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Joint Committee on Public Works
Defence Staff College, Weston Creek
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Joint Committee on Public Works
Defence Staff College, Weston Creek
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Joint Committee on Public Works
- Committee front matter
- ACTING CHAIR (Mr Forrest)
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Air Cdre Birrer
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Ms de Corte
- Committee witnesses
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Air Cdre Birrer
Content WindowJoint Committee on Public Works
Defence Staff College, Weston Creek
ACTING CHAIR —The committee has received a submission from the Department of Defence dated April 1999. Do you wish to propose any amendment?
Brig. Kelly —No.
ACTING CHAIR —It is proposed that the submission be received, taken as read and incorporated in the transcript of evidence. Do members have any objections? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
The submission read as follows —
ACTING CHAIR —Would a representative of the Department of Defence now read the summary statement before we proceed with questions.
Brig. Kelly —Mr Chair, this proposal seeks approval to develop facilities at Weston Creek, ACT, to collocate the single services' staff colleges onto a single site. Each of the single services presently has its own staff college to provide professional education for its middle level officers. The Navy college is at HMAS Penguin , Sydney; the Army college is at Fort Queenscliff, Victoria; and the Air Force college is at RAAF Fairbairn, ACT. Each college is largely autonomous, with very little sharing of course material. Facilities in most cases are ageing and in need of replacement, with the RAAF college also in need of relocation with the recent sale of RAAF Fairbairn.
In the conduct of the Defence Efficiency Review, it became apparent that the joint and common material in the staff college courses could comprise as much as 70 per cent of a service college syllabus. Therefore, it was clear that some significant savings in operating costs could be achieved with collocation, in excess of $2 million per annum and possibly to $4 million per annum depending on final staffing levels. Further, collocation would provide the opportunity to further strengthen the joint culture in the Australian Defence Force. Thus collocation can realise benefits in both costs and capability.
To further enhance integration within the Defence Organisation, the Defence Management Diploma Program, which is to the civilian officer what the staff colleges are to the military officer, will comprise part of this proposal. The more complete integration of military and civilian personnel promotes the best possible synergy in effective use of the total Defence resource. Graduates of the new course, the Australian Command and Staff Course, will also benefit by being more widely employable within the Defence Organisation.
Recent rationalisation of two colleges at Weston Creek for the more senior military and civilian officers led to the establishment of the Australian Defence College last January. This has released development space within the Weston Creek precinct, which would be appropriate for use for the collocation project. The Weston Creek area would become the primary location for formal career development of all middle to senior level military and civilian officers. The Canberra location also permits access to a significant military and academic resource to support the collocated staff college curriculum. With substantial Defence employment in Canberra, it will also lessen the frequency of removals, so reducing the potential for family disruption.
Collocation here in Canberra will permit release of the Fort Queenscliff facilities. The government has agreed to the transfer of Fort Queenscliff to the Victorian government as a Federation Fund initiative. Defence is assisting in putting in place an extensive consultation program in regard to the future of the property. The project is cost capped at an out-turn price of $28 million, December 1998 prices. If the project is approved, it is intended that the works will be complete in time for the January 2001 student intake. This early completion facilitates capture of cost and capability benefits as soon as practicable. That completes my opening statement, Mr Chairman.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you, Brigadier. The committee is charged with the responsibility from the parliament to scrutinise the spending of taxpayers' money. We will
be asking questions that relate to money but we are aware that there are certain break-ups of the cost estimate that quite necessarily are required not to be aired publicly to allow a tender process beyond here.
I would like to kick off by saying that the concept of co-location is well accepted and has been the subject of other parliamentary inquiries. The issue is: why Weston Creek? Given that three other sites have been considered and for different reasons not been accepted as appropriate for this particular facility, I would like to quickly refer to those reasons. I know we cannot revisit Fairbairn because I understand it has been recently sold. I would like to know on behalf of taxpayers how much it was sold for and to whom. In regard to HMAS Penguin , I would like you to lead the committee through in a lot more detail why that is not considered suitable for this particular facility and also the same for Queenscliff. If we start with Fairbairn, what was that facility sold for?
Mr Bain —The facility at Canberra airport was sold to Canberra International Airport for a sum of $66[half ] million of which Defence's share was $21.5 million for Fairbairn.
ACTING CHAIR —What about HMAS Penguin ? I have read the argument in the submission and I am unconvinced. Why is Penguin not a suitable site to locate this facility?
Brig. Kelly —The current facility at HMAS Penguin is quite a cramped facility. It is likely that we will continue to rationalise our properties in the Sydney Harbour foreshores area, so the future in the medium term is uncertain. But, in any case, the area is quite cramped. It is an ageing facility. It would take a significant investment to create the facilities required for this college. But I have severe doubts they would fit onto that site.
ACTING CHAIR —Was some work done to establish an estimate?
Brig. Kelly —Several years back it was looked at, and the outcome was so apparent that it has not been seriously looked at since. It is just a given, along with Fairbairn, that it is not suitable.
ACTING CHAIR —A huge amount of capital investment has occurred on that site, and you must have some idea what that is worth or its potential value if it is an option to sell that site in the future. What asset does that represent to Australian taxpayers?
Brig. Kelly —I cannot specifically answer what we would value it as, and we have made no certain commitment as to the future of that site.
ACTING CHAIR —We are being asked to commit $28 million to a new site. We have some revenue out of Fairbairn. But the same question applies to Queenscliff. I have never been to Penguin but I am familiar with Queenscliff in Victoria, which is a site that I have seen. My view would be that, with the concept of giving away what is a large capital investment to Australian taxpayers, you must have some idea of what it represents.
Mr Bain —If you are asking what the value is if we sell off the property or gain a return from it—being a Sydney Harbour foreshore property any substantial development raises particular sensitivities. The site is configured at the moment for a hospital, the Navy
decompression chamber and accommodation for Navy personnel in Sydney. The configuration of the site would not lend itself at all to any substantial development. It is fairly well developed now.
ACTING CHAIR —Will any of those facilities that you have described have an ongoing use?
Mr Bain —Yes, the accommodation facilities and the decompression facilities.
ACTING CHAIR —Even with the proposal to gift it to the Victorian government?
Mr Bain —Sorry, this is HMAS Penguin —
ACTING CHAIR —I am sorry, I had switched to Queenscliff.
Mr Bain —There is no intention at the moment to dispose of Penguin . There are activities that will be ongoing there.
ACTING CHAIR —So there will be an ongoing use. I am sorry, I had switched on to Queenscliff. I recall buildings on Queenscliff that would not be a decade old.
