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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
PROGRAM 18-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
PROGRAM 18-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
SENATOR PETER BAUME
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME
SENATOR ROBERT RAY
- Sub program
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
(SENATE-Thursday, 20 October 1988)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
- ACTING CHAIRMAN (SENATOR MAGUIRE)
- Program 16-ELECTORAL SERVICES
- PROGRAM 18-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S DEPARTMENT
- Program 2-LAW RELATED SERVICES TO THE COMMUNITY
- PROGRAM 1-LEGAL SERVICES TO THE CONMMONWEALTH
- Program 6-MAINTENANCE OF LAW, ORDER AND SECURITY
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE E
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
PROGRAM 18-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
CHAIRMAN -I have a couple of questions. The first one is in relation to the percentage of the total capital construction cost that is normally appropriated to design and construction.
MR FOWLER -I am sorry, but I do not understand that question.
CHAIRMAN -I understand that normally in any major construction project about 10 per cent of the total capital costs goes to design and construction-that is , the design element and the briefing arrangements for what the building is eventually going to look like and how it is going to function. Is 10 per cent about what was paid out for the total building here? Was it about 10 per cent of the capital construction costs that went into that element of the design and briefing? I am asking you because I cannot work my way through those figures and I have tried to just see where the money went.
MR FOWLER -In an endeavour to try to answer your question, it would be normal for something like 12 per cent of the total cost of a project to be allocated to the fees for architects and other consultants. In addition to that, there would be fees in this case, for the construction manager who undertook the job of both the head contractor and also the superintendent. The overall total of those would be around 30 per cent.
CHAIRMAN -I just want to see where I look now to find it under the various headings. What do you do in the end if you find, for example, that the brief was inadequate and that certain patching up needs to be done? For example, you might have to pull out certain walls-I know that is not possible in most of the building, but let us say you had to do that, or certain other practical problems had to be overcome. How do you charge those particular rearrangements out that might be due to an inadequate brief in the first place?
MR FOWLER -If it was due to inadequate briefing it would be a responsibility of the Authority. Providing that we had instructed our consultants in accordance with the requirements of the Parliament, then any inadequacies in the briefing would have been the responsibility of the Authority. Any changes, however, to the brief would be the responsibility of the Parliament, and there have been changes through the period of the project where there have been additions and modifications which have resulted from requests of the Joint Standing Committee. They, in turn, have been submitted to Government for additional funding.
CHAIRMAN -A significant number of the changes that would have occurred along the way which involved variations would have come from the Joint Standing Committee.
MR FOWLER -There would have been a complete range; there would have been errors caused by various contractors and those errors would have been the responsibility of the contracted effects within the contract conditions.
CHAIRMAN -There may be errors, but what about those areas where there has been a bad design brief given in the first place and suddenly, as the building is either being constructed, reasonably early, or maybe even late, somebody comes across a problem which has to be resolved by a variation in the contract?
MR FOWLER -To go back to my earlier answer, variations in brief would be the responsibility of the Authority and the Joint Standing Committee.
CHAIRMAN -That will give me my key into it.
SENATOR SHORT -I would like to ask some questions concerning the contract to supply sandstone for use in the construction of the Parliament House, where the sandstone came from the Bundanoon quarry, and I understand that the contractor was a company with which Mr Savvas was involved. Is that correct?
MR FOWLER -I believe that is correct.
SENATOR SHORT -Was that contract tendered?
MR FOWLER -The contract that you refer to was not a contract direct to the Parliament House Construction Authority. The contractor which the Authority had a contract with was, I believe, Wards, so there was no direct contract between the contractor you referred to and the Parliament House Construction Authority. They were subcontractors.
SENATOR SHORT -Did the Parliament House Construction Authority have any knowledge of whom the subcontractor would be?
MR FOWLER -No, the Authority did not. However, the construction manager who is responsible for the management of all of our contracts has a procedure to assess the viability of various subcontractors and therefore there would have been a procedure he would have gone through to assess that contractor for, as I say, financial viability. That would not necessarily be advised on to the Authority.
SENATOR SHORT -Would you know, in this case, whether the Authority was aware of the company and its personnel?
MR FOWLER -No, I am not aware of that. We would not have been aware, Senator.
SENATOR SHORT -So you would not have been aware that Mr Savvas was charged with conspiring to import heroin and being an accessory before the fact of Barry McCann's murder?
MR FOWLER -We were not aware of that.
SENATOR SHORT -I presume you are now?
MR FOWLER -We are now, yes.
SENATOR SHORT -Has the Construction Authority taken any action at all in the light of that knowledge?
MR FOWLER -As I said, Senator, the Authority does not have a contract with the company; we have contracts with a major company which has a much wider responsibility.
CHAIRMAN -I will interrupt at this stage. I am not familiar with the expedition of this case, Senator. Is this case currently still being heard before the court?
SENATOR SHORT -I am not certain.
CHAIRMAN -It is not subject to appeal?
SENATOR SHORT -I am not certain.
CHAIRMAN -I am just wondering whether we should tread reasonably lightly in this area seeing that it could well be sub judice, particularly if you are asking the officers what action they may or may not be taking, or will take, in relation to a person who is currently, as I understand it, still before the court, awaiting a judicial decision.
SENATOR SHORT -Yes, I take your counsel on that. Perhaps I will just ask one more question: As a result of the present situation of the disclosures, has the Authority had any discussions with Wards and if not, does it propose to do so?
MR FOWLER -We have not had discussions with Wards. We do not propose to do so because that contract is in fact completed. There is no further action that we are taking on that contract.
SENATOR SHORT -Has the total contract been completed to the Authority's total satisfaction in terms of quality and price-the financial side?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR SHORT -In terms of the contract that Wards got-you may have half- answered this before but I just wish to get my own mind clear on it-that contract was tendered and Wards won the tender?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR SHORT -How many subcontractors were there?
MR FOWLER -We do not have a precise figure but it would be somewhere from five to 15.
SENATOR SHORT -What was Wards' contract?
MR FOWLER -Perhaps I could ask Mr O'Connell to describe that, Mr Chairman.
MR O'CONNELL -The contract was for landscaping works in the courtyards and, I think, also in the external landscaping areas outside Parliament Drive.
SENATOR SHORT -Were any representations made to the Construction Authority in relation to the tender before the contract was awarded?
MR FOWLER -I am not aware of any.
SENATOR SHORT -I accept that, but could you take that on notice to check for me?
MR FOWLER -Any specific aspects?
SENATOR SHORT -No, I just want to know whether the Construction Authority received any representations and, if so, from whom, in relation to that contract before the contract was in fact let?
MR FOWLER -We will certainly give you an answer to that.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I would like to ask some questions about the art works program. Is Mr Fowler here?
