodation has been put in there. We have done some self-help work to put in some construction areas, to make sure that the people are safe from the elements—weatherboards and shelters and suchlike.

There have been a couple of facilities that have been put in. Recently, the special forces observation towers have gone in. But, really, when it comes to accommodating our personnel and the working environment there, nothing of substance has been done since 1988.

CHAIR: So the taxpayers have had 27 years of value for money?

Wing Cmdr Larter : Yes, they have.

CHAIR: Excellent.

Group Capt. Browning : Certainly they have got value for money out of those original facilities. Most of those works would have been not capitalising—delivered by capital facilities and infrastructure branch, which deals with the larger projects, but by minor new works, delivered by the estate works.

CHAIR: So the special forces observation towers were constructed when? And at what cost?

Wing Cmdr Larter : They were constructed and finalised last year. I will come back to you with the cost, if that is okay.

CHAIR: So under this redevelopment plan they will stay.

Wing Cmdr Larter : They will stay.

Mr PERRETT: To clarify, Wing Commander Larter, if Singapore or the US are using the facility, is it a fee-for-service or cost-recovery arrangement?

Wing Cmdr Larter : Under a standing agreement with the Americans, we do not charge them for the use of that range. They are required, though, to assist us sometimes with the remediation, the removal of that target and weapon waste that I talked about. For the Singaporeans, there is not a similar arrangement in place. As far as I am aware, they are charged for usage, of that range, when they use it. At the moment, I do not have an idea of that cost.

Mr PERRETT: You will have to work out what the market rate is, I guess.

Wing Cmdr Larter : We do have a business manager in place who, certainly, bills the Singaporeans and that is part of the agreement. They come in; they use the facilities—

Mr PERRETT: And unexploded ordnance?

Wing Cmdr Larter : We will always be responsible for that. As owners of the range we will make sure that that is done, with our own team, but they will assist where they can. I would like to come back to the previous question about cost of the observation towers. There are two that I put in as admissible evidence. The cost for both was $1.5 million.

CHAIR: The Chief of Air Force has talked about the increased use of Delamere by foreign forces. How does that impact on the use of the facility by the Australian Defence Force? Do Australian forces have priority access or is there a possibility they will be displaced by foreign forces?

Wing Cmdr Larter : From an operational perspective, the Australian forces would always take precedence over visitors to the range. There is a schedule of events. It is planned from one of our senior headquarters. That gives an indication. Under international engagement agreements, between the governments of Australia and some of the countries that come in and use the range, they are able to go in at set dates. They are always deconflicted with Australia's needs first, however, because of the forces that we might have to train to go overseas and conduct missions.

Ms RYAN: Given that the MTTES capacities will be on the ground at Delamere and given that the proposal is that there will be a second HE site, on the site, and that we are now out to 10 or 11 months of the year that Delamere is in—will there be clear time set aside for Australian training, for the Growler, and will that displace the use for some of our allies? In other words, what process is there in place to ensure that the Growler gets access to the site when it is needed?

Wing Cmdr Larter : As far as training is concerned, once these works commence, the capability requirements of Air Force will continue. They will look to practice on a neighbouring air weapons range. That one is owned by Army but we do have an agreement in place to use the Bradshaw Field Training Area and, over in Townsville, there is another Army range that we are able to use as well. With the range development, from my perspective as a commanding officer, we are looking to conduct, say, operations with regard to laser activities and those increased weapon templates that I have mentioned. That is why there is a drive there to relocate the current placement of the range operation centre. As far as time lines are concerned, the capability drive is from the MTTES project you just mentioned. They are the timescales we are looking to, as a conjoined project between the range development and MTTES.

Ms RYAN: If Defence had to prioritise, the MTTES at Delamere is the priority? Or is the redevelopment of Delamere the priority?

Wing Cdre Larter : The MTTES infrastructure needs to be completed by December 2018 in order to meet the MTTES ready-for-training milestones in 2019. What we are trying to do is capture efficiencies for the two projects that will be going on. That will then assist the MTTES, making sure we are ready for those milestones for the initial operation capability for the airborne electronic attack aircraft from July 2018 onwards.

Mr PERRETT: What is done with visiting nations in terms of cultural awareness and understanding of the ILUA and the interaction with the Wardaman people's concerns before they actually get on the range?