Col. White —In the assessments that were undertaken at Queenscliff, we assumed that the residual benefit of those reasonably new buildings would be about $10 million, and that was taken into account when we were looking at the business case for Queenscliff versus Weston. After taking that into account, the lower operating cost by being at Weston still gave a slightly more favourable benefit on a business case side to Weston, leaving the qualitative issues aside. About $10 million was assumed to be the residual value of the buildings left at Queenscliff.
ACTING CHAIR —You made reference to reduced costs for operating at Weston. I noticed that there is this statement in paragraph 25 of your submission:
It has been estimated on a net present value basis that over 15 years, Weston would save over $11m more than Queenscliff.
I am wondering how the rationale for that estimate is established.
Col. White —It was taken over 15 years because that is about the time when a mid-life upgrade would be due in either facility. It is also the time when there would be the next major hit on investment to upgrade the heritage assets at Queenscliff. The assessment was made on initial outlay, which took into account the fact that the buildings at Queenscliff had about $10 million residual benefit but we would forfeit $6 million or $7 million in non-sale or non-removal of the Queenscliff assets. Annual cost works out at about $1 million to $1[half ] million per year in favour of Weston Creek. Then, taking the 15-year point for the mid-life upgrade of facilities and the reinvestment in heritage assets, it works out to about that amount on a discount basis of the net present value.
ACTING CHAIR —Brigadier, could you take on notice the provision of a break-up of the study that has established that $11 million?
Brig. Kelly —Certainly, Mr Chairman.
ACTING CHAIR —I am not expecting you to supply it today but I am interested in the argument. Is there any component in that figure which is in an operational sense the cost of travelling and shifting lecturers?
Col. White —The estimate that was provided by the consultant indicated that the recurrent costs at Weston were in the order of $7.9 million but at Queenscliff they would be about $9.2 million. So the annual saving was $1.3 million based on those estimates. So it was not the initial outlay that was the deciding factor; it was the through life cost that made Weston the favourable decision just on a business case basis, leaving aside qualitative factors.
ACTING CHAIR —Why does Queenscliff cost an extra $1.3 million?
Col. White —There are financial benefits gained in Canberra with back-to-back postings, for example, and certain manpower savings because they can draw on the wider population base and support base in Canberra. Just on those two factors, we would need to have a higher support base at Queenscliff because of the smaller population and we would need to have an increased removals cost by putting everybody down into Queenscliff each year rather than at a more central place; in other words, there are fewer opportunities for back-to-back postings at Queenscliff. That is not the case here in Canberra.
ACTING CHAIR —The officers that do the training—they do not all live in Canberra though; they must come from all over Australia?
Brig. Kelly —They do, but, because there are so many Defence people posted to Canberra, it is estimated that at the moment about 50 per cent of the people going to Queenscliff would have had a back-to-back posting if it had been in Canberra in lieu. That is, we would have saved 50 per cent of our postings. That becomes substantial from the point of view of not only saving money but also family disruption. In recent years we have had an increasing number of people declining to go to staff college at Queenscliff because of the disruption that a one-year posting has on spouse employment, which is becoming increasingly important, and on children's education.
ACTING CHAIR —But these are mid-level officers who hope to one day be a brigadier, a general, an air commander or whatever—
Brig. Kelly —That is correct.
ACTING CHAIR —Surely they would consider it beneficial to their future career to make that sort of sacrifice?
Brig. Kelly —They do. But, increasingly, people are making wider judgments about their family life, and in particular spouse employment. I understand that in recent years the Army
Staff College has worked its way completely through the reserve list and into next year's list to get people to go there. That situation should not arise in Canberra if we can get some 50 per cent with back-to-back postings. That is, substantial numbers of people going to staff college either will be here before that posting or will be posted here after the training, and in many circumstances perhaps they will have postings here both before and after the year of staff college training.
ACTING CHAIR —I notice that a proportion of overseas officers will be coming through the facility. It would not bother them if they are in Queenscliff, Sydney or Canberra; so I cannot see that argument as applying to them.
Brig. Kelly —I suspect it is not a substantial issue, but there are perhaps some intangibles in terms of their having better support from their embassies and high commissions in the Canberra area.
Air Cdre Birrer —It is certainly a factor for the overseas students to see they have support from the embassy staff. There is usually a circle of people from their own countries here. Additionally, they have the support of their more senior colleagues who may be at the Australian Defence College on the defence staff course or the defence and strategic studies course.
ACTING CHAIR —I do not want to hog all the questions, colleagues, so just butt in if you want to pursue any of these issues I am raising. The other thing I was not aware of until the inspection this morning was the fact that this facility does not have on-site accommodation. Perhaps it is a misunderstanding I had that part of the bonding and character building of officers at that level would be living together in that environment and getting to know each other. Perhaps it is more a curriculum style question but I am wondering why that would not be considered important. Moving to a site like Point Lonsdale offers accommodation for living together, getting to know each other better and understanding each other, which I gather is something that co-location is trying to achieve for future benefit, so why isn't accommodation considered important in that sense?
Air Cdre Birrer —The large majority of the people who will do the course will be married with families. While there are some certain advantages that you have already addressed in people living together for an extended period, we think we can get much the same sort of benefits by having them there for the course proper. There are a large number of exercises and syndicate discussions and so on where they will be brought together in very close proximity. Plus there are visits, exercises up at ADFWC and so on. So there are plenty of opportunities to build those closer links. I think the disadvantage of bringing them into a living-in accommodation situation when most of them are married with families would outweigh the benefits of moving to that step. That comes back to the point that Garry made about people weighing up the wider benefits of participation in these courses with some of their family responsibilities.
ACTING CHAIR —Does the curriculum contain any sort of facility to encourage that closer link—a week together on exercise or something like that?
Air Cdre Birrer —Certainly they will have that. There will be visits to relevant defence establishments. As we mentioned this morning, the final joint operations exercise is a week away at ADFWC. But within the course itself there will be periods when they will run exercises that will go on for quite some time. We will actually push the people together in mixtures so that they get the benefit of the integrated experience. There will be plenty of opportunities for that.
Mr HOLLIS —As I understand it, the intake will be mainly Army. What proportion of the intake would be Army in relation to RAAF and Navy?
Air Cdre Birrer —Currently we would expect to have about 80 from Army, about 48 from Air Force and about 35 from Navy. We would also have 12 to 15 civilians from the defence management diploma program. Those figures are based on the current populations of the three staff colleges and also includes the overseas students. In the Army total of about 82 currently there are about 20 overseas students included.
Mr HOLLIS —How this is different from the Defence Force Academy?
Air Cdre Birrer —With the Defence Force Academy, its reason for being is to provide undergraduate education. What we are looking at here is professional military education, which to us is the same as postgraduate education. At the defence academy we are seeking to create a culture that is a blend of both military and academic components. The military component consists of socialising very young people in most cases to the culture of the Defence Force and to their own single service cultures. So it has a different environment, a different atmosphere, from that which you would seek to create at a postgraduate campus like Weston Creek.