MR FOWLER -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -So you wrote the letter to Senator Childs, Chairman of Estimates Committee E, of which I have a copy?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -You have seen the response of the Clerk of the Senate?
MR FOWLER -Yes, I have.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -What was the original size of the art works acquisition in terms of money?
MR FOWLER -It was approximately $12m.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -How much of it has been taken out of it by Government Budget cuts?
MR FOWLER -Over two, or perhaps three, periods, an amount of about $5m.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -What has that meant in terms of the acquisition program itself?
MR FOWLER -As a consequence the acquisition program was reduced. There were two areas that attracted the cuts. One was in the acquisition of commissioned works, which are the major works which form part of the fabric for the building. The other area was in the so-called rotational collections, that is, the collections of art works that were to be made available to members and senators and also the collection that was to be installed in the building in the public areas.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Let us confine ourselves to the last two classes. What reduction was there in the acquisition program for those two classes?
MR FOWLER -Approximately $1.7m-about half the collection.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is it true that 2,850 items are on the record on computer as having been acquired?
MR FOWLER -I believe that is the correct number, certainly it is of that order .
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is it true that the Parliament House Construction Authority has had the carriage of the distribution of art works to office holders?
MR FOWLER -The Construction Authority has distributed art works to office holders and members and senators against a priority listing approved by the Speaker and the President.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -It is true, however, that senators and members are only now choosing, are they not?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is it a fact that you have offered senators and members two paintings each?
MR FOWLER -Two works of art.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is it true that there were 1,461 art works allocated to office holders?
MR FOWLER -Again, I understand that it is approximately that figure. I do not have the precise figure.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -And that there are about 55 office holders?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -And that divides to an average of more than 26 items for each office holder?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -How many items has each office holder received?
MR FOWLER -There has been a range. Obviously, the larger suites of the Speaker , the President, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have substantially more works of art than those at the other end of the spectrum who might be the deputy whips.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Did you say deputy whips?
MR FOWLER -Precisely.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -You would have that on computer record, would you not?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Could you supply to us the numbers of art works supplied to each officer?
MR FOWLER -Yes, certainly.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -You will. Have the office holders had their acquisition of art works limited at all by the Budget cuts you described to us earlier?
MR FOWLER -No.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -They have not. The Budget cuts were imposed by government but the Ministers did not share in the subsequent reduction in the number of art works?
MR FOWLER -The process was that each of the office holders in the priority order were invited to select from the collection.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -My question is very simple, Mr Fowler. Was there any restraint imposed upon Ministers and office holders?
MR FOWLER -Not by the Construction Authority.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Do you know by anyone?
MR FOWLER -I do not believe so.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -You do not believe so.
CHAIRMAN -They chose however many they thought would be appropriate for the size of their suite. Is that a correct estimate?
MR FOWLER -With the constraint that the Authority's curator who had been trying to assess that would have given guidance as to whether in her view there were too many works for a particular suite.
CHAIRMAN -If, for example, they went above this average of 26 compared with the two that have been allowed to ordinary run of the mill, common senators and members.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The Minister's staff are more exalted than us.
CHAIRMAN -If they had gone above the 26 then obviously there would have been some sort of moral opprobrium attached to that, but nobody actually stopped them pillaging like the Huns?
SENATOR SHORT -There were 26 in the--
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I take it that we will have supplied to us the list showing the numbers in each office. Were the art works placed in the staff offices of any Minister or office holder-that is, the office of a staff officer as opposed to the Minister's or office holder's personal office?
MR FOWLER -The policy that we were working to requires us to put them--
SENATOR PETER BAUME -A simple answer, yes or no.
MR FOWLER -I cannot tell you that because some people may have moved the works of art. They would not have been put there by the Authority.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I did not hear you, sorry.
MR FOWLER -They may have been moved into staff areas; they would not have been put there by the Authority.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Are you meaning 26 works of art would all be put in the Minister's or office holder's office?
MR FOWLER -Office holders have an office, a dining room, a sitting room, a waiting room which would be areas where works of art would have been placed. I should explain that the 26 works of art that you suggest as the average are not all paintings. They may well be small craft objects.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -That leads me to my next question. I understand that there are some non-painting works of art in your collection.
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I have also been led to believe none of those are to be made available to senators or members.
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Why is that?
MR FOWLER -The advice of the Construction Authority was that small items of craft would be endangered in a relatively small member's office. They are small glass objects, in some cases.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -They have been made available to office holders, and to Ministers.
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -They are not in danger in Ministers' or office holder's offices but they are in danger in the offices of senators or members. Is that right?
MR FOWLER -Ministers and office holders have display units in their offices, built-in units which can quite readily take small works of art.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Do you have a display unit, Senator Maguire?
SENATOR MAGUIRE -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Do I understand that part of the budget cut has meant that some of the display cases which were to be bought are now not to be purchased?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -So some of these non-painting works of art are not going to be shown?
MR FOWLER -At this stage that is correct.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -And are not going to be permitted to go into the offices of senators or members?
MR FOWLER -That is a decision for the Parliament to make. The Authority gave--
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Who made the decision that they were not to be made available to senators or members?
MR FOWLER -The Authority made a recommendation through the Joint Standing Committee secretariat and we were advised that that had been accepted by the Parliament. I cannot tell you specifically who made that decision.
CHAIRMAN -By the Parliament?
MR FOWLER -By the Parliament.
CHAIRMAN -Do you mean the President and the Speaker or--
MR FOWLER -The Authority works via a joint standing committee. That committee obviously has a secretariat. We channel our requests through that secretariat and the response from the secretariat was that our advice been accepted.
SENATOR SHORT -When was that?
MR FOWLER -That would have been approximately four weeks ago.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I observe to you, Mr Chairman, that I think it is quite disgraceful that Ministers and office holders have behaved in this way and I intend to make it as widely known as I can.
SENATOR SHORT -Did you say that you had put the recommendation forward about four weeks ago?
MR FOWLER -About four to six weeks.
SENATOR SHORT -And your understanding was that it was approved by the Parliament or the Presiding Officers, having been channelled through the Joint Parliamentary Committee?
MR FOWLER -I do not believe that it went to the Joint Parliamentary Committee because I believe that Committee did not sit during that period. Normally in those circumstances a request would have gone to the joint Chairmen-the Speaker and the President.
CHAIRMAN -I am still unsure-as you probably are-as to who made the decision. If you feel uncomfortable trying to remember what happened, you might put the answer to the two questions about who made the decisions on notice and give us a reply. The first question is who made the decision about reducing the acquisition, I suppose, or who made the decision to average out 26 for the Ministers and two or three for the others, and the second one is the question of the display cabinets and the non-availability of some of the artefacts for senators and members.
