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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2803


Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (3:44 PM) —by leave—I move:

That, in accordance with section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974, the House approves the following proposal for works in the Parliamentary Zone which was presented to the House on 15 March 2010, namely: a vehicle storage facility near the Parliament House Loading Dock.

This motion is seeking the approval of the parliament to construct a vehicle storage facility near the entrance to the Parliament House loading dock. The loading dock is located under the formal gardens east of the House of Representatives entrance. The facility will be a modern garage design with wooden cladding complementary to the other buildings in the precinct. The construction of the new facility is required so as to free up space in the loading dock area to accommodate a new mail screening facility.

There are strong health and safety reasons why this new mail screening facility is required. Security operations staff provide screening and handling of all mail and parcels delivered to Parliament House. The existing facility is too small and is separate from the decontamination facility. This means that if a suspect mail item is identified it has to be carried by staff to the decontamination facility thereby risking the release of contaminants throughout the loading dock. This puts staff at risk and requires the operations of the loading dock to be shut down, often for several hours. The mail screening task is potentially hazardous and the Department of Parliamentary Services wishes to provide maximum safety for its staff. Construction of the new mail room is planned for this year.

The Department of Parliamentary Services is proceeding with the design of the vehicle storage facility while taking into consideration the heritage values of the national iconic building and precinct. The National Capital Authority has been consulted in planning this facility and has endorsed the plan. It is intended that the works will be undertaken by June 2010. The estimated cost of the design and construction of the vehicle storage facility is $205,000. The total project cost will be met by the Department of Parliamentary Services through administered funding.

Under section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974, the Presiding Officers are responsible for works within the parliamentary precinct and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government is responsible for other works in the Parliamentary Zone. Accordingly, I am moving this motion on behalf of the Speaker and the President. I have also had discussions with the Manager of Opposition Business and, as I indicated to the representative of the Department of Parliamentary services yesterday, I believe that there is a need for increased scrutiny of proposals which become before this parliament which would result in expenditure by the parliament.

The concerns of a number of members, senators, staff and Comcar drivers have been raised with me as the Leader of the House. These concerns are about some of the resultant work on the road which circles this building. I think that it is appropriate, and I have suggested to the Manager of Opposition Business, that he and I should avail ourselves of briefings before motions are moved before this House so that we can ascertain exactly what spending is required and exactly what the resultant work will be. The Manager of Opposition Business has accepted this invitation and I intend to provide that scrutiny in the future. Mr Speaker, you will be pleased to know that the department has accepted that that process needs to be improved in the future.


The SPEAKER —Whilst I cannot enter into a debate that has been carried out by interjection, I am more than pleased that in future, as representatives of the House, and in the absence of another appropriate committee of the House, briefings will be given to the Leader of the House and to the Manager of Opposition Business. I would say to the three Independents that, if they wish to be included in these processes, I would ensure that that is carried out as well. I emphasise that I am happy for that to happen, but I stress that, unlike the Senate, we do not have an appropriate body such as the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations and Staffing where I would be delighted if these things were thrashed out.

Question agreed to.