Mr HOLLIS —Do they do any postgraduate courses at the Defence Force Academy or is it purely an undergraduate facility?
Air Cdre Birrer —Its reason for being is an undergraduate facility, but there are postgraduate students from Russell, for example, who do some postgraduate work in strategic studies, defence studies and so on.
Mr HOLLIS —Who made the decision to gift Queenscliff to the Victorian government—the Prime Minister?
Mr Bain —The cabinet.
Mr HOLLIS —It was a cabinet decision?
Mr Bain —Yes.
Mr HOLLIS —How much consultation was there with the Borough of Queenscliffe?
Mr Bain —Discussions and correspondence started with the Borough of Queenscliffe in July 1997. There has been correspondence since that time. There has been one discussion in May 1998, I think, between the former Minister for Defence and the local council.
Mr HOLLIS —Is there any idea what it is going to be used for?
Mr Bain —No; the process has started where we need to involve all the interested stakeholders, the council and the state government but, ultimately, it will be up to the Victorian government to lead the decision on the outcome. There has been some initial interest in the site. But we have essentially just started that process and we have the next 18 months to go through that.
Mr HOLLIS —Has there been any discussion or thought about ongoing costs or is that going to be up to the Victorian government?
Mr Bain —That will be a matter for the Victorian government.
Mr HOLLIS —What if the Victorian government say they do not want it?
Mr Bain —I am not aware of that.
Mr HOLLIS —No, what if they did say—
Mr Bain —I beg your pardon. We are confident that it is a good facility and that we will find a future use.
ACTING CHAIR —How much of the site is going to be gifted? I understand there is an accommodation facility at Crows Nest which is not in the same section; is that right?
Mr Bain —That is correct. It is physically separated from Fort Queenscliff. Crows Nest is a support facility. It is the way that we have perhaps done business in the past where we would now normally outsource a lot of those functions. You do not need Crows Nest to operate Fort Queenscliff. We would dispose of that separately.
Mr HOLLIS —We currently have the RAAF training college—at Point Cook, isn't it? Where do the Navy people train at the moment?
Air Cdre Birrer — HMAS Creswell .
Mr HOLLIS —What is going to happen to Creswell ? are you going to give that to the New South Wales government?
Brig. Kelly —There is no indication that we will not have a long-term use of Creswell , as far as I am aware.
Mr HOLLIS —But if the main argument here is that you are going to amalgamate all the training—and you have told us how RAAF Fairbairn is sold and you cannot have that—
Brig. Kelly —That is a different level of training. That is initial commissioning training.
Mr HOLLIS —How many levels of training do we have? What is going to happen to Creswell ? If you take the training out of Creswell , what are you going to keep Creswell for—a retirement village?
Air Cdre Birrer —Just to correct perhaps the impression I may have given during my initial briefing at Weston Creek, I went through the officer training continuum just to emphasise that it was a continuum and where our students came from over the period of their service. But, in fact, because not all of our officers come in through ADFA—only a proportion come in through ADFA and the amount of that proportion varies by service—there will always be a number of direct entry officers recruited. They may come in with tertiary education directly into the service or they may come in as serving other ranks who are commissioned and then go and do an officer entry course. Those people will continue to come in via the three initial entry colleges of the services. They are RAAF college, which is currently at Point Cook but is destined to move; the Royal Military College at Duntroon; and the RAN college at Creswell .
Mr HOLLIS —So we are going to keep those three colleges; we are going to have the Defence Force Academy; and we are going to have this special other college. How many other educational facilities does the Defence Force have?
Air Cdre Birrer —There are different levels. There are training institutions in addition to the ones we are talking about here—
Mr HOLLIS —One of the motivating factors for this is the report that was done by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade which said that the whole training should be amalgamated or words to that effect. One of the issues that has been pushed to us very strongly is the cost-benefit of having everything co-located here. But it almost seems to me as though on top of the existing facilities we are just going to put a new facility. We are going to have an awfully well trained Defence Force.
Air Cdre Birrer —We think that is one of our strengths, of course; we are looking to create the knowledge edge, and that will be the competitive advantage of the ADF. But coming back to your point, one recommendation from the DER which was not accepted was to have a single precommissioning college rather than the three we just talked about—RAN college, RAAF college and the Royal Military College—and that was not accepted. So those three institutions are remaining, but they cater for a different group of people that we seek to attract into the Defence Force. It is critical that we cater for those different groups—some of whom wish to go to ADFA to do their tertiary training; others wish to come in with their training already in place.
Mr HOLLIS —Air Commodore, what do you mean by `knowledge edge'?
Air Cdre Birrer —Knowledge edge?
Mr HOLLIS —Yes, I thought the defence forces were just trained to prosecute war. You do not need a PhD to do that, do you?
Air Cdre Birrer —We are not talking about a PhD. What we are talking about for the knowledge edge is creating an institution with systems—such as intelligence systems, surveillance systems and so on—to enable you to understand the battle space and to understand what is going on in the other enemy and hopefully their intentions so that you understand well ahead of them but also have the knowledge to take good decisions, which requires good people at all levels of the organisation, in a time that gets inside the opposition's decision cycle. So you control the pace of whatever conflict it is you are involved in. That can be important in terms of meeting not only war fighting but also non-war fighting operations where you may seek to restore a situation where humanitarian aid is required. We believe the knowledge edge is not just systems in terms of electronic systems and war fighting systems but is the people who probably are the key to realising the advantages of those systems.
ACTING CHAIR —I am getting a bit confused about all the facilities around the nation. You told us about Headquarters Australian Theatre—
Brig. Kelly —That is not a training or educational facility; it is an operational command and control.
ACTING CHAIR —That is an operational facility, and it is in Sydney. HMAS Penguin is in Sydney. I was wondering why there could not be some benefits with those being closer. I wanted to add on to the list that Mr Hollis has mentioned that there is a joint warfare training facility at RAAF base Williamtown. How does that all fit into the overall picture?
Air Cdre Birrer —Firstly, to address the Headquarters Australian Theatre, it is a fairly recent innovation over the last couple of years to address the operational level of war. It is concerned with the planning of campaigns. Historically, the Australian Defence Force has not been involved in campaign plans—we have been more a participant in somebody else's plan—but it is an important innovation and something we need to be very skilful at to be successful. Headquarters Australian Theatre has almost nothing in common with the Australian command and staff course, except we rely upon people with that joint operations knowledge and the background from that course to be able to carry out the task successfully. It really does not have anything to do with education, in a sense. The Williamtown establishment—
ACTING CHAIR —Before you get on to that, my point was its proximity to HMAS Penguin , and it is an operational facility with the sort of people who do real life exercises. Why isn't that an advantage that would make Penguin a site for this facility we are talking about today?
