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Wednesday, 15 February 2006
Page: 108


Mrs MOYLAN (5:20 PM) —On behalf of the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Public Works I present the first, second and third reports for 2006 of the committee relating to: proposed construction of a new chancery building for the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; proposed construction of a new chancery building for the Australian Embassy in Rangoon, Burma; and proposed relocation of 171st Aviation Squadron to Holsworthy Barracks, New South Wales.

Ordered that the reports be made parliamentary papers.


Mrs MOYLAN —by leave—The committee’s first report of 2006 deals with a proposal from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade regarding the construction of a new chancery building for the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The proposed chancery will accommodate Australia’s permanent mission to Cambodia and provide a modern, efficient, pleasant and safe working environment for embassy staff.

The new chancery will accommodate the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, AusAID, the Department of Defence and the Australian Federal Police. The chancery will also provide accommodation for the Canadian Embassy.

The existing chancery is located in a three-storey villa built in 1972 and purchased by the Australian government in 1992. The current chancery does not meet current security, access, services and space requirements. The proposed chancery will be designed to meet the specific space needs and functions of the tenants whilst providing for some future expansion within the prescribed building setbacks.

The proposal of works includes:

  • facilities for official functions, exhibitions and meetings;
  • guardhouses, security support facilities and a perimeter fence;
  • engineering services infrastructure;
  • a water treatment system;
  • on-site water storage tanks with fire-fighting capability;
  • official fleet and A-based staff parking; and
  • landscaped surrounds within a secure compound.

Having investigated the proposal, the committee asked the department to provide it with further detail on the various parties involved in the project delivery to be provided subsequent to the hearing. However, the committee was satisfied with its findings and recommends that the works proceed at the estimated cost of $19.93 million.

The committee’s second report of 2006 deals with a proposal, also by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to construct a new chancery building in Rangoon, Burma.

The department reported that Australia’s existing chancery is in a building constructed in 1901 and no longer meets functional or security requirements.

After examination of different options, the department proposed to provide a new purpose-built building to serve as Australia’s permanent mission to Burma. The building will house the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, AusAID and the Australian Federal Police.

One of the committee’s concerns was a report that indicated that Burmese bureaucrats had been ordered to leave Rangoon for a new capital, which would be located 320 kilometres to the north at Pyinmana near Mandalay. At the public hearing the department responded, on the best advice it had received to date, that it did not expect the move to have any significant implications for the chancery.

The committee has given detailed consideration to the proposal and recommends that the works proceed at the estimated cost of $12.87 million.

The third report of 2006 presents the committee’s findings in relation to the proposed relocation of 171st Aviation Squadron to Holsworthy Barracks, New South Wales.

The Department of Defence’s primary aim in relocating the 171st Aviation Squadron to Holsworthy is to improve the ability of Army aviation to provide troop lift support to the newly established special operations command and counterterrorist capability also located at the barracks. The collocation of dedicated Army aviation support with counterterrorist and special operation forces is expected to enhance capability and improve safety, thus satisfying one recommendation of the Board of Inquiry into the Black Hawk Training Accident that occurred in Townsville in 1996.

The proposed relocation will include the following elements:

  • refurbishment of facilities accommodating command operations and logistic elements; and
  • works to Luscombe Airfield to enure satisfactory accommodation for aircraft related facilities.

The Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Cubbitch Barta Native Title Claimants Aboriginal Corporation both provided evidence for the committee at the public hearings. Both groups voiced concerns over heritage concerns on the Holsworthy site and the impact of Defence’s proposal on Aboriginal sites. Defence assured the committee that an environmental consultant had been employed to provide ‘an open, transparent and comprehensive public environmental report’, part of which will include Aboriginal cultural heritage issues. After significant discussions with both Aboriginal groups and Defence, the committee recommends in this report that, after the consultation process on environmental and cultural heritage matters has been completed, the Department of Defence report its findings to the committee.

Whilst the committee wants to ensure that comprehensive environment and heritage examinations are carried out on the Holsworthy site, it does not intend unnecessarily to obstruct the project delivery of the proposal. In this regard, the committee recommends that the works proceed at the estimated amount of $92 million.

Once again, Mr Deputy Speaker, these inquiries were completed before—and after in one case—the close of business of this place last year, which meant there was a tremendous workload on the committee secretariat. I would like once again to thank my committee colleagues and particularly the secretariat and Hansard for the support work that they did to ensure that this work continued to flow. I commend the reports to the House.