MR FOWLER -I think I can answer those. The decision-if I can take them in reverse order-on the display cabinets was made by the Authority with the agreement of the Joint Standing Committee as part of the budget cuts which occurred in 1986. On the decision on the allocation of the works of art, the Authority took the collection to each of the office holders in turn, who selected, and the number that was selected--
CHAIRMAN -You took the collection but not slides?
MR FOWLER -There was a range of ways in which Ministers and office holders selected their works of art. Some went out to the art store which we have. Some, such as the Speaker and the present Prime Minister, saw the works displayed in their suites. Others would have seen the collection of slides which is now available to senators and members.
CHAIRMAN -That was the technique that applied to ordinary senators and members who went and looked at slides and tried to make some decision about what would be appropriate for their office, whereas you say that a significant number of office holders had the collection brought to their suites so that they could actually get some idea of how those works of art would fit into the decor of their offices.
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR SHORT -The whole collection?
MR FOWLER -No, the process was that the Authority's curator would speak to the particular office holder to try to assess the type of work of art that the office holder may be interested in and then a selection would be brought, perhaps twice the number that we might have thought would have gone into the suite, and the office holder would have selected from those.
CHAIRMAN -The other question I have, which follows from Senator Peter Baume's question, relates to the display of art works and artefacts. It would seem to me that the purpose behind the whole art acquisition program is to show Australian art at its best in places which are visited frequently by visitors to the particular members or Ministers. They can see in the waiting room that there is a piece of Australian art, that is something we can glory in and something we can enjoy, and it means the members of the public can share with us, as members of parliament, Australian art. Who made the decision then to move some art works into the inner offices, usually not visited by the public, of members of the Ministry-that is, the offices of employees of the Ministers ? What happened? Presumably you took the art works to the office and they were put on the walls in what you thought were the public places. But you are saying that some of them then may have been moved to the inner offices, offices that are unlikely to be visited by the public at all. Have I got the right impression from the response you gave to Senator Peter Baume?
MR FOWLER -I want to clarify one thing before answering that question. That is , there were two distinct collections, one of which was for the public areas and which remains substantially intact. Therefore, the works of art that were originally planned for the public areas are, in fact, in the public areas. The collection that attracted the budget cut and was in fact cut in half, was the one that was always designed for members, senators and office holders.
CHAIRMAN -But was not the thinking behind that second group you are referring to also to create an opportunity for members of the public to share with the Ministers, the members and the senators those works of art?
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
CHAIRMAN -They were certainly not put there for self-indulgence on the part of any member of parliament; in other words, so that I could sit around with my Pro Harts or whatever and enjoy them to myself and myself alone, otherwise the public presumably would not have been funding this sort of art acquisition program. So in a sense both those groups have a semi-public or a public aim in mind.
MR FOWLER -That is absolutely correct. The Authority sought to acquire works throughout the country, ranging from young unknown artists to more established artists and from landscapes to the more avant-garde, to do exactly what you suggest, to display the best of Australian art works.
CHAIRMAN -In other words, this is meant to be a type of art gallery for Australian art.
SENATOR DURACK -What is the average value of the paintings?
MR FOWLER -The Authority set an upper limit on paintings of $5,000 for the collection for members and senators and Ministers. I am sorry, I cannot give an average.
SENATOR DURACK -Is that not what we are talking about, the collection for senators, members and office holders?
MR FOWLER -For that collection it was $5,000.
SENATOR DURACK -The one we are talking about. There is no other.
MR FOWLER -There is a public area collection.
SENATOR DURACK -For the one that we are asking the questions about, there is an upper limit of $5,000, right?
MR FOWLER -There was, that is correct.
SENATOR DURACK -What is the average value of it, then?
MR FOWLER -I am sorry, I could not give you that, Senator. If you wish I could try--
SENATOR DURACK -And what about the artworks other than paintings?
MR FOWLER -We did not differentiate in that collection. We tried to acquire, across the board, a range of media, as well as types of paintings.
CHAIRMAN -I wonder if you could just tell us about the acquisition program itself and how you went about purchasing the works of art in the first place.
MR FOWLER -First of all, the Authority engaged an art advisory committee which was made up of representatives from the Crafts Board and the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council and also from the Australian National Gallery. One of that committee's tasks was to supply a list of names of a range of artists. The Authority's curator then sought to look at their works and decide whether it was to be acquired for the art program. Again, I differentiate between the works of art for the public areas which were, of course, much larger works and there was more funding allocated to them; they generally were to people who were established in the art field. With the other collection, the one that has been of most interest to the Committee, where we have tried to have works of art from as large a geographical area as possible and with as many different kinds of media as possible, the problem with that second collection was that the cuts in the Budget not only cut the numbers of works of art but also, to some extent, unbalanced the collection because we were not able to achieve our objective of getting the full geographical spread.
CHAIRMAN -Let us take the case of some of the better known artists. We will take Lloyd Rees as an example. Does he have any works at all exhibited anywhere in this building?
MR FOWLER -Yes, he does.
CHAIRMAN -Where are they?
MR FOWLER -I would have to take that on notice but we have certainly acquired some of his works.
CHAIRMAN -A person's reputation and the relative cost of purchasing an art work by that person would not be a handicap in terms of making sure they were represented here?
MR FOWLER -Not for the public areas. Obviously, their works were beyond our limit for the other collection.
CHAIRMAN -Obviously, we have established that the principle of showing the best sample, or at least a representative sample, of what is good about Australian art has been established here. We have established that. That is the reason behind your purchasing policy. Have you considered or been engaged in any discussions re an exchange program with some of the galleries around Australia, given that there had been reports recently about storage problems with a number of those galleries? I understand, for example, that Mr Edward Capon and a few other people in those positions around Australia have indicated that they have storage problems. For example, have we approached them about, for example, a lending program whereby some of those worksof art, particularly something, say, up to the 1930s and 1940s, an essential part of Australian art history, could be lent to this Parliament for a particular period of time for public viewing-in other words, using this Parliament as, in a sense, an art gallery that would get those works of art displayed in such a way that the million or so people who come through here could take advantage of it?
MR FOWLER -Yes, but only in a preliminary sense at this stage. We have allowed various areas in the building where such art works could be exhibited. It was a specific policy of the Authority not to attempt to put works of art on every possible space in the building so that there would be an opportunity to acquire works over time. We have discussed with certain galleries the possibility of undertaking the sort of exchange which you suggest. We had hoped that the Parliament, now that it is in occupation of the building, would have established a curatorial section within its staff and that it would then take on this role. To date, that curatorial staff has not been engaged. Obviously, the Authority's role is winding up in this case, but we did start that area of discussion.