Air Cdre Birrer —Headquarters AST is quite a small headquarters. It is involved with the day-to-day operations being conducted by the ADF right now as well as the planning of operations in the future. The sort of interaction you are talking about we plan to actually have in the course, but it will be with the Australian Defence Warfare Centre where they have the systems set up so we can actually run a joint exercise where people role-play as they would in a real headquarters. We will be doing that with the Australian Defence Warfare Centre.
I should perhaps continue by saying that the charter of the Defence Warfare Centre is to carry out those short courses of training—not education, but training—which equip people to go to a specific job. It could be a one-week course or a two-week course—of that order—but it is very direct training. It is not that education that gives people much more of the bigger picture and provides the context for much of their work.
ACTING CHAIR —But how far away is it from Penguin ?
Air Cdre Birrer —ADFWC?
ACTING CHAIR —Yes. It is in the same city and it is handy.
Air Cdre Birrer —No, the Australian Defence Warfare Centre is at Williamtown, near Newcastle. Headquarters AST is at Potts Point in Sydney.
ACTING CHAIR —Potts Point and Penguin —how far apart are they?
Brig. Kelly —About five kilometres.
ACTING CHAIR —If someone was posted to Sydney they could attend a 40-week course in this facility that you are proposing. If it was located at Penguin there are advantages to being reasonably close to an operating facility where there would be some professional support to assist them in their training, I would think.
Air Cdre Birrer —You would not have some of the key things there. You would not have, firstly, access to the wider posting base—that is, before course and after course—that was referred to before. In other words, in Canberra there are many more jobs than in Sydney which they could come from and go to afterwards, so we would expect to get many more back-to-back postings.
Mr HOLLIS —I want to interrupt there. Isn't that a bit of a false argument? Doesn't Defence move anyway every two years? Are you just telling me they will move around Canberra every two years? Every Defence person I have spoken to, especially when we deal with Defence housing, always says how important it is because every two years they move from Townsville to Darwin to Melbourne. You are telling us that all that happens when Defence get a posting every two years is that they have a posting in one part of Canberra, they go to this college for a year and then they get another posting in another part of Canberra. That must have changed dramatically.
Brig. Kelly —That is not what we are trying to portray. What we saying is that there are a large number of people at that stage of their career who are posted to staff appointments in Canberra.
Mr HOLLIS —Russell?
Brig. Kelly —That is correct. Many of those appointments require graduation from this staff college.
Mr HOLLIS —Yes, but what proportion of the senior officers of the defence forces are based in Russell in comparison to those based all around Australia?
Brig. Kelly —I cannot answer that.
Mr HOLLIS —Why did you say that then? One of the main cases you people are putting to us—and you may be right; I do not know—for the location of this college at Weston is this back-to-back appointment. It seems to me, and you have stressed this a lot this morning, that all the senior officers are in one wing of Russell. They go off to this college for 12 months and they come back and go into another wing of Russell. I reckon what you would find with these people who are up in Darwin is they want to get out of it and so they come down here for a year and then they are posted to Townsville or Perth or somewhere.
Brig. Kelly —That does occur with a large number of them. What we are saying is that about 50 per cent of those currently going to the Army staff college at Queenscliff are posted, either before or after, to Canberra.
Mr HOLLIS —Have you got figures to back that up?
Brig. Kelly —Yes, we do. We are trying to avoid reinforcing the number of people in Sydney because of the personnel costs there. In particular, the subsidy for housing in Sydney compared to places like Townsville, Brisbane or Canberra is about $10,000 per person. So Army in particular, because it is not tied to ports or airports as the Navy or Air Force are, has been moving away from the centre of Sydney. We would not want to go back in and reinforce that situation.
Mr HOLLIS —Mr Forrest is pulling for Sydney, not me.
ACTING CHAIR —I am trying to get some answers that taxpayers have a right to ask: is their money being invested properly? That is the point I am trying to get answered. I am just getting confused about all these joint facilities—
Brig. Kelly —There are a number of facilities. Mr Hollis raised the issue of the subcommittee report, the Price report. The proposal that is being put to the committee today is specifically in response to, and satisfies the requirements of, both the recommendations of the Price report and the recommendations of the DER.
The Price report did make recommendations on things like the Australian Defence Force Academy but they were not specifically linked to this level of education. Both the Price report and the DER recommended that the three staff colleges be collocated or integrated. The Price report specifically suggested Canberra, and I believe the DER suggested that Canberra was a likely option. So this proposal is specifically in response to those two very important studies.
ACTING CHAIR —Before I hand over to Senator Murphy, you were about to answer the question about RAAF Base Williamtown. What is its current role, and what is its future?
Mr Bain —Williamtown is the tactical fighter base and it will be the new base for the AEW&C aircraft. It has a long-term future.
ACTING CHAIR —But it is a joint warfare facility, isn't it?
Air Cdre Birrer —The joint warfare facility there is tasked with support of the Commander Australian Theatre, the man that runs Headquarters Australian Theatre in Sydney. It is tasked with providing training, doctrine, exercises and war gaming, all those things that directly support the operational role of Headquarters Australian Theatre. It has not got a role in what I would call professional military education. It provides short training courses to meet its role.
Senator MURPHY —I have a question with regard to your budget, if I can go to that, unless Mr Hollis wants to pursue other things. I have got questions on the budget and a couple of issues relating to the construction. If you want to keep pursuing other matters—
Mr HOLLIS —I want to ask a couple on education.
Senator MURPHY —You do that.
ACTING CHAIR —Defence will be able to say how far you go.
Mr HOLLIS —It is only one course, isn't it? It is not a series of courses. It is one course lasting 40-something weeks?
Air Cdre Birrer —It is one course. It is an integrated course that contains discrete single service elements. But, as you saw this morning, that is only about 10 to 14 weeks of that 44-week course.
Mr HOLLIS —But the whole thing runs for 40-something weeks?
Air Cdre Birrer —Forty-four weeks.
Mr HOLLIS —What happens if your home is not in Canberra? Suppose you are not between floors in Russell and you come from somewhere else. Where do you stay when you come here? Are you put up in motels or what?
Air Cdre Birrer —If you came accompanied from another state?
Mr HOLLIS —Say you were based in Townsville or Darwin or somewhere and you came down here for a year to go to the course.
Air Cdre Birrer —You would be put up in a Defence Housing Authority married quarter or, if there was no married quarter available, you would go onto rental assistance. You would be in the Canberra market either in a married quarter or in a rental assistance property.
Mr HOLLIS —What do you get at the end of this course? Is there a formal qualification?