Group Cpt. Browning : There are two parts to using the range. There are those who fly over it and drop things on it and then there are people on the ground operating the range. I will pass that question to Group Captain Larder.

Mr PERRETT: I am interested in both of those.

Group Cpt. Browning : It will normally only affect those who are on the ground, as far as cultural awareness of using the land subject to the Indigenous land use agreement is concerned. Those who fly over probably have less interest but may well be given cultural awareness as well. I will hand over to Group Captain Larter to respond to that.

Wing Cdre Larter : As soon as we receive a body of international forces, we locate them and look after them at RAAF Base Delamere. They are then subject to mandatory briefings. They get two briefings. One is the ground based brief. That will talk about all the safety issues; living and operating in the Northern Territory; environmental, cultural and heritage issues—that is by a team of specialist staff. As an aside, the Australians get that as well if they are not used to working up in the Northern Territory. The second briefing includes an air capability safety brief from the range control officer who is responsible for Delamere Air Weapons Range. That briefing will make sure that they are aware of all the neighbouring cattle stations, heights, restrictions, obviously the local trade—the helimustering, the cattle industry and things like that. If we do get any issues—and I am in contact with all of those landowners; they have my number—I address it at that time. But hopefully, with the parameters we have put in place with those briefings, we will not encounter any issues.

Group Cpt. Browning : As with any normal training area and training activities, we would always try to brief anybody coming in about any heritage or cultural sensitivities. We certainly do not want people who are coming on an exercise suddenly upsetting arrangements that have been in place for a long time and working very well. So we would brief them on any sensitivities about heritage, cultural or even environmental issues. I am certainly aware, from operating on other bases where there are sensitive areas, that that is one of the first briefings people get to make sure they do not go trampling sensitive areas. We have taken a very long time to develop good relationships with those people and we certainly do not want that upset by just throwing a bunch of people in there without briefing.

Mr Murray : Under the Indigenous land use agreement, where we have personnel working on the base for three months or longer—Defence has to work with the Wardaman people to develop a cultural education program for all of those staff. That is in addition to the regular range of briefings that Group Captain Browning has just spoken about.

CHAIR: The project includes a new slip lane that will be constructed on the Buntine Highway. I think the justification is to reduce interference with highway traffic. Can you explain to me how much highway traffic there is and what the nature of it is? Is this part of the proposed work that the Commonwealth is paying for? If not, who is paying for those works?

Group Cpt. Browning : A new slip lane on the Buntine Highway is proposed as part of this project—basically for road safety for people exiting the Buntine Highway and moving into Delamere Air Weapons Range. I might pass to our MC rep just to provide you with some more details, if we have any, on the traffic counts or the traffic information we might have that drove that.

Mr Sarri : The project, as you mentioned previously, has allowed for the slip lanes along the Buntine Highway. The majority of those slip lanes are for the MTTES works off the highway. I will just talk about the main range intersection which is funded under the Delamere component of works. As far as traffic studies along the Buntine Highway, we have not done any traffic studies, although there is limited usage of that road along the Buntine Highway. The main purpose of providing a slip lane is to provide a safe means of entering and/or exiting the Delamere range so that when a semitrailer is turning in there is suitable clearance around that semitrailer if a car is coming the other way. In terms of coordination of what the project has done, we have coordinated those works with the Department of Infrastructure and we have commenced our initial consultation. The design of those slip lanes is done as per the Austroads standards.

CHAIR: So the semitrailers coming off the highway entering RAAF Base Delamere are carrying the MTTES equipment; is that right?

Mr Sarri : Yes.

CHAIR: For the crowds of people that are listening, MTTES stands for the Mobile Threat Training Emitter System. If we could just have that on the record?

Mr Sarri : That is correct.

CHAIR: How often would that take place? How many semitrailer movements carrying the MTTES are we expecting?

Mr Sarri : I do not have the trainer duties figure.

Group Capt. Browning : I am at a disadvantage here because that was part of the Growler project, but I will try to get the number of times for you.

CHAIR: So the MTTES, which are actually vehicles—

Group Capt. Browning : It is an emitter that is carried on a low loader so they can move it around the site.

CHAIR: Moving it around the site. Does it go in and out of the RAAF base at Delamere?