CHAIRMAN -Where does it stand now? Do you have someone who has the particular job of ensuring that the discussions go further than just discussions and that , in fact, it becomes an exchange program or a lending program in reality?
MR FOWLER -We do not have that. The Authority's curator is due to leave in about six weeks' time. That is part of the general run-down in the Authority staff. As I say, we had hoped, and we had had discussions early with the Parliament, for it to take on the role of the curatorial work, but that has not yet happened.
CHAIRMAN -There has been no replacement, or there has been no-one appointed in that role?
MR FOWLER -As I am aware there has been no-one appointed. There was the possibility of the Joint House Department having a curator on a consultancy basis, but I believe that has not yet been put in place.
CHAIRMAN -Not yet been put in place because there has been no decision, or because there has been no appropriation for it, or what?
MR FOWLER -I believe the latter.
CHAIRMAN -I am asking this question in the context of the obvious cuts that have occurred in your acquisition program, and therefore suggesting that you may well be interested in continuing a lending program or taking it to some degree of fruition to compensate for the fact that there have been cuts in your acquisition program. But you are saying that there is not even a person there now who has the role to make it happen.
MR FOWLER -Within six weeks the person who would have that responsibility will leave the Authority and we have no plans to carry that on. I should say that we did, in the early days, have discussions with Artbank as a means of supplementing the budget cuts, but of course through that venue there would have been ongoing costs to the Parliament, and we felt that it was not appropriate for the Authority to impose that burden on the Parliament.
CHAIRMAN -But then you have done some assessment of the storage problem in other galleries around Australia and--
MR FOWLER -We are aware of that problem.
CHAIRMAN -But you have not, at this stage, offered space here for those paintings or works of art that may well still be in storage?
MR FOWLER -The problem that we face is that the works of art that the galleries have would tend to be of a nature that would normally go into public areas rather than to supplement the collection of works that might go into the offices of members and senators. This is because of the cost of the works of art and the need for very high curatorial care of those works.
CHAIRMAN -I am thinking about the public areas. I would not be considering a Margaret Preston for a senator's room, for example, even if Senator Michael Baume asked me. I am talking primarily about the public areas.
MR FOWLER -As I said earlier, with the public areas we generally were able to hold the bulk of that collection, therefore the pressure on completing areas within the public parts of the building is not as intense as elsewhere.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -While we are still on art, I do thank the Authority for providing us with the annual report in this form. I am very grateful for that , after my whinges in the past.
MR FOWLER -We took note of those requests.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Thank you. I notice that you say that the preparation of these 2,500 works for installation involved remounting all works on paper with archival mounts. How much did that cost and why is that regarded as a necessary expense?
MR FOWLER -I cannot give the amount. The reason we had to do that was twofold: firstly, many of the works on paper which we purchased were not mounted and therefore had to be mounted, and secondly, the other category was that some of the works were not properly mounted and therefore their future conservation would have been endangered if we had not undertaken that task.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But I notice you said `all works'.
MR FOWLER -Yes.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -No matter what their mounting?
MR FOWLER -The Authority has a standard framing system so that there is consistency throughout the building and so that there is an opportunity for works to be circulated. As you will appreciate, the works on paper are very light-sensitive and there is a program for those works to be rested in a store over a period of time. So the mounts were the permanent part of the collection and the works of art would then be rotated.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Yes I see. On page 29 of your draft report you say, ` Art management systems for, among other things, rotation of works. . .' rather than `rotating works of art through the building'.
MR FOWLER -Obviously there are two aspects of that. The paintings of course would be rotated through the building.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Including out of the Ministers' offices?
MR FOWLER -The answer to that is yes. We would expect that those works, like all works of art, would be rotated.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Could I go on to some other, more general, problems: in the experience since the building has been used as a parliament, what have been the problems of a major nature requiring work by contractors and subcontractors for correction?
MR FOWLER -Throughout the building there is a number of areas and items of work that need correction. I am not sure what you define as being of a major nature.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -For example, I seem to come across areas of flooding every now and again. Is that a fault in the plumbing system or water coming in through the roof? Is it something that, in fact, a subcontractor must correct -because I presume it is not your intention that water comes into the building .
MR FOWLER -It is certainly not our intention that water comes in, except on those water features that we purposely designed. The problem is, in some cases , that sprinklers have gone off without a proper cause. You will appreciate, Senator, that of around 36,000 sprinkler heads in the building, a small percentage, and I think it is something like six or seven, has failed. They obviously cause some damage when they do fail. It is the responsibility of the contractor to correct those failures.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I see. I was not thinking of sprinkler malfunction. I understood that there had been some flooding in various places that bore no relation to the sprinkler system, where the roof had to be taken out--
MR O'CONNELL -It would be true to say that leaking has occurred arising from defects which can be attributed to the contractor and they have been rectified , or will be rectified, by the contractors at their cost. There have been other instances where latent design problems have been shown once the building was in operation, and those problems have been resolved by the Authority at the Authority's cost. Perhaps you can give me examples.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I have forgotten which rooms I have seen the staff rushing out of carrying their goodies and saying, `It is raining in here. What is it like outside?'. I suppose I can go around asking people. It was a general question. Are there many instances of malfunctions or failures in the building that can be attributed to contractors?
MR FOWLER -There are a large number of small items that can be attributed to contractors. I do not believe that there are a large number of the type that you are referring to.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Thank you. What about the indentations on the parquetry flooring of, without being sexist-I suppose one could isolate it-women's heels? Was that level of indentation expected and is that, if you like, failure of the wood to resist that kind of pressure in keeping with the brief given to suppliers of that wood?
MR FOWLER -The timbers used in that parquetry flooring are the timbers that would normally be used in conventional parquetry flooring. There is nothing unusual about that and therefore the level of indentation I think is consistent with what you would see in other buildings. I think it is perhaps much more apparent in this building because of the very large areas of parquetry flooring and the high illuminations which perhaps accentuate that.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -It would have been anticipated then that the floors would look the way they do after a few months of use?
MR FOWLER -There is continuous maintenance required on the flooring. The floor in the Great Hall, for example, is planned-and has been for some time-to have a sanding and be resealed over the Christmas recess. That is something that has been planned for at least a year, perhaps 18 months. So there is planned maintenance that you would expect on the flooring.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I repeat the question: The level of pitting in the floors is no more than the Authority expected and the architect would have expected after such a short amount of use?
MR O'CONNELL -Speaking personally I am not surprised by it, but I think, as we have pointed out before, it is more evident in a building of this nature. That is because, firstly, of its special character where people are actually looking for these sorts of things and also because of the extent of the parquetry. We can only repeat that the best design practices were used and the best construction practices as well, and the result is what would normally be expected in all buildings, but I think we are just noticing it more in this building.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Can I ask you then, given that in the Christmas recess it will be sanded back and resealed, how many such treatments could that flooring sustain before in fact you had worn it down?