Air Cdre Birrer —At the moment as we have established the course the military qualification will be what we call ACSC. It will be post-nominal. It indicates to the personnel organisation that people have achieved this level of education. However, given that it will be a high quality course and we intend to involve private providers—that is, universities—in the joint phases, we would seek accreditation. It will not be a key objective of the course. An outcome of having a high quality course is that we would be quite confident that we had achieved accreditation for something like a masters degree. Obviously, that is yet to be determined but it certainly will be taken up during the curriculum development.
Senator MURPHY —Do you expect the percentage mix of students to be similar to what it is currently?
Air Cdre Birrer —I expect the mix will continue at least in the short term. Obviously times change and the requirements and the services may change, but we see a higher level of requirement for this sort of training. There are a couple of things coming together to bring that about. Firstly, as a defence force we are being called upon to carry out more complex operations—complex in terms of political overtones and so on. We are seeing the level at which that sort of responsibility is exercised in a headquarters, even operational headquarters or a staff environment, at a lower level.
Whereas in the past we may have seen lieutenant colonels and so on being involved at this level, we are seeing, under the new reorganisation and with reduced numbers, that majors, who will be the primary people in this course, will require that sort of education to carry out their jobs competently. As we mentioned before, they are the key part of the knowledge edge which we see as the competitive edge of the ADF.
Senator MURPHY —Have you worked that out on projected estimates with respect to the reform program?
Air Cdre Birrer —Yes. With the personnel managers, we have looked at the numbers that they think will be required to get through this. We would see the numbers staying much as they are. Things may change in the future, but I cannot predict the future.
Senator MURPHY —Is the percentage mix as it relates to overseas nationals going to remain the same?
Air Cdre Birrer —The number of overseas nationals depends to some extent on the nature of our relations with various countries in the region.
Senator MURPHY —I understand that.
Air Cdre Birrer —Those numbers are normally looked at by the international policy people within Defence who make sure that the relationships are in order.
Senator MURPHY —But have you planned for the current percentages to be the same?
Air Cdre Birrer —I think the current numbers will stay roughly the same, but that will depend on which countries are represented.
Senator MURPHY —I understand that; I am just interested in your planning for the number of students you will have vis-a-vis the requirements with regard to buildings, services, et cetera. Would you expect those sorts of numbers—barring difficulties and that sort of thing—essentially to be the same?
Air Cdre Birrer —We would certainly see them staying the same. There are a lot of educational advantages, as well as the relationship advantages, in having those students on the course.
Senator MURPHY —Once we have this facility, what percentage do you expect to come from interstate?
Air Cdre Birrer —I do not have a figure.
Col. White —I would expect that it would be consistent with the Army movements.
Senator MURPHY —Which is?
Col. White —I suspect about half.
Senator MURPHY —About half?
Col. White —That would be a generalisation, but that would be the order of magnitude.
Senator MURPHY —I understand that you said that accommodation would be, first, in Defence housing. Would that be the Defence housing out the back of Russell?
Brig. Kelly —At ADFA.
Senator MURPHY —At ADFA?
Air Cdre Birrer —The Defence Housing Authority has a large number of properties around the whole place.
Senator MURPHY —Yes, I know that. So it is Defence housing wherever?
Air Cdre Birrer —Yes.
Senator MURPHY —Integrated, base housing or private rental or rent assisted?
Air Cdre Birrer —Yes. There would be very few who would manage to get into base housing. Most of them will be distributed throughout the market.
Senator MURPHY —I suppose this is really a question for Defence Housing, but I am curious as to how they are going to manage that. Will they have properties that will be vacant and then just move people in and out?
Brig. Kelly —The current real estate situation in Canberra is such that, if the DHA cannot accommodate the numbers required, the commercial market can.
Senator MURPHY —I understand that. I am just trying to understand the situation in terms of Defence housing and whether you would be better off just taking it out of the private market.
Brig. Kelly —The DHA would do a business study on any of these initiatives that we have, and they would make a decision as to whether they should or should not build additional houses.
Senator MURPHY —Have you been speaking to them? Has there been any communications with them with respect to this proposal?
Col. White —I think they would be aware of the context of the proposal, but I suspect mainly out of the Queenscliff shift rather than a shift into Canberra. The personnel organisation is certainly aware of the proposal. They will be dealing with the housing authority, but they may not have spoken to them at this stage.
Senator MURPHY —If they are going to look after your housing, I would have thought that it would be useful to have a bit of a talk to them.
Col. White —We have more than 18 months to run yet, so it is not a significant issue.
Senator MURPHY —I know housing is reasonably readily available.
Brig. Kelly —I think in general terms, Defence would say that it relies heavily on the commercial market in Canberra, and that has historically proven to be satisfactory.
Mr HOLLIS —How do you get on this course? Are you selected or do you apply for it?
Air Cdre Birrer —You are selected for the course. It is a selective course in the sense that probably not everybody will be able to get on the course. Services will select people who they think have the best potential when they look at their group of people within the eligibility pool. By and large, most of that group will be major equivalents, but there is some discretion to send people of lower rank for Navy because they have particular requirements for very junior commanders. Similarly, it might be that you get the odd lieutenant colonel who comes along as well.
Mr HOLLIS —How many people who are offered the course decline the invitation?
Air Cdre Birrer —I cannot give you a figure. There is a proportion of people who will decline for various reasons. Sometimes they will decline because, while we may see them as career officers, they may have other plans that we were not aware of. In other cases,
particularly for a move out of town which may disrupt spouse employment and children's education, they may decide to decline at that stage and pick it up at a point downstream. I can only speak as an ex personnel manager from Air Force, but certainly we have had occasions where you might get half-a-dozen people decline a course. When you are only looking at a fairly small course, that can be quite significant.
Mr HOLLIS —Do you ever have a drop-out rate at all, or is that something that Defence do not have to put up with?
Air Cdre Birrer —Given that we select very carefully, our drop-out rate, if you could call it that, would be almost be infinitesimal. You get the occasional person. My experience has been that it is more of a personal problem that causes a drop-out rather than a lack of ability or lack of desire to complete the course.
Brig. Kelly —I would just note that I have been advised that the DHA and the project team had discussions yesterday.
Senator MURPHY —I thought they might like to plan a bit ahead, as well—given that they might have to secure some housing and they might have to make some decisions about how they might meet your requirements.
Brig. Kelly —Eighteen months ahead, I would suggest, is plenty.
Senator MURPHY —That is about what I thought they would have needed.
ACTING CHAIR —I am sitting here musing. I hope that all this training of these potential brigadiers and air commanders includes what the function is of the Joint Committee on Public Works of the parliament. We have had this referral after you have already made a commitment that you want this facility operating by January 2001, which is an assumption of course that we will approve it, given that the charter we have on behalf of the taxpayers is to make sure it is the appropriate site. I would be interested in your response to that. When you established that you wanted it opened by January 2001, did you give consideration to the fact that it would have to come to this committee for its approval?
