Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1952


Mr WEST (Minister for Housing and Construction)(12.02) —I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Development of new utility helicopter facilities at RAAF Base, Townsville.

This proposed work, as I have just said, is for the construction of new operational and support facilities at the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Townsville. The proposed work was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Works on 23 October last year. The Committee tabled its report in this House on 18 March. The new facilities will enable No. 9 squadron, which is to be re-equipped later this year with Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters, to be relocated from the base at Amberley to Townsville. The primary role of No. 9 squadron is to provide tactical support for the Army, principally to the operational deployment forces based at Townsville. The relocation will eliminate the non-productive transit flying hours currently necessitated by operating from Amberley.

When the House referred the proposed work to the Public Works Committee the scope of works included 15 houses at an estimated cost of $1.4m. The Committee in its report has recommended that only the helicopter facilities proceed at this time. The Committee was concerned at what it saw as the apparent high cost of construction of the 15 houses. It has requested officers of my Department and the Department of Defence to forward a supplementary submission to the Committee on the question of housing costs, methods of delivery and the role of the proposed Defence Housing Authority. The 15 houses proposed for inclusion in this work have a number of additional features covering such items as landscaping and internal fittings and finishes to meet the defence scales and standards and to make the houses immediately habitable by service personnel. The cost of these houses in their basic form is equivalent to the cost of private project houses. In view of the urgency of commencing the helicopter facilities, it has been agreed that the houses not proceed at this stage, pending a supplementary report by the Committee.

As I mentioned in the referral motion, it is proposed that part of the requirement for 113 married quarters is to be provided for the squadron by transferring 42 existing houses surplus to the Army's requirements. These houses need to be upgraded to current scales and standards of accommodation for service personnel. The Committee has recommended that some recovery of the cost of upgrading these houses should be undertaken. Although this matter is outside my portfolio responsibilities, I understand that the Department of Defence will address this matter in its supplementary submission to the Committee.

The Committee also requested that the Department of Defence consult further with local authorities and wildlife and conservation organisations. This recommendation arose from the Townsville City Council's proposal to undertake a drainage scheme for Louisa Creek to alleviate local flooding problems in Townsville. Louisa Creek provides a wetlands habitat for local birds and wildlife. Although the drainage scheme proposal does not impinge on the proposed defence facilities, I have been advised that the Department of Defence has undertaken to consult further with the interested bodies. This will involve technical input from the Department of Housing and Construction.

The original proposal, as referred to the Committee, was estimated to cost $20.7m at October 1986 prices. The estimated cost of the revised proposal, which excludes the construction of 15 houses, is $19.3m. The design of the facilities was undertaken by my Department with assistance from private consultants. Construction will be contracted to private enterprise. The works are to be completed by August 1988 to enable the relocation of No. 9 squadron early in 1989. It is anticipated that tenders will be invited this month, with construction commencing in May this year. The construction activity should employ an on-site work force of up to 150 persons and up to an additional 300 workers will be employed off-site. I thank the Committee for its prompt report on this very important project and I commend the motion to the House.