MR O'CONNELL -They are about 15 millimetres thick. Maybe you would replace that floor every 50 years. It is that sort of thing.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -At this rate of indentation it could last 50 years?
MR O'CONNELL -Yes, certainly.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -How often do you think you will have to do that? Once every year or so?
MR FOWLER -The sanding that is planned for Christmas is certainly the last major work that the Authority would expect to undertake. That, I think, will last for a considerably longer period than this first usage.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Will that sanding and resealing just be of the Great Hall?
MR FOWLER -Just the Great Hall.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -How much will that cost?
MR FOWLER -I will have to take that on notice.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -There are no plans for sanding and resealing any of the other woodwork in the building?
MR FOWLER -No.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You say that is the last major work for the Authority.
MR FOWLER -In terms of the sanding and resealing of the floors, yes.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But not the last major work in terms of the whole building.
MR FOWLER -No. The Authority has a planned sequence of working progressively through the building, correcting defects, and that will continue until March of next year before we complete the last area.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But you stay in existence until 1991, do you not?
MR FOWLER -Yes, that is correct. There are contracts, of course, which will still be running at that stage-the contract for the formal gardens, for example. But the bulk of the Authority's work through to June 1991 would be in the resolution of existing contracts.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -And outstanding claims.
MR FOWLER -Yes. The outstanding claims would be resolved as part of the final negotiations on contracts.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What is the situation with outstanding claims? I can remember the dispute about the Auditor-General's response to them. Is there a large level of outstanding claims currently?
MR FOWLER -I think the audit report referred to outstanding variations, and at that stage I believe the number was in excess of 5,000. The Authority currently has something slightly in excess of 3,000 variations to resolve.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -So you have knocked off 2,000 since 30 June this year.
MR FOWLER -No, I was referring to the efficiency audit report.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -So there are 3,000 still to be resolved?
MR FOWLER -Yes.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Are many of them substantial, or are they of a minor nature?
MR FOWLER -There are some substantial ones amongst that but, of course, the Authority has already made allowance for those. The Authority's practice is that, whenever a variation is either notified by a contractor or is anticipated by the construction manager, then we make an allowance for that in our computer system. So it is a matter of trying to resolve them against that allowance.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Has the reduction of 2,000 out of 5,000 since that period of a year or so been facilitated by the changed, if you like, inspection system that you have, the system of-I will not say cost control- cost examination that you have?
MR FOWLER -The process to date has really just been the same as we have had in place since, certainly, 1984. We expect the resolution of variations to speed up dramatically now that construction work is largely completed and our staff and the construction manager's staff can now devote their time to the resolution of claims.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I am sorry, I thought in the response to the Auditor- General's report you had said that one of the reasons he was off the beam was because you had, in fact, instituted new proceedings in 1987 to deal with cost control matters.
MR FOWLER -I believe that that was referring to the method of identifying the variations to various categories.
MR O'CONNELL -I think there were queries raised by the Auditor-General, in his 1987 audit, regarding the method of ensuring that variations, when raised, were reviewed, in addition to his previous comments about the number of variations as part of the efficiency audit. I just wonder which aspect you are talking about.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I was basically concerned about the Auditor's criticism and methods being used by the Authority to judge whether variations were justified or not, and my memory-I do not have my marked copy in front of me- was that the Auditor-General expressed grave concern about the manner in which variations were being dealt with. I had thought, certainly in response to me and in response to various claims that I had made about failure to have effective cost control, that your response had been, `We have instituted a new proceeding'-a new arrangement; in fact, as I recall it, with many of the staff left over from the old costing system.
MR FOWLER -Yes, we changed from a method of cost planning, which we had used in the early part of the process before we really got into major construction into what we then called cost control, to reflect the change in the emphasis from that planning aspect required during design to cost control which you use , obviously, through the construction phase. I believe that was done in 1985; I think that was the timescale for that.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -It was during the efficiency audit.
MR O'CONNELL -In fact it was initiated before the efficiency audit commenced.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But that was 1987, was it not?
MR O'CONNELL -No, that was 1985.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I was startled by your comment that you were using the same techniques in 1984, because they were the very techniques that, quite frankly, I, among many others, was very critical of.
MR FOWLER -The technique I was referring to there specifically, Senator, was the method of recording variations and allocating a provisional sum against those variations. That system has been in place for some time.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What is the amount that has been set aside for dealing with variations, and is it part of the $92.9m in this year's allocation-or would some of them be included in whatever residuals are there next year?
MR FOWLER -The approximate dollar value is $13m.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -So that is $13m in outstanding variations.
MR FOWLER -Most of that we would expect to be included in this year's financial allowance. Obviously, the difficulty that we have is trying to assess those contracts which will be resolved relatively simply, and those variations would obviously be resolved with them, and those contracts which would perhaps proceed down the path of arbitration, which, of course, can take many years.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Surely. Let me get this clear then. Your estimate of expenditure this year is $92.9m. You expect $84.2m to be expended during the current year, leaving $8.7m between then and 1991. Are those sums roughly right?
MR FOWLER -Senator, perhaps I should make it clear that the $13m figure that I gave you before, was for variations, which is what we were talking about. If you take variations and claims, which is another category, the total there would be $30m.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Plus claims, it would be $30m.
MR FOWLER -Yes.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -And is their claim in dispute?
MR FOWLER -Not necessarily. They would be claims in the process of being resolved. I think we still have something like 280 contracts to resolve. Many of those we would expect to be resolved quite straightforwardly.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But would there be claims over the contract price? Or is it only variations that are over the contract price?
MR FOWLER -Both claims and variations would be above the contract price.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Could you give a quick layman's definition of a claim and a variation?
MR FOWLER -The variations tend to refer to specific changes to the work. Claims could relate to prolongation of the work or the compression costs which tend to be a more contractual change.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Of the $8.7m that would be outstanding at the end of 30 June, if your 1988-89 estimates work out that way, how much would you expect administrative costs to be?
MR FOWLER -The Authority's administrative costs?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Yes.
MR MAHER -Could you point me to the $8.7m that you have mentioned?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You are right, I looked at the wrong figure. It says the unexpended balance was $98.4m, of which $84.2m was expected expenditure in 1989. What confused me was the $92.9m on page 395. Perhaps you can explain what that difference is.
MR MAHER -Yes. The unexpended balance of the approved budget at February 1988 prices at 30 June 1988 was $98.4m, of which $84.2m is expected to be spent in this current financial year. Of that $84.2m, $57.3m will be spent against the building budget and $27m will be spent against the non-building items budget. Having spent that $57m this year against the building budget, that will totally exhaust the presently approved building budget of $901m at February 1988 prices. The expenditure of $27m this year against the NBI budget will still leave a balance of $14.2m for expenditure against the NBI budget in 1989 -90.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Thank you very much for explaining that. So by the end of the current financial year there will be, in your expectation, no outstanding building budget items to be met.
