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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17314

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (4:29 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: Construction of a new Chancery for the Australian High Commission, New Delhi, India.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposes to construct a new chancery building and five additional units of residential accommodation in the existing high commission compound in New Delhi, India. The new chancery building will replace the existing chancery facility, which no longer provides suitable accommodation for Australian and locally engaged staff. Australia is represented in India by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Department of Defence; the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs; the Department of Education, Science and Training; the Australian Trade Commission; the Australian Agency for International Development—that is, AusAID; and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

The Australian High Commission in New Delhi is currently located in a building that was constructed more than 35 years ago and was first occupied in 1966. There has been no significant refurbishment of the original chancery since its construction, and the building is no longer suited to the requirements of modern office accommodation. The needs of the Australian mission to India that existed in the 1960s have changed significantly and, while modifications have been made to the chancery, access, services, layout, facilities and space are deficient.

The Australian High Commission in New Delhi performs the full range of functions of a diplomatic mission in support of Australia's important bilateral relationship with India. Tensions between India and Pakistan and the difficult nature of life in urban New Delhi reinforce the requirement for as many Australian based staff as possible to live in the compound for security reasons and to provide guaranteed services such as water and electricity. The proposal will deliver a modern, fully functional, two-storey building to accommodate all tenant agencies, catering to individual tenant requirements and including appropriate security provisions. In addition to the office accommodation, the project will also provide five units of residential accommodation to Australian standards that are not currently available in the New Delhi market. Subject to parliamentary approval, works will commence in mid-2004, with completion of all works scheduled for late 2007. The total out-turn cost of the proposal is $24.61 million. I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.