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Thursday, 11 September 2003
Page: 19819

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (9:26 AM) —I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to parliament: Construction of a new Chancery building for the Australian High Commission, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposes to construct a new chancery building in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The new building will replace an existing facility that no longer provides suitable accommodation for Australian and locally-engaged staff. Australia is represented in Sri Lanka by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Trade Commission. The Australian Agency for International Development is also represented in Sri Lanka.

The Australian High Commission in Colombo is currently located in two converted houses that were constructed more than 50 years ago and first occupied in 1961. The buildings are in a poor state of repair, with the ground floor low lying and regularly flooded during the monsoon season. The layout of the existing chancery is dysfunctional and does not meet the operational requirements of a modern facility.

Construction of a new chancery on vacant land will provide a purpose-designed building with appropriate space and technological requirements for the occupying agencies, including the provision of appropriate security. It will provide minimal disruption to the operation of the high commission as the existing facility will continue operation until the new facility is fully constructed and operational. Following completion and occupation of the new chancery, the current chancery property will subsequently be sold.

The proposal will deliver a modern, fully functional two-storey building to accommodate the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Trade Commission on the ground floor, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and AusAID occupying the upper floor. The ground floor will include a multi-use facility capable of providing for official receptions, exhibitions and trade displays, meetings, lectures and business missions.

In its report, the Public Works Committee has recommended that this project proceed. Subject to parliamentary approval, construction is scheduled to commence in May next year, with practical completion and occupation in the second half of 2005. The estimated out-term cost of the proposal is $11.19 million. On behalf of the government, I would like to thank the committee for its support, and I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.