Group Capt. Browning : I think there are some sites that are just off—

Mr Taylor : I might answer that, if I may, Senator. The MTTES equipment is predominantly ex-Warsaw Pact equipment. Some of it is tracked. The cost of maintaining those tracks, if they were to self-move around the range, would be fairly substantial. The majority of the vehicles would be on low loaders—19-metre, 40-tonne low loaders dragged by a semitrailer. They will be permanently housed at the main range control complex. They will be entering and exiting the main range entry fairly consistently. They will be moving from that site to the various locations around the range where they will be operating from. That range entry at the moment is on a single lane, the Buntine Highway. Despite being a highway, it is a single lane. Predominantly range traffic at the moment is four-wheel drive traffic, so it is fairly agile. If a road train or another four-wheel drive comes along, which is about you all get on the highway, at very irregular internals, the current range entry does not really cause an obstacle. But because a low loader semitrailer will be a lot slower entering or leaving the range it could potentially form more of an obstacle, so we are putting in a slip lane to essentially remove that hazard.

CHAIR: I am not familiar with the junction. Is it on flat land or is it undulating?

Mr Taylor : No, it is flat land on high-sight distances, so you can see it a long way away. Vehicles can travel fairly quickly along there, so it is very important that if a semitrailer is turning—and obviously it does that slowly—it is actually out of the line of traffic.

CHAIR: In the Northern Territory there are no speed restrictions on the highways?

Mr Taylor : On that road there is. It is 130 kilometres an hour.

CHAIR: Okay.

Group Capt. Browning : Just to add to that: I have been given a number of two to three trucks entering the range per week.

Ms RYAN: And operating 11 months of the year, so they are on that road in the wet.

Mr Taylor : Yes.

CHAIR: Is that two to three entering or a total of two to three?

Group Capt. Browning : Two to three entering. The slip lane allows you to get off the highway before you turn into the base.

CHAIR: The negotiations with the Northern Territory government are around alignment and specification issues. They are not around shared funding?

Mr Sarri : Correct. They are around the design of the slip lane as opposed to any funding.

CHAIR: Thanks very much. Ms Ryan.

Ms RYAN: I suppose there will be increased traffic because of the build and because of the work site and the workers that are on there. Will there be increased traffic because of ordnance transport as well?

Group Capt. Browning : There is no ordnance. There are explosives taken to the range, but that is for the purpose of destroying unexploded ordnance. But not bombs; there are no—

Ms RYAN: So the rest of it comes on the aeroplane.

Group Capt. Browning : Yes, the way the bombs get to the range is by air. They are air delivered. There is no road delivered ordnance.

Mr PERRETT: In terms of construction, I was just wondering whether engagement with the Wardaman people for employment opportunities is something being considered by either Lend Lease or the ADF.

Group Capt. Browning : Yes, the project team has been through a quite extensive process of public consultation, and the Indigenous land use agreement also has certain conditions on us as far as employment is concerned. I might pass to my project director just to talk about the engagement that we have had so far and how we intend to go forward.

Mr PERRETT: Could I broaden it, then, and ask about local jobs more broadly, outside of the Wardaman people.

Mr Murray : Yes. Before we can get approval for any of our sites, we need to obtain an Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority certificate. That is done by select Wardaman people through the Northern Land Council actually walking the ground and making an assessment of those areas. We have received that certificate, so the siting has all been taken care of in those regards.

The Indigenous land use agreement is quite clear on employment opportunities. We have to seek what they call a capability statement from the Wardaman people, again through the Northern Land Council, and that is asking what their capabilities are in terms of various works. We have not received that yet, but we are going through that process of getting that capability statement. We also very firmly push that whoever our contractor is needs to understand the Indigenous land use agreement and look for all opportunities for engaging Wardaman people either individually as employees or as subcontractors.

I might hand to James for a bit more detail on the community consultation, which included some of those issues.

Mr Taylor : The other part is the new Indigenous procurement policy that was released by government earlier this year. It requires us to address, in a twofold manner, Indigenous procurement very particularly—and then I will go more to small business. The first is a mandatory set-aside. For any contracts between $80,000 and $200,000, we need to first consider if there are any Indigenous organisations that may be able to fill those services. That is a mandatory part of the policy that came in on 1 July this year, so that will be applied to the construction phase of the project.