Brig. Kelly —Yes, we did. The original plan was January 2002, but Defence took the view that if we could get it through by the commencement of the academic year 2001 we would reap the benefits of that additional year. Defence is very aware that the committee has a significant role to play here, and I assure the committee that, particularly since the committee reviewed the East Coast Armament Complex last year, we have no doubts at all that this is not a rubber stamp committee.
ACTING CHAIR —With a good outcome, I would have thought.
Brig. Kelly —I agree.
Mr HOLLIS —It seemed to me to be a very steep site, today. Will that put any additional costs or anything on the building? Does it add significantly to the cost of the building?
Col. White —The slope across the site gives us the opportunity to develop a third level on one end. It is not actually adding to the cost. It actually enables us to keep the footprint a bit smaller.
Mr HOLLIS —So what would you do with that third end—dig into the site?
Col. White —I suspect that would be the way.
Mr Ross —The natural fall allows us to have a step facility with a lower level on the lower end of the site.
Mr HOLLIS —But that is only one corner.
Mr Ross —That is the corner that we are making the most use of. There is a little bit of fill required in other places but, for the main building and the main footprint, the site actually falls to our advantage.
Mr HOLLIS —What foundations are there going to be?
Mr Ross —In-ground? We expect that there is variable rock, and the variability is in the depth to the rock.
ACTING CHAIR —Those are the sorts of questions I like to ask.
Mr HOLLIS —Go on, you ask. Mr Forrest assured me that this building was on a fault line this morning. Have you done all of those geotech surveys and so forth there?
Mr Ross —We have initiated geotech surveys but we have not got the results yet.
Mr HOLLIS —So it could add considerably to the cost, if you found something there that you were not expecting.
Mr Ross —We do not expect so. What we have basically allowed for is a footing system that uses piers into the bedrock, which is the same sort of system that was used on the ADC building. That worked adequately there. There was a little bit of variability in depth to the rock, which was able to be accommodated in the amount of funds, in the contingency. We expect to have similar issues on the main building, in particular, for this project.
Mr HOLLIS —Has there been an energy survey done at all?
Mr Ross —I do not know whether there has been an energy survey done of the site, but there is certainly an intention that this facility is designed and built to be energy efficient, with energy targets established initially, modified if necessary during the design process, and then implemented through construction and operation.
Mr HOLLIS —What about the current building that is there, the one that came in under $6 million? Is that energy efficient?
Mr Ross —I guess I would have to refer that back to the Defence people who operate it. I do not have any information on that, I am sorry.
Mr HOLLIS —With that existing building, it is all going to flow—it is going to look like one complex, isn't it?
Mr Ross —From an energy system point of view, each of the buildings will be independent, but there will be a site management of energy.
ACTING CHAIR —Could I ask a question about how the facility will be operating in a curriculum sense and so forth. I see on the plans that there is accommodation for senior training officers at executive level—Army, Navy and Air Force, for the three services. Is there going to be an overriding commandant for the whole site?
Air Cdre Birrer —The intention is to have a one-star officer who would be the commandant for the Australian command and staff course, to bring it all together. Under him would be those three colonel equivalents. During the joint phases they would be, if you like, responsible for a range of responsibilities across service. It would not matter which service they were. But during the single service components they will be responsible for the carrying out of those single service components of the course for that 10- to 14-week period. There are some responsibilities of those three gentlemen to report to their single service chiefs to make sure that the single service requirements for generating the right sort of people to achieve tactical excellence in each of their three services are carried out. So the intention is that they will have a direct reporting line to their single service chiefs to report on the single service content and the conduct of those single service elements of the course.
ACTING CHAIR —How would the overriding commandant be selected or appointed? Would it be on a rotating system?
Air Cdre Birrer —The position itself would be rotational and it would be selected as part of the normal selection of the executives of the ADF, which is done at what we call star sessions.
ACTING CHAIR —My question is directed to how progress is being achieved to establishing this overall defence camaraderie. A lot of progress has been made. That is my observation. I go back to the day when there was a bit of competition between the three services. I can understand that co-location is a major step towards overcoming that, but a cynic might say that the other three sites have been overlooked because we wanted a neutral site to go to, not one that had an historical Army association or one that had a Navy or an Air Force association. That is one of the reasons why Weston Creek has been chosen.
Air Cdre Birrer —To my understanding that has not been a factor in it. Certainly with the Defence Efficiency Review the pace of change in the education and training system to look at joint or integrated schools—including civilians, if that is a requirement—has accelerated. Obviously we are keen to make efficiencies but we are also keen to preserve or enhance effectiveness.
With respect to the single service elements that we were just talking about, I think the position would be that we would see that that joint capability we are building has to be built on a solid bedrock of single service excellence. At the end of the day we still need commanders who can command battalions to do their part of the joint mission, we need squadron commanders who can command flying squadrons and so on. So we are not saying that those elements are unimportant; indeed, they are essential to us achieving our mission.
ACTING CHAIR —Senator, you wanted to ask some details about costs?
Senator MURPHY —You can take this on notice. Is it possible to get an explanation of the design and management fees? I also want to ask some questions about the catering facility costs. You are building a new catering facility, which is a need. But more importantly I was interested with regard to the kitchen and what the long-term plan is there. As I understand it, you are going to have a full kitchen staff. Is that what you envisage?
Col. White —I understand the catering facility is basically run under a commercialisation support program arrangement. I believe it would have about eight people or so working in that facility by the time the two colleges are operating in the one area, if that is approved.
Senator MURPHY —What is the cost of the kitchen equipment itself? Are you having full cooking facilities, like a full commercial kitchen?
Mr Ross —It is intended that it is a full kitchen that operates in a self-sustained way for that facility. I can get you the information on that kitchen equipment.
Senator MURPHY —I am just thinking about what is happening in a lot of areas, including in Defence, with regard to outsourcing of food supply services, et cetera, as to whether this is being taken account of in the longer term.
Mr Ross —I guess we are conscious of it.
Senator MURPHY —I would not like to see you spend a couple of million bucks in your new kitchen and find that, two or three years down the track, because of further efficiencies that have to be made, you shut it and outsource it.
Mr Ross —It is not of that order—the kitchen equipment that we are talking about.
Senator MURPHY —I know that is the figure for the whole facility. I should imagine it is probably $300,000 to $400,000 for the kitchen.
Mr Ross —I think that would be about right.
Senator MURPHY —It would seem to me that that is what Defence has done in other areas with regard to provision of food.