MR MAHER -That is right, except insofar as the Government may agree or be persuaded to adjust the building budget from its present February 1988 base to a subsequent base to take account of escalation and other factors.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -With regard to the administration and operational expenses shown on page 398, are these for the Construction Authority itself?
MR MAHER -Yes, there is an amount in there for the recurrent cost to the Authority which comprises generally salaries and payments in the nature of salary for Authority officers and general expenses. The amount estimated to be spent in 1988-89 on salaries and related payments is $3.6m, and the amount to be expended on general expenses in the same year is $793,000, giving total outlays of $4.35m. Against that there will be offsetting funds, bank interest, and a little bit of cash, $124,000, which we had on hand at the beginning of the year, making a net outlay of $4.227m, which is the amount being appropriated to the Authority under division 121.1 in the (No. 1) Bill.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -On the point about the award prescribed retrenchment entitlements of $350,000, what will be the sort of cost you will face for the remainder of your time-not to 1991? There will be a lot more than that, will there not?
MR MAHER -Yes, there will, Senator. The planned rundown of the Authority's staff numbers of 78 at the beginning of this financial year is 20 positions during the current financial year, 20 during 1989-90 and 38 during 1990-91. With those projections the further down or the further into the future you go, the less certain they are. We are assuming that, on the basis of the Government's decision that we close down in June 1991, certain positions will be required: we will need somebody to pay salaries; we will need somebody to turn the lights out, et cetera. Of course, if the work of the Authority winds down at a faster rate than is currently anticipated, that termination program will automatically come forward. The allowance in the current year's budget for retrenchment payments is $350,000.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -It is for 19 people, is it not?
MR MAHER -Yes, for 19 or 20 people. We estimate that the total cost of retrenchments would be of the order of $1.6m. However, that is a very qualified figure, because under the Australian Government statutory authorities redeployment, retirement and redundancy award which was introduced this year members of staff have various options and, depending on which option they elect for, that will affect the cost of the retrenchment to the employer. The $1.6m estimate is based on the assumption that Authority staff will elect for voluntary retrenchment, rather than for maintenance.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -How much does that work out at, on average each?
MR MAHER -I do not know the average figure, Senator, but in any case it would be quite meaningless because the retrenchment entitlements include two weeks' salary for each year of service, and not necessarily service with the Parliament House Construction Authority, but for previous government service. For a long serving member, his entitlement would be far greater than a person with four years' service.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I understand that, but I was really wondering what you are budgeting at, because I notice that in the current year you are expecting the average payment to be about $17,500, are you not?
MR MAHER -Yes, but we have not budgeted on that basis. We have looked at the 19 or 20 positions which will be terminated this year. We have assessed the entitlements, on an individual basis, of the current occupants of those positions. Some of those would attract a retrenchment or a separation payment of perhaps $40,000 or $50,000, while others would attract a payment of $2,000 or $3,000, so in that sense the average figure is fairly meaningless.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -There are people, though, with long service in the Public Service of one kind or another who would still be entitled to superannuation as well as their retrenchment, would they not?
MR MAHER -They would, Senator. Under the Superannuation Act, of course, people have a number of options. If they have reached retiring age, be it early retiring age or 60 or 65 years of age, they may elect to take a refund of their contributions plus a pension. They may elect to convert their entitlement to a refund of contributions into additional pension. Persons who have not reached retiring age and who are being voluntarily retrenched, have additional options such as no pension but a lump sum calculated in accordance with the prescriptions in the Superannuation Act.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -But these retrenchment entitlements do not include any of the pension entitlements.
MR MAHER -No, they do not. The provision that the Authority has made in its estimates-$350,000 this year-relates only to those entitlements payable by the Authority under the award. They do not include moneys that would be paid out by the Superannuation Board.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I understand that. What I want to establish is, say, the difference between the equivalent of a class 10 who would have come up for retirement in a normal Public Service job, as against, say, a class 10 who had chosen to work in the Parliament House Construction Authority and who would end up getting the same entitlements as a class 10 in the Public Service plus, say, up to $40,000, were you saying, in retrenchment entitlement? I am just trying to see what the comparison is.
MR MAHER -I lost you along the track there, Senator.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Let us assume that there was a permanent public servant who chose to move from his Public Service job into the Construction Authority and who is facing retrenchment and also maybe facing retirement. Had he stayed in the Public Service he would have received pension entitlements of $X . What I am asking you is whether, because he chose to go to the Parliament House Construction Authority, he is going to receive pension entitlements of $ X plus up to $40,000, is it, in retrenchment?
MR MAHER -My colleague has just informed to me that if the person was being voluntarily retrenched from the Public Service, the entitlements in both cases would be precisely the same. However, I think your question goes a little deeper than that. I would just say that in the case of a public servant who joined the Parliament House Construction Authority from the Public Service and who, in the normal course of events, would be at the point of retirement at about the same time that his services were no longer required by the Parliament House Construction Authority, the expectation is that he would follow the normal retirement processes and not qualify for retrenchment.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Thank you. That resolves that problem for me. Could I now go back to the question of difficulties with some areas. You mention floors and water. I do not think I would be Robinson Crusoe in saying that the sound systems in the chambers do not appear to work terribly well. I asked you whether there are any remaining significant problems. Would you class this as a significant problem?
MR FOWLER -The situation in the two chambers is considered by the Authority and the ABC, our consultants in this matter, to be unsatisfactory. There are a number of adjustments that have been made and are in the process of being made. The major adjustment which we are undertaking at this point in time is the refocusing of the speakers. You may note that the speaker cluster immediately above the Speaker in the House of Representatives and the President in the Senate is at a slightly different angle from the other speakers. We did that as a test and we understand that it improved the distribution of sound on the floor of the chambers. We will, during this next recess, be refocusing all the other speakers and we believe that that and some other technical work that the ABC has done will vastly improve the sound quality.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Without being snakey about it, I did ask you at the beginning whether there were any significant outstanding things, and I really do think that that is a significant outstanding problem. I just ask you to cast your mind to whether you have any others that you would like to raise, rather than have me raise them all the time.
MR FOWLER -I am sorry, Senator, if I misunderstood your earlier question. I thought that question was related to contractors who had made errors and therefore required major work. The work that will be done by the ABC is a relatively minor adjustment.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -This is only a minor hiccup-that we have been having to put with for how long now?
