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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 2982

Mr GRAY (Special Minister of State and Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity) (6:01 PM) —I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration and report: Robertson Barracks electrical reticulation system upgrade, Darwin, Northern Territory.

Robertson Barracks is a key defence base in the Northern Territory and is located approximately 20 kilometres east of Darwin. It is the home of the 1st Brigade and the 1st Aviation Regiment and a number of lodger units. The base supports a working population of approximately 3,500 personnel. It was constructed in the 1990s under an initiative called Army Presence in the North Project. The original high-voltage system at Robertson Barracks has undergone an ad hoc extension over the past 13 years as the demand for power has grown.

The existing high-voltage system is nearing its capacity and has insufficient redundancy to cope with disruptions to the power supply, such as outages during tropical storms. The emergency power station has inadequate capacity and cannot fully support the capability during power outages. It also lacks the controls necessary for effective power switching and load shedding, which is necessary to ensure that power is supplied to critical areas of the base. These shortcomings have a direct impact on the operation of the base and constrain future growth and development. There is a pressing need to upgrade the high-voltage power supply and distribution network to provide a reliable and flexible system which has sufficient capacity to meet future demands.

To this end defence propose the following work: the extension of the high-voltage feeder, interconnection of switching stations, upgrade and extensions to ring mains, construction of essential emergency power station, and installation of power control and monitoring systems. Without a comprehensive upgrade, the high-voltage infrastructure will continue to be affected by power failures and will be further compromised by the need to undertake ad hoc and costly upgrades each time there is an increase in the demand for power. The proposed upgrades will provide a purpose-designed power distribution system that will resolve existing inadequacies and will provide for growth and development at the base for approximately 15 years. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $43.4 million plus GST. Subject to parliamentary approval, construction is scheduled to commence in late 2011 and is expected to be completed by mid-2013. I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.