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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21513

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (4:50 PM) —by leave—Mr Deputy Speaker, as a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works you would know that this was an important review of RAAF Base Richmond. This base was clearly in need of this reinvestment project. I therefore concur with the sentiments expressed by the chair of the committee, the member for Pearce, when she indicated that $35 million should be spent on the developments required, which were put to us by the Defence department.

I would like to mention a number of matters that I think need to be rectified quickly. There is no doubt, having inspected the area, that the Defence personnel have amenities which are wanting and in need of immediate repair. It is fair to say—and I think every member of the committee would agree, as would the local member—that the Defence personnel should be provided with appropriate amenities. There is no doubt in my view that those amenities are deficient. The committee has therefore recommended that those matters be attended to forthwith.

I would also like to raise the need to negotiate with the Australian Heritage Commission because the proposed works, as the member for Pearce indicated, would require the demolition of some heritage listed Bellman hangars. I think it is important, when we look at dwellings that are heritage listed, to ensure that everything is done to preserve those things where possible. In this case, it would appear that there has to be some demolition undertaken, and it should be done as sensitively as possible.

Finally, I want to touch upon the indefinite future of the base. As the statement made by the member for Pearce indicated, there were some questions about this issue. The fact is at the moment the only commitment made by the government in relation to the RAAF base at Richmond is that it will not close before 2010. Therefore, the members who made up the committee on that day were clearly interested to see whether the $35 million should be spent and would be value for money, given that there is no commitment beyond 2010 for RAAF Base Richmond at this point.

It was reasonably put by Brigadier Hutchinson and other witnesses when they indicated that there was a commitment that went to almost seven years. Indeed, there are immediate occupational health and safety concerns and, of course, the deficiencies in the amenities to which I referred earlier, and therefore the money would be well spent. The need to spend it was impressed upon us. I did also ask of Brigadier Hutchinson and Wing Commander Knight in the hearing:

Have there been any morale problems or concerns with the personnel on the base, given the fact that there is a guarantee of less than seven years?

Brigadier Hutchinson indicated that he would like to pass that question to Wing Commander Knight, who said:

Yes, morale has been affected by the indecision that has been created by the Prime Minister's statement.

That reinforces the view that there is a need for the government to make a decision on that site. We are slowly heading towards 2010, and the more quickly the government can make a decision so that the personnel—and, indeed, the community at large within the electorate—can be assured that RAAF Base Richmond has a life beyond 2010, the better. Finally, along with the member for Pearce, I thank the witnesses and all those involved, including, last but not least, the secretariat, who have again done a fantastic job in assisting the committee with its deliberations.