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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2447


Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (09:35): 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 Australian Embassy complex including Chancery and Head of Mission Residence in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposes to construct a new purpose-built embassy complex, including a chancery and head-of-mission residence, in Bangkok, Thailand, at an estimated cost of $190.8 million. Following the terrorist bomb attack at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004 and a global review of physical security at Australia's overseas missions, the government approved the relocation of the Bangkok embassy complex on security grounds. The new site will enable appropriate setbacks for the chancery and head-of-mission residence buildings for blast mitigation while the buildings themselves will be designed to mitigate blast.

The Australian government constructed the existing buildings in 1979 for use as a chancery and head-of mission residence. The new development proposal is driven by the imperative to provide more secure accommodation. The new embassy complex will be on leased land adjacent to the Embassy of Japan in the Pathum Wan district of Bangkok, which is in the same general district as the current embassy. As well as providing appropriate physical security, the project will deliver a modern, functional chancery building to accommodate tenant agencies as well as provision of a new official residence for the ambassador, family members and high-level visitors.

As a major overseas mission, the Bangkok embassy is significant in representational terms and also acts as a hub for other Australian missions in the region. The new facilities will be capable of catering for the large range of representational functions that will be undertaken at the chancery. Through the use of public spaces, conference rooms and outdoor areas as well as the official representational areas of the head-of-mission residence, the buildings will accommodate events such as official receptions, exhibitions and trade displays, meetings, lectures and business missions.

In its report, the Public Works Committee recommended that these works should proceed, subject to the recommendations of the committee. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade accepts and will implement those recommendations. Subject to parliamentary approval, construction of the major works package could commence in October 2013, with practical completion in late March 2016, followed by security and furniture fit-out. Occupation of the complex is scheduled for around June 2016.

On behalf of the government, I thank the committee for its support. I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.