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Thursday, 11 May 2006
Page: 57

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (1:11 PM) —I was interested in what the shadow spokesman had to say. The Australian government is committed to the provision of quality housing for all members of the Australian Defence Force. The Defence Housing Authority has become a considerable success story over recent years in both social and economic terms. This amendment bill will help to underpin the long-term viability of DHA as a government business enterprise.

The existing DHA Act is 19 years old and requires updating to better reflect the current governance arrangements that are to be applied to DHA after the Uhrig report. The proposed amendments are supported by both shareholder ministers, the Minister for Finance and Administration and the Minister for Defence, and, of course, DHA itself. The amendments reinforce the government’s commitment to provide quality housing and housing related services to defence personnel and to their families. They will also allow the DHA to expand its commercial base to include other government agencies while ensuring that the interests of Defence are safeguarded. The expansion of DHA’s client base and services will enable it to provide a more diverse range of services to Defence and will assist it to compete more effectively in the market for new accommodation projects.

The bill also proposes amendments that will expand the scope of the DHA and increase its operations beyond Defence. The DHA will be able to provide housing and housing related services to other Commonwealth agencies and ancillary services to both Defence and other Commonwealth agencies. The ability for the Commonwealth agencies to utilise the DHA’s expertise in the provision of housing or housing related services has the potential to benefit the whole of government.

The changes to the structure of the DHA board will provide a more commercial focus and will better reflect best practice as outlined in the Uhrig review. The bill proposes amendments that will improve the harmonisation of the Defence Housing Authority Act 1987 and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. The DHA’s governance arrangements will be more closely aligned with those of other government business enterprises. The proposed amendments to the DHA Act will assist to ensure the long-term viability of DHA. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.