MR FOWLER -I do understand that senators and members have been inconvenienced by the sound reproduction system but the correction of that is relatively minor work at this point.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Good. Let us hope that it does not continue to take a major amount of time to correct what is apparently a minor problem. What sound tests were done in the design stage? Are the technical faults that are emerging now a surprise-not, in fact, anticipated-because of the work done? Or was not sound testing done in a mock-up situation?
MR FOWLER -I have to differentiate between the acoustic testing which was done and the sound reinforcement. The acoustic testing of the chambers was done very early in the piece and indeed the work that we did attracted quite a bit of international interest. As a result of those acoustic tests, we believe that the chamber has very good acoustic qualities. Because of the success of that, the difference between the existing chamber in the new building and the previous chamber, I think, becomes more apparent when you look at the sound reinforcement system. The sound reinforcement system did undergo some testing prior to the occupation by the Senate and the House but it was possible to fully test the system only when the Houses were operating. There are two aspects to that. One is the work that needs to be done by the operators who must, obviously, recognise a member or senator and of course there is a new seating configuration for some senators and members. There are also twice as many microphones which the sound operators need to monitor. A problem we found just recently was that the sound in the controller's booth was much better than it was on the floor of the chamber and therefore operators were adjusting the sound to suit what they heard as opposed to what the members were hearing . The other aspect is the technical side, that it was necessary for the operation of the Parliament, particularly at Question Time, for us to have some experience of that before we were able to finally tune the system.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I should mention to you that today, for example, the microphone system failed in the end parts of the chamber. It might be a minor problem but it is a major inconvenience. Regarding the sound systems going to the rooms-I know that in the view of the Authority and the architect the sound system there is unsatisfactory in the sense that it is not what you had intended to put in-who was responsible for selecting the sound system which is so bad that, for example, in my room I cannot pick up this committee chamber?
MR FOWLER -The sound system for members' and senators' offices was designed originally to be part of a combined sound and vision system; at the time we believed that members and senators would have the opportunity to have television reception in their rooms. As you know, as part of the budget cuts, an amount in excess of $10m was cut from the sound and vision system. As a result, all but 27 television sets were eliminated from the Authority's budget and from the project. At that point the Authority, working with the secretariat of the Joint Standing Committee and the ABC, recognised that despite the budget cuts, it would be necessary to at least maintain the facility which members enjoyed in the old building, that is, that they had a sound system. Therefore, we tried to find some funding that would allow us to install a sound system. The selection of the radio receivers was made by the ABC with the concurrence of PHCA. They were relatively cheap units, each costing, I think, $50, but with 1,500 of them through the building that still made an impact on what was already a severely cut budget. The selection was by those two organisations.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -So the PHCA and the ABC jointly decided that those radios, which in fact do not pick up this room, should be chosen. Do you know whether any testing was done of those radios in the system before the decision was made to purchase 1,500 of them?
MR FOWLER -I am not aware of any testing. I do not believe there was testing because the radio system was one of the later installations in the building.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Was a consultant employed? I hear you when you say that it was jointly PHCA and the ABC which made the decision to buy them, but someone has purchased 1,500 radios, which in many areas simply do not work, and I am just wondering who the hell made that decision.
MR FOWLER -When you mention consultants, the ABC people were engaged as the sound and vision consultants; they were not engaged as the ABC broadcasters. They are obviously skilled in the area of selecting electronic equipment and the Authority took- their advice, but, I must stress, obviously within the severe budget cuts which we had imposed. In fact, the Authority, because the vision system was taken out, really had no obligation upon it to instal the radio system, but we recognised that would not have been a satisfactory position.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -This still is not very satisfactory from my point of view, because I am asking: who really made the decision to buy radios that do not work, on the basis of not even having tested them to see whether they did?
MR FOWLER -Senator, I do not think the radios do not work.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Come to my room any time.
MR FOWLER -If there is a problem in your room, there is a mechanism to try to correct that, and certainly we are going round the building, or the ABC is going round the building, trying to correct any defects, and so if there is a defect in your room we would certainly look at correcting that.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -That defect was reported on the first day of Senate Estimates. Technicians have come down and have said, `There is no way this will work'. They lent me, in fact, a German radio, which does pick up these rooms satisfactorily. The response from the technicians, and I presume they were from the ABC-I do not know; I reported it to the Parliament House sound systems people-was that this radio does not work here.
MR FOWLER -Certainly, I will take that on board, Senator, and try to make sure that you get satisfactory sound in your room.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Do you know of any losses through theft of those radios ?
MR FOWLER -I do not know the answer to that, Senator.
CHAIRMAN -The answer would be `unlikely', Senator.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Do you pick up these rooms?
MR FOWLER -Some.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Some, do you? On the question of equipment problems, I understand that in the kitchens areas there have been major equipment breakdowns and that some of that equipment has still to be corrected or replaced, even though, as I recall it, the kitchens were handed over in January of this year, which is nine months ago. To your knowledge, are there any major problems still remaining in the kitchens areas?
MR O'CONNELL -Yes, there have been a number of problems with kitchen equipment . I might say that this is not unusual. When you buy equipment from a number of different manufacturers, even though in our case they were routed through one contractor, when that happens and they all have to work together as an operating unit, there are inevitably some problems. I must say that the rectification of the defects has, in almost all cases, been by the contractor- and following expediting of the contractor by us. That is virtually complete now. The major outstanding items which are still not working, I understand, are the two convection ovens and, I think, the ice-cream machine has also broken down.
CHAIRMAN -There is a major matter that you did not tell us about!
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I was about to raise that matter. The cappuccino machines do not work either!
MR O'CONNELL -The matter of the ovens is a continuing problem because even though they are to a specification which was approved by the user people at the time, they are nevertheless unsatisfactory in the opinion of the users for their current use. We have a situation where the contractor has fulfilled his obligations and supplied what was promised to be supplied and what was satisfactory to be supplied when originally proposed, and it now is unsatisfactory.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Is it within a specification for an oven not to work?
MR O'CONNELL -No, I think you need to make a distinction, shall we say, between day to day faults where something fails because a switch blows or a circuit-breaker drops out or something-that is corrected there and then or minor modifications are made and it is corrected-and an overall operational problem, such as, that it is too big or too small or too wide or too high, which is more structural or harder to fix than just bringing in an electrician to resolve it. In terms of getting the equipment to work, they are fixed when and if they have problems. In the case of more structural problems, in the fuller sense of the word, we have to look at the contractor's obligation to see whether he fulfilled his obligations. In the case of the Leonda ovens we believe he has.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I am assured that those ovens are incapable of being rectified and that at no stage have they worked properly.