Mr PERRETT: That could be the cleaning, the catering—

Mr Taylor : Absolutely, and quite importantly, as you point out, not just the construction activities. Subsequently there will need to be cleaners and these types of services provided, and that could be offered to Indigenous organisations.

The second part of the Indigenous procurement policy is a minimum participation. That is done either at project level—achieving a certain number of Indigenous personnel or Indigenous companies contracted specifically for this project—or at an organisational level. The delivery contractor may undertake to employ a certain percentage of Indigenous personnel more broadly across their organisation and meet the policy in that manner. That is in addition to the ILUA. Lindsay has probably covered the ILUA requirements pretty well.

Group Capt. Browning : Just to clarify, did you want to know the total numbers that we had on construction?

Mr PERRETT: No, just the opportunity for local employment, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Group Capt. Browning : Absolutely. It is a very firm requirement that we will provide opportunities for employment.

Mr PERRETT: Yes. There is the lack of tender on that.

Group Capt. Browning : Yes. Under the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, there are some exemptions for the procurement of small and medium-sized Indigenous businesses. Basically, they get the first chance to provide a bid, without having to go through the very expensive process of competitive tendering, which basically is a positive method of encouraging Indigenous companies to bid for this sort of works, and it saves them the cost of the tendering process. So, once again, where they do satisfy the technical merit they can undertake the work; a value-for-money assessment is still required under the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. There is an opportunity there to employ small and medium-sized Indigenous or majority Indigenous companies; we are talking about 50-plus per cent Indigenous companies.

Mr Taylor : Just to answer your question about local business more broadly, the Katherine Regional Economic Development Committee are very active in the Katherine area. We have already consulted directly with them, and a subcommittee of theirs is directly seeking to increase Indigenous employment within Katherine using existing businesses. I will pass to Kieran in a second to talk about exact numbers of people we expect to be employed on the project, but certainly there is that local engagement out of Katherine and out of Timber Creek, where a lot of the Wardaman and associated people work.

Thankfully, Defence in this area have led the way in some ways. When they established the Bradshaw ILUA, which is in a close-by training area, part of that was to establish the Bradshaw and Timber Creek Contracting and Resource Company, which is an Indigenous company specially established and managed by the NLC to provide services to Bradshaw. We will definitely seek to see what capability companies like that can offer the project. I might pass to Kieran to talk about precise numbers of people.

Mr Sarri : In terms of local industry participation and total numbers that we anticipate to have on this project, overall, through the duration of this project we anticipate having about 40 direct trade contractors. That equals about 120 staff members employed for direct trade works, but does not include indirect benefits—the indirect cleaners and provisions for the construction camp, providing food et cetera.

Mr PERRETT: Some of those could be from Melbourne.

Mr Sarri : Some of those could be, yes. But in the work that we have done to date we have done some market testing within the region, and we have a strong presence within Katherine with the NACC Tindal project, so we have started talking to local subcontractors as part of that project as well, and we are following up with the Delamere project works. At the community consultation that was held there was a lot of interest within the local community about the works happening, and we have noted down their names.

Mr PERRETT: So it will not be a shock. They have an indication of what will be going on.

Mr Sarri : Definitely.

Mr PERRETT: And they can gear up to put in a bid?

Group Capt. Browning : Certainly as part of public consultation we often—and we did in this case—get a lot of interest, obviously, from subcontractors and those people who might be employed in these types of projects, so the information is already getting out there about the project coming. I get phone calls all the time saying, 'How's Delamere Air Weapons Range going?' I have said, 'We still have to go through the process yet, and once we have parliamentary approval I'll let you know.' There is a lot of interest in the Northern Territory about this project, and other projects are probably winding up up there, so I think there is a lot of capacity in the Northern Territory.

Mr PERRETT: So the gas is just coming online?

Group Capt. Browning : I think there is some sort of mining project probably slowing down up there; hence there has been a lot of interest in Northern Territory works, including this project. Particularly because this one is not one of the very large Defence projects and is probably a bit more manageable size for some of those subcontractors to be involved with, there has been a lot of interest.