Air Cdre Birrer —I think on this one site we are only having the one catering facility. That will cater for the total population on the site. One important thing we do there is have a number of functions for the students themselves. We also have visiting parties of people
coming from, for example, other staff colleges around the region. For example, Philippine Staff College will visit ADC shortly and will use that facility so that the people can be exposed during lunch and so on to all those other visitors from overseas and their experiences. Another important point is that some of the overseas students have special dietary requirements as well, because of their religion, and we do try as best we can to cater for those differences.
Mr HOLLIS —Is the dining room subsidised?
Col. White —I do not expect any more than it would be ordinarily.
Mr HOLLIS —So it is user pays. Subsidies vary greatly. In this place, for instance, the dining room is not subsidised at all, despite what the general public think. We pay full commercial rates here. It is different from our state colleagues, who are usually heavily subsidised in their dining rooms. I just wondered. Is it user pay, or is it a full commercial rate, or is it a hefty subsidy?
Brig. Kelly —Can we take that on notice?
Mr HOLLIS —Yes.
Senator MURPHY —You envisage that you will run the kitchen on an ongoing basis?
Air Cdre Birrer —I envisage that the kitchen would be run on an ongoing basis certainly every day that the college is in and that there would also be a range of official functions which would obviously occur outside the normal daily hours of the college.
Senator MURPHY —Do you want to explain the management fee now or do you want to take that on notice?
Col. White —It depends on the extent of the information you want, Senator. Nominally the basis is worked out on the percentage applied for the project management, which is in the order of two to 2[half ] per cent. This is nominally; their tendered price might have varied from that. And the design fee is about five or six per cent, and we still have not evaluated those tenders yet to see if that is close. But that was the basis of the forecast.
Brig. Kelly —That is fairly much the way we approach any project in the absence of any better information. This project is relatively simple and straightforward compared with many of the more technical projects that you would see out on bases. We consider that about eight per cent total is appropriate.
Senator MURPHY —I want to ask some questions about the road.
ACTING CHAIR —We will be recalling Defence. There are other witnesses here that we should be hearing from.
Senator MURPHY —I just want to ask Defence about the road first.
Mr HOLLIS —Brigadier, I thought—and maybe I am wrong—that there had been over the last couple of years a fairly significant notional wastage rate for that middle-ranking officer level—the colonel or lieutenant colonel role. When I say colonel, I would put that across the other two services as well. Firstly, am I right in that? Secondly, if we are going to build this facility to cater for a declining number of officers, I suppose one can assume that those senior officers who remain in the service will be quite well qualified? We have obviously looked at long-term expectations. Are we going to grow in that area or are we going to decline?
Air Cdre Birrer —Can I turn first to the wastage question. Certainly the level of waste has been higher than we would like and, typically, a considerable proportion of that wastage at this level is people who are pretty well qualified, have had a reasonable period in the service to gain experience and, of course, have the pressures of family life. We have a vertical training organisation in the sense that people come from the bottom and move up. As those people leave at that level, the system is designed to replace them. If wastage goes up, then we will seek to increase our inputs from the civilian market, through ADFA and the other training colleges, to replace those officers.
Turning to the other point you made about a declining officer overhead at this major level, which would provide most of the input to the college, we would see that we now have the numbers pretty well set in terms of where the Defence Force would like to see those numbers. We do not believe there will be a reduction in the need for the high quality education we are talking about—and, indeed, if we had a higher wastage rate, rather than simply running out of officers it might actually generate a need to train or educate more through the staff college.
Mr HOLLIS —That is fine, but have you thought of the possibility that, if this one-year course were like one of these staff colleges that you have, we are training people who are already fairly senior. They are in a position; they are selected there. You have got 12 months training on all this decision making that you are talking about; they would be quite a catch to business. Are we as taxpayers funding personnel to a level that makes them very acceptable to the business community out there? Is there any requirement of them to stay in the force for, say, two or five years after this training at taxpayers' expense so that the taxpayer can get some benefit, or are we training these people to move into business in corporate Australia at the taxpayers' expense?
Air Cdre Birrer —There are a couple of points there. One is that the Defence Force people, once they have been given their education and training, are very attractive to industry and our wastage rates tend to show that. That is in a large number of areas. The challenge for Defence is to be able to retain those people whom we wish to retain. Turning to the particular question of this course and the people who undertake it, they are very carefully selected. There is no guarantee that they will serve on, particularly if we apply a return of service obligation for a one-year course that would be based on one for one—in other words, one year plus one, that is, two years. While I have no figures, my previous experience would indicate that we typically do not lose many of those officers who undertake staff colleges, having been very carefully selected, within that two-year period. There is no certainty they will stay for any period, but we tend to hold on to them for a reasonable period of time.
Col. White —I think the attraction for graduates would only be from industry with a like source.
Mr HOLLIS —But I thought this was a generalist training that we would give them, and they are making them great decision makers. It would seem to me, if I were a manager looking for that, that that would be quite attractive.
Col. White —It certainly would be attractive, but the watershed probably comes on consideration for the next step on promotion rather than from the qualifications from the course.
Air Cdre Birrer —There is a lot of other work being done by Defence, too, to make sure that we can retain those key people. For example, work is being undertaken now on getting a pay structure in place which makes sure that those key people, who are very important to the organisation, are paid sufficient so that there is, if you like, an incentive to stay in the service, rather than having a big disparity between pay in the service and that offered by a commercial organisation.
ACTING CHAIR —I understand that there is a significant proportion of overseas officers who come to be trained in this facility, too—and I think that is a good thing; that is building some international goodwill—but I wonder if their respective governments provide some monetary support to do that or whether it is considered as our obligation. How does that operate? Do they pay a fee?
Air Cdre Birrer —It varies, depending upon which country it is. There are three different arrangements. Firstly, it may be that some countries would pay the costs of placing a student on the course. Secondly, we have reciprocal arrangements with other countries—that is, we send people to their staff colleges and they send to us, and under that reciprocal arrangement no money changes hands. Thirdly, there are some countries for which the course fees are paid under the defence cooperation program, which is administered by the International Policy Division. In that sense, it works to further relationships that the Australian Defence Force seeks to nurture in the region.
Perhaps I could also pick up on the point that it is not just the cultivation of relationships at a personal level; it is also the understanding they give to the Australian students on the course of the region and the way they view things, because there are different ways of viewing international matters. It is that understanding they give to the course that I think is a key element of having a successful ACSC.
ACTING CHAIR —I propose to hear the other witnesses and then recall Defence later to answer any questions that may be raised out of more evidence. Senator Murphy, do you have a last question for Defence? We will then recall them later.
Senator MURPHY —Yes. I want to ask a few questions about the road and what has been considered as a solution to the entry onto Cotter Road. Were there only two considerations—a roundabout or lights?
