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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 17521

Mrs MOYLAN (4:45 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works I present the report of the committee relating to provision of facilities for the ACT multiuser depot, HMAS Harman, ACT.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mrs MOYLAN —by leave—This report deals with a range of new and redeveloped facilities intended to establish a multiuser depot at HMAS Harman for use by part-time reserve and cadet units. The estimated cost of the works is $13.5 million. The multiuser depot concept allows for maximum use and occupancy of a single set of facilities by a number of reserve and cadet units. Typically, these units use the facilities only one evening per week and one weekend per month.

The project described in this report will allow Defence to relocate a number of units currently accommodated throughout the ACT to a single site at HMAS Harman. Under this proposal, seven units—comprising four reserve units, two cadet units and one regular RAAF unit—will be relocated. In addition to the units already accommodated at HMAS Harman, this will bring the total number of units utilising the multiuser depot facilities to 10. At present, reserve and cadet units in the ACT are located at three sites: HMAS Harman; the Werriwa training depot in Allara Street, Civic; and the RAAF Fairbairn base at Canberra Airport. The decision to relocate units and consolidate facilities at a single site is, in part, driven by the planned closure in 2004 of RAAF Fairbairn and by the planned disposal in 2004-05 of the Werriwa training depot.

Defence expects that the establishment of a multiuser depot at HMAS Harman will minimise duplication of facilities across the ACT, resulting in both operational and cost efficiencies. Units will have access to existing messing, accommodation and sporting facilities at Harman and will be supported by existing essential services infrastructure, without additional expenditure by Defence. The completion of the multiuser depot works will also permit the termination of Defence's current lease-back arrangements at RAAF Fairbairn, which will deliver further savings. The proposed works will comprise office accommodation; specialised and shared training facilities; general and weapons storage facilities; vehicle storage and maintenance facilities; separate ablutions facilities for reserves and cadets; overnight, barracks style accommodation; and access to messing, gymnasiuma and medical facilities and parking.

At the public hearing, Defence informed the committee of two changes made to the design of the new facility since the agency submitted its evidence in March 2003. The new design allows for co-location of the cadet and reserve precincts and the provision of barracks style overnight accommodation for up to 120 cadets. Defence believes that these changes represent better value for money for the Commonwealth. Defence assured the committee that the co-location of the reserves and cadets would not entail concurrent use of the facilities by the two groups. To ensure that Defence meets its duty of care to cadets, separate ablutions blocks will be provided for both unit categories.

In considering the written evidence supplied by Defence, committee members noted that, while the submission outlined a number of proposed energy efficiency measures, no reference was made to consultation with the Australian Greenhouse Office. At the public hearing, Defence stated that it intended to undertake such consultation. The committee recommended that this occur, in order to ensure that the proposed works comply with the relevant sections of the Commonwealth energy policy.

During a confidential briefing on project costs, the committee was curious to learn why the overall budget for the project had remained unchanged despite considerable alterations and additions to the project scope. At the public hearing and in subsequent correspondence, Defence explained that co-location of the reserve and cadet precincts, a reduction in the planned number of classrooms and the excision from the budget of proposed intersection works at Canberra Avenue had freed up funds for expenditure on additional project elements.

Following the public hearing, the committee recommended that Defence provide clarification of altered budget elements and the revised budget as a whole, and that these be supplied to the committee at the earliest opportunity. Defence responded promptly to this request and was able to assure the committee that the revised project costs were in order. The committee was concerned that copies of the revised project costs were not supplied to members prior to the public hearing and requested that in future such documents be made available well in advance of the hearing.

Given that Defence has supplied appropriate budget information and has undertaken to consult with the Australian Greenhouse Office, the committee recommends that the works proposed for the ACT multiuser depot proceed at a cost of $13.5 million. I would like to thank the many people who assisted the committee during its inspections and public hearing, my committee colleagues and the staff of the secretariat. I commend the report to the House.