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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 220


Senator DEVEREUX —On behalf of the Joint Committee on Public Works, I present the committee's second report of 1994, entitled Refurbishment of Australian Federal Police College, Barton, ACT, and the committee's third report of 1994, entitled Relocation of the Salisbury Explosive Ordnance testing facilities to Port Wakefield, SA. I move:

  That the Senate take note of the reports.

The first report which I have tabled deals with the refurbishment of the Australian Federal Police College, Barton, ACT. The report recommends that the refurbishment should proceed, although there is a condition attached to this recommendation which I will explain later. The estimated cost of the proposed refurbishment is $10.5 million at July 1993 prices.

  The report mentions that the existing college building, although partially extended and later renovated, is nearly 50 years old and the standard of living-in accommodation and training facilities reflects this. If the AFP is to have adequate facilities for the training of police officers and officers from other agencies, there is a definite requirement for better facilities.

  The AFP examined a number of options, including the use of surplus schools and the integration of the college with a new AFP headquarters. Neither option proved practicable or financially realistic.

  Accordingly, the AFP proposes to upgrade the building to: comply with current regulations, fire safety and occupational health and safety; establish clearly defined functional zones and refine circulation and access routes within the complex; utilise existing courtyards more imaginatively; and upgrade the quality of work and residential areas.

  The committee's report concludes that the extent of the proposed refurbishment is necessary due to the age and condition of the building and a requirement to provide a modern, integrated training establishment offering facilities consistent with contemporary standards and expectations. Therefore, the standard of accommodation proposed is consistent with a need to cater for the diversity of personnel attending training courses.

  Similarly, the extent of the proposed upgrading of building services reflects the requirement to repair and maintain deficiencies in existing systems and to modernise them where necessary.

  The committee has made recommendations concerning a number of design and consultative matters: on the question of fire safety, the committee recommends that the involvement of the ACT Fire Brigade should continue throughout the design and delivery of the completed project. The committee also recommends that an energy audit of the college should be carried out 12 months after the completion of the project. The committee recommends that the Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled should be involved in the design of refurbishment work relating to access and other facilities for the disabled. The committee recommends that the AFP should formalise arrangements with child-care centres aimed at providing certainty about the availability of child-care places.

  I said at the outset that the committee's recommendation that the work should proceed is conditional. This conditional approval stems from the impact of the law enforcement review, now completed, on the structure and functions of Commonwealth law enforcement agencies. The review had not been finalised at the time of the committee's consideration of the proposed work.

  We were very conscious of a case where a completed work previously examined by the committee was not required as a consequence of organisational changes occurring during construction. I am sure the parliament would not wish to see a repeat of this type of debacle. The committee, therefore, recommends that the project should proceed subject to impacts associated with the law enforcement review having no significant bearing on the scope of the proposal.

  The second report which I have tabled deals with the partial relocation of the Environmental Test Facility from its current location in the Defence Science and Technology Organisation complex at Salisbury to Port Wakefield, north of Adelaide.

  For the benefit of honourable senators, I will try to explain what environmental stress testing is all about. It involves subjecting items of ordnance to a variety of tests which simulate their handling, transport and storage.

  At present this testing is carried out at Salisbury. The transportation of environmentally stressed ordnance from Salisbury to the Proof and Experimental Establishment at Port Wakefield poses risks to the public and Defence personnel which could be avoided.

  The scope of the proposed work examined by the committee involves the construction of 12 test laboratory buildings and control and administrative buildings, four storage magazines and associated infrastructure. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $8 million. The committee has recommended that the proposal should proceed.

  In arriving at this recommendation, the committee concluded that environmental stress testing of explosive ordnance is essential to ensure the safety of Defence personnel required to transport it and ultimately operate the weapons systems. The committee also concluded that there is a need for the stress testing to be undertaken at a safer location, preferably in close proximity to a proofing range.

  Defence examined a number of possible locations and concluded that Port Wakefield is the best one and, having inspected the Proof and Experimental Establishment there, the committee agreed with this assessment. The committee concluded that the extent of the proposed work can be justified on the basis of the specialised functions which need to be carried out by or in the various buildings proposed.

  The committee sought assurances from Defence about a number of safety and environmental issues. The committee was assured that the location and size of the proposed site provides adequate clearances and room for expansion; that preliminary engineering investigations have indicated that the site is suitable for constructing the buildings proposed; that there will be no significant deleterious environmental impacts from the proposed facility; and that there will be no additional firing and associated noise from the Proof and Experimental Establishment as a consequence of the relocation of the ordnance environmental stress test facility to Port Wakefield.

  Again, the committee sought assurances about the long-term viability of the proposed facility in the light of possible future policy changes. Based on the evidence presented to it, the committee concluded that, in the event of policy changes occurring in the future which may place the responsibility for all or some environmental stress testing of ordnance on Australian manufacturers, need for and use of the proposed facilities will remain.

  In terms of revenue from testing ordnance, the committee concluded that provision of a new purpose built facility will provide considerable scope for Defence to undertake additional commercial work without the need for additional staff.

  A feature of the construction of the new facilities will be the involvement of army engineers as the primary construction agency. The decision to use army engineers was made on the basis of the relatively remote site, the benefits to be gained from training and value for money. Army engineers are presently involved in the construction of RAAF Base Scherger, near Weipa, Queensland. From all accounts this is proving to be a very successful exercise.

  Finally, I should mention that the proposal has considerable local government support. The Proof and Experimental Establishment has been at Port Wakefield since 1928 and considerable goodwill exists between civilian and military authorities there. I commend the reports to the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.