CHAIR: As Group Captain Browning mentioned in his opening remarks, we are joined today by Mr Bill Harney, who is here representing the Wardaman people, and we extend a very warm welcome to you. The Wardaman people, of course, are the traditional owners of the land on which the Delamere site is located. Mr Harney, you are welcome to make some comments if you desire. There is certainly no obligation. As you take your seat, I will ask a few more questions, then we might invite you to make some brief comments about the relationship between the traditional owners and the Defence department in regard to Delamere. Mr Murray, you mentioned surface works. What is the total kilometre measurement of the surface works that are going to be undertaken?

Mr Murray : Are you referring to the roads?


Mr Murray : Approximately 38 kilometres worth of either repaired roads or new roads.

Group Capt. Browning : We might ask Mr Sarri. He has some quite detailed information about the roadworks we intend to do on the range.

Mr Sarri : In terms of the roadworks, we have 38.4 kilometres worth of roadworks to do with the Delamere component. Of that, there is approximately 13 kilometres worth of new roadworks, approximately 16 kilometres worth of upgrades to existing roads—that is existing patch repair, fixing the shoulders—and then there is approximately another six kilometres of upgrades to existing roads.

CHAIR: Is the intention to bitumen seal or is it just to bring them up to a level of serviceability?

Mr Sowry : The intention is to use the existing site one gravel and leave it as a gravel road.

Ms RYAN: The operational area where people will live and work day-by-day is now much closer to the Buntine Highway, have any of the roadways gone into the siting of that? Will that make access easier?

Group Capt. Browning : This site of the new facilities is on the access road that goes into the current range. Obviously, if people turn off the highway now they drive a fair distance to get to the centre of the range, this will be on that same access road but not as far into the range.

Ms RYAN: Therefore, will they be using sealed road, which will not require you to seal the road further into the site?

Wing Cmdr Larter : Yes they will, it is sealed. So straight off the Buntine Highway, maybe a kilometre off, there will be existing bitumen road there for the proposed new complex.

CHAIR: A warm welcome to Mr Harney, thank you for joining us today. I might ask you to make some brief remarks about how important this project might be to the traditional owners and what future opportunities you expect. I will then invite some questions from my colleagues.

Mr Harney : Thanks very much inviting me here. We been working all the way from 1990 to clear the sites, anyway a bloke called Steve came down from Perth or from Brisbane and asked us to go out over there to set up this bombing range. A lot of old people were still alive and they asked me to be speaker because I was born in that country, grew up there and I know the country and heritage pretty well. This is what we said: 'This is a bombing range, they are going to help us. We do not know what is going to happen in the long term.' It was either corruption coming in from overseas, we will let this go and become a bombing range and everybody agreed. They said, 'Alright,' so we said, 'Okay.' Then they started to build the RAAF, I think it was when Bob Hawke was in government at that time. They went on to build the RAAF in Katherine. They asked for an Aboriginal contractor and I put my hand up. I did all the fencing all around there in Delamere and the RAAF in Tindal. I built the camp, engine run-up, bomb shelter and a radar strike at Tindal. I had done all that. I had done a big one in Delamere bombing range. Then we went inside to declare all the sites and we took some of the old people out there to have a look and to explain it to them. They told me, 'Speak up, you know the country.' They sat back and listened and we declared all the sites around and everything ready for people to go ahead and to put anything they want on it. That is what we were doing.

The only problem we had was when we were doing the fencing there, lucky it was in the wet—we bogged the tractors and post-hole digger, everything you can name—the problem we had was no water. If this thing was to go ahead, we had to find water because it is a long distance from Delamere station where the water is to where the range is. I know you have water inside of the bombing range, unless we have big pulley pipes that comes out and have a water tank near the fence somewhere in the bitumen then that is the way you can get water. It is a fair way to lug from the range hut, it might be seven or eight kilometres or more.

Wing Cmdr Larter : About 15 kilometres.

Mr Harney : You would have to have a pulley pipe up to the bitumen and have a great big huge tank there that will help to get the water to do the job. But we were happy to do that job, to get the clearance for everything you want to put. No problem.

And they said to me, 'Well you go down and have a look.' Jesse Brown was going to come but he was buggered because he is on a dialysis machine. I said, 'All right, well I am not young, myself, but at least I'm fit!' Anyway that is fine. Thank you very much for helping me.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Harney. Last week I travelled the Tanami Road, so I know just how important water is to road construction and those sorts of things. It is not quite Delamere, but it is certainly in the vicinity.