Mr Ross —There were a number of considerations, I guess, but the final two were really just looking at the way to improve the performance of that intersection. The other considerations related to diverting the traffic away from that entry and perhaps coming into the site from a different direction.
Senator MURPHY —I cannot read the name on this map, but there is a main drive which, I think, runs through to Phillip.
Mr Ross —I cannot give you the names of the roads.
Senator MURPHY —There is the Tuggeranong Parkway; and then—I assume we are going south—what is the next one?
ACTING CHAIR —Streeton Drive.
Senator MURPHY —Was Streeton Drive considered as an access?
Mr Ross —Streeton feeds onto the Cotter Road and provides some of the traffic that goes past the front entrance. It essentially goes in the wrong direction for us. Most of the estimated arrivals will come from the east—pretty much the direction from which we came this morning—and then turn across the traffic into the site.
The alternatives that we considered were going past that turn and then coming back around and possibly past the point where Streeton Drive and the road from Uriarra Crossing come together, and you bring two lots of traffic together at that point. If we were able to go past that and then come back around, you have obviously got a lighter traffic problem that you are crossing. That was considered but it involved, obviously, a longer distance and much more complication when the traffic light approach would make the intersection performance work fine.
Senator MURPHY —I think the traffic light thing is going to be a real problem for you, given the location of the other traffic light—it is just down the road. I assume there is a traffic light at Streeton and Cotter Roads, is there?
Mr Ross —Yes.
Senator MURPHY —I assume that dot represents before you get down to Tuggeranong Parkway?
ACTING CHAIR —There are three traffic lights within about a kilometre of each other.
Senator MURPHY —To put in a fourth one does not, to me, seem a very—
Col. White —That decision would not be made by us alone; it would be made in consultation with the ACT government.
Senator MURPHY —But you are expected to pay?
Col. White —Yes, I suspect so.
Senator MURPHY —I find that an interesting sort of situation. Whilst I can understand the ACT government saying, `Well, look, we'd like you to contribute,' it is the option which is, I think, the problem.
Mr Ross —Given that it is fairly early in the process and that the ACT government may have a different view when they look at it in more detail, nevertheless the traffic light approach has validity because we are talking about a relatively short period of time in the early morning peak when there is going to be conflict at the intersection. At all other times those traffic lights can be readily synchronised so that the through traffic has priority and would have very little impact. So, as distinct from a roundabout, where you would have—
Senator MURPHY —I do not think a roundabout is a solution at all.
Mr Ross —The traffic lights can be applied so that they work at the time you want them to work, and they have—
Senator MURPHY —Yes, I understand that. It is just the number of traffic lights that fit into that very short distance.
Mr Ross —Yes, I agree—it is probably undesirable. But, given the nature of the intersection and the nature of the traffic, we believe that something has to be done.
Senator MURPHY —I agree with that.
ACTING CHAIR —Have you done any option studies? One option is, as Senator Murphy has suggested, extending Streeton Drive at the existing traffic lights and building a road entry. That would have sizeable costs. The other is a roundabout at the intersection where the traffic light is. Another one is the one that you have described—the traffic lights and a turning right lane. Has somebody done some numbers on what each of those options are?
Mr Ross —We have done preliminary numbers, but they are really focused on the college and the impact of the college rather than on the local traffic situation. We would be looking to the ACT government to provide us with guidance as to how they want the local traffic to work.
ACTING CHAIR —Has someone been doing some traffic counts? Do we know how much traffic comes into the college entrance?
Mr Ross —Traffic counts have been done. From memory, October last year is the traffic count that we have been using. We have put a little bit of a growth figure onto it and it represents an adequate basis for the calculations that have been done.
ACTING CHAIR —Somebody has written some sort of a report?
Mr Ross —Yes, that is correct.
ACTING CHAIR —Could you provide that to the committee?
Mr Ross —Yes.
Senator MURPHY —The other thing I would raise with you, and which is, as I understand it, a concern of some of the few residents that live there, is the other set of lights—Kirkpatrick Street. What if there was an entrance when you go down Kirkpatrick Street to where those other lights are? So there would be no new lights. Also, there are the noise levels. I do not know how much heavy traffic goes through there—trucks, et cetera stopping, in effect, in very close proximity. I know that other people have to put up with that, but if it could be avoided that is the sort of thing I would be interested in. Maybe we have to find out from the ACT government what they might be thinking.
Mr Ross —I think they are things that we would explore through the detailed design of the project. But, as I said, they are not things that we have explored at this stage. We have really only looked at the impact of the college on that intersection rather than the broader local traffic issues.
ACTING CHAIR —The submission—the witness is not appearing today—asks questions about the lighting and the impact on Mt Stromlo. Defence's response to that by letter has been: `We will comply with Australian standards and be good neighbourly citizens.' But I would be looking for a little bit more in respect of that issue as to how it relates in the big picture. Mount Stromlo, from the inspection we have done this morning, is three or four kilometres away. How does Defence respond?
Mr Ross —The lights that we are talking about are mercury vapour lights which, apparently, provide a much broader spectrum light. As you saw this morning, they are focused upwards—or they are not focused at all, probably more accurately. The Mount Stromlo observatory has advised us that they can filter out things like sodium lighting, they can adjust their spectrum so that that does not have the same impact. Mercury is probably the worst for their purposes. It is a relatively simple matter from the project's point of view to just change those lights, in the first instance, to sodium vapour; and, in the second instance, to put some downlight impact there rather than up-light.
ACTING CHAIR —Are they the only lights on the whole site?
Mr Ross —They are the only ones that worry them. Most of the other external lights on the site are hooded and reflect downwards. You may have noticed in the car park that there were some bollard lights that had hoods on them. I suspect that there is very little impact from those lights on Mount Stromlo. Those two up-lights on the gates were the only ones that have an impact on them.
ACTING CHAIR —So you have been in regular contact with the management of Stromlo and you have got some good dialogue up there?
Mr Ross —We know what their requirements are, yes.
ACTING CHAIR —Have you got any correspondence from them that they are satisfied with your proposals to make sure we do not create problems for them?
Mr Ross —We have not got a proposal. We know what we want to do, and as we move into design we will design that capability into the project, but at this stage we do not have a firm proposal that we are putting to them. We would be waiting until the lighting designer was appointed, and he would then give us some technical response to the issue that we could offer to the Weston Creek community and through them to Mount Stromlo.
Brig. Kelly —The fact that we have had a submission from them provides the trigger for us to ensure that we follow it up.
ACTING CHAIR —I would like to adjourn Defence witnesses now to hear from the Borough of Queenscliffe. We will be recalling you after we have heard some more evidence. Thank you very much for your time so far.