Mr PERRETT: I was just wondering what the benefit of the bombing range has been for your community over the years?

Mr Harney : The benefit has been quite good for quite a few year after we made a settlement with the Delamere bombing range. This is what the Wardaman Aboriginal Corporation did when I was the chairman of the Wardaman. First up we were going to make a deal. This is what we said: 'All right, we will let the Delamere bombing range go. Could you give us some money?' 'How much do you want?' We said, 'A million dollars.' Lee Edwards, who was one of the leaders from Defence, said, 'We will go back and speak to our boss.'

They went back to Canberra and spoke and they came back. They said, 'No, we cannot give you a million dollars, but we can offer some other money.' I said 'Oh yes, what's that?' 'Well,' they said, 'We can give you $50,000 to drop the claim. And we can give you another $250,000 to put a fence and run your cattle inside the range.' That is what they said. I said, 'Oh yes, we were right. You can run it for the first 10 years and give us the land back.' And then we said 'No. We will run it after the 10 years are up and we want to run the cattle continually.' That is what we said.

Then another mob, like the Brown family, came along. 'We do not want the money; we do not want the cattle'. They said, 'We will just get rid of the land.' We scratched our heads and we said, 'Okay, it is your land. I am supporting you, but I made you sister'. That is what I said to Jesse. He said 'I am one of the leaders of this party.' I said, 'I'm looking after you.' And they said, 'All right.' They let the land go; they used to have the land, but there is still employment there for the people. We had to go in to do that job. And there are other pieces of land there called Delinya. It joins the bombing range. We leased the land to the next bloke again, Kerruma, and then Kerruma asked for the other piece—the south side of the land. I do not know whether you had agreed to give him that land? You know there is a south side of the Delinya?

Wing Cmdr Larter : Yes—I think you are referring to paddock 1 in the south, yes.

Mr Harney : Yes, that is the one there. Anyway they gave him that and he was happy. He said, 'All right, that is fine. 'But my missus is involved in that, you see. I have got nothing to do, but I am helping you.' That is what I just said. But these other things came along. The next one I got was these other papers that came from you—yes, that is the one, yes. Anyway, we said, 'All right, if there is anything that is going to go up afterwards we would be happy to take the contract on it' And we were putting our hand up for the contract.

Mr PERRETT: You do not run cattle on paddock 1, do you?

Mr Harney : Which one?

Mr PERRETT: You only access paddock 1, or the southern part?

Mr Harney : No, we leased that Delinya to other bloke called Kerruma. Because there is a small area of the land, he wanted that other little triangular one. I do not know who made the deal really there. I think he spoke to Defence to get that little piece of land because it was just sitting idle and doing nothing. 'It might be easy to run cattle'—that is what they said. And they have a little small bit.

They combined those two fences together then, the one on the eastern side and the one on the western side that are all bitumen. That is what he was looking at. And we gave him the site clearance for putting in a track and a big dam in the other end. But there already had been a dam there in that little triangular one, in the early days when the Delamere Station owned it, you see. The road had gone into a place called Kilnockie. We said, 'All right, if you put the fence up; go ahead,' and that is what he is doing.

I got the other paperwork from you and we had a look. They would have the capability to do the fencing and to do the road and everything. I put my hand up, 'We will write this from 2016 to 2018, no problem.' You said, 'Okay, and we will write to you later and you have a look at it.' What is it called when you put the tender up? We will put our paper up.

CHAIR: Jobs for the community.

Mr Harney : Yes, jobs for the community. We will have all of the young ones connected before I go!

CHAIR: Mr Harney, thank you very much for your evidence today. It has been most useful and we appreciate you travelling all the way to Ipswich to join us today. Thank you very much.

Mr Harney : Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Are there any other questions with regard to the project? There being no other questions, do witnesses have anything further to add to their evidence? Group Captain Browning?

Group Capt. Browning : No, nothing further to add, thank you.

CHAIR: Great. Thanks very much. Before the hearing adjourns I call upon a member to move that this committee authorise the publication of evidence given before it at the public hearing today.

Mr PERRETT: I move it.

CHAIR: Thanks, Mr Perrett. I declare this public hearing closed and ask those who are not authorised to attend the in camera hearing. Thank you very much.

Committee adjourned at 11:40