MR O'CONNELL -No, that is incorrect. One of the initiatives we took was to bring the manufacturer's representative up from Melbourne to show the people in the kitchens that they could be used, they could be operated. The thing that was under discussion and that was the hardest was cooking bread rolls. This manufacturer's representative was able to establish, quite satisfactorily , that it was possible, and he did produce some wonderful buns; in fact, I ate one myself. They were being passed around, so I availed myself of them and they were delicious. So I do not think it is right to say that they do not work. It is correct to say that some of them have had operation faults on a day to day basis which have been fixed. It might be true to say that because they are structural problems, the day to day problems therefore are not being addressed because they are not being used by the users.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -With the ice-cream machine, is that the equipment that is provided by a contractor who has subsequently gone bankrupt?
MR O'CONNELL -The only report I have is that the ice-cream machine does not work and that that is being addressed by the technical people, by the supervisors. I have not had any reports as to whether the contractor has refused to come and fix it because he has gone broke. I would have to check that.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Are there many other equipment failures in the kitchen which cannot be rectified speedily or effectively? As I understand it, these ovens have taken a long time. You say you are hoping that it will, fairly soon , be totally--
MR O'CONNELL -I must say that in the case of the Leonda ovens that remain in the kitchens, they are not being used by the kitchen people. We are not really able to establish whether they work or not because the kitchen people do not want to use them because they do not believe that they fulfil their needs. So the question of whether they work or not does not arise.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -So we have ovens down there that are not being used, and obviously it costs the taxpayer something. Who was the consultant who recommended their purchase?
MR O'CONNELL -The equipment was selected by a company called Commercial Kitchen Consultants. I do not think it recommended the Leonda ovens, but we nevertheless chose the Leonda ovens on the basis that they were Australian- made, whereas the recommended ovens were imported. The Leonda ovens won the day on the basis of Australian content.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Are there any other items of equipment in the kitchens that were purchased on those grounds, despite consultants' opinions, because they were Australian-made, and that do not work properly?
MR O'CONNELL -Certainly decisions were made on the basis of price. As to the number and other matters, I would have to check.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Was the ice-cream machine locally made?
MR O'CONNELL -I do not know.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -As a result of the kitchen design, and, I understand, as a result of the architect refusing to give way to requests from the people at the workplace, the floors are exactly level, with the result that water that goes on to the floor does not naturally run into drains. As a result, the floors tend to be covered most of the time in water, with the resultant risk of problems for people using electrical equipment. What is being done about that?
MR O'CONNELL -It is true to say that there are two design philosophies when it comes to designing floors in wet areas. One is that you slope them as steeply as possible so that water flows to the waste. The problem with that design is that you have people falling over because the floors are sloped. The alternative is to make them perfectly flat and rely, in the cleaning and maintenance operation, on the people doing the work of washing the floors to sweep them completely clear of water, using brooms, water vacuum cleaners and whatever, so that the water is removed completely or pushed completely to the waste grates.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -As I understand it, water vacuum cleaners have had to be purchased, and are used at times when people are still trying to prepare, cook and heaven knows what, as a result of the decision not to provide even a modest gradient. Is that an unusual situation in major commercial kitchens?
MR O'CONNELL -I would have to check that. All I can say is that in the last kitchen construction I was involved with, the floors did slope, with a gradient of about 1 in 50, to waste grates, but there were complaints from the staff at the completion of that facility that they were continually having to walk around on sloping floors. So in a sense you cannot win, whichever way you go.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Do we know whether the consultants recommended a sloping floor, or was the consultancy simply related to equipment?
MR O'CONNELL -The consultancy I mentioned was related to equipment. Our design consultants, the architects, certainly specified flat floors.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What sort of complaints were there from the people who planned to use this when they became aware of this design element? Were any formal complaints lodged?
MR O'CONNELL -By definition, if they were informal, I do not think we would know about them, but there have been complaints about it, yes. When they were made I do not know. All I can say is that the designs were provided in the design formation stage to the user groups and the people that were then representing the kitchen users were agreeable to them. They did not raise any objections then.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -It was put to me that the user group people had said that they thought there should be a slab, but there was no objection at that time.
MR O'CONNELL -Perhaps I had better check that.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I would be grateful if you could check that.
CHAIRMAN -That question goes back to one of the first questions asked about the design and briefing. Is any record kept of user requirements? In other words, what requests were made at the time when you were doing the design brief so that in latter years, as you get towards the end of the contract, the position they took about certain design briefs and requirements could at least be on record, such as in this particular case, because a number of complaints, have come to us, where, presumably, people in a sense indirectly representing the architect have said, `No, the users never required that, or they said that they wanted it this way', when, in fact, it appears at the time that they may well have been arguing strongly for an alternative or, in some cases, the brief that was agreed to by the users, was inadequate-such as, when Transport was asked what it wanted for the drivers. We have a $1 billion building with nowhere to put the drivers except to leave them sitting in their cars on a winter's night or in summer they have nowhere to wait until they are called up, and so we still have cars lined up outside Parliament House as of yore.
The point that I am getting at is: Is there a record of those discussions so that somebody learns about major construction projects and we take that to the next building which we make-God forbid, another Parliament House-the next major project in this capital city that people who might have been associated with Parliament House are associated with and can at least utilise those lessons? As we look here at a number of major government projects, not just in Canberra, but in Sydney, Melbourne and elsewhere, we keep finding the same mistakes repeated over and over and over again. Quite frankly, I have seen this now for about 10 years in my political life with the same mistakes being made, because the design and briefing is not done in the appropriate way, the appropriate records are not kept, and no-one learns from the experience but everyone wants to push away the problem. Is there a record of user requirements that you could have access to if, for example, Senator Baume said , `Did the people who are going to use the kitchen want a slightly sloped floor or were they overruled by the architect who says that his grand vision should not be touched'? Can we have an answer to that one?
MR FOWLER -The answer to that is that the user requirements, of course, were developed over time and they are recorded in a series of major steps throughout the building construction process. The first approval, of course, was the briefing document for the architectural competition. That document was approved by the Joint Standing Committee, and indeed, formally approved by the Parliament, as the document by which the architect was obliged to undertake the design. There were then two major design phases through the period: a schematic design and then a developed design. In each case they were formally approved through the Joint Standing Committee and formed what were known as declared stages in the Authority's Act. They were approved by the Parliament through its staff.
The final opportunity for approval is an individual approval through the design of specific areas or specific pieces of equipment. At that stage, again through the Joint Standing Committee secretariat, it was either approved by the secretariat or transmitted to the respective parliamentary department. If it was decided by them to be of a nature worthy of discussion by the Joint Standing Committee, then it would have been approved by the Joint Standing Committee. For example, all of the furniture was approved by the Joint Standing Committee. So the approval process is in a series of approved stages through the project. Those stages, obviously, take into account the continual discussions between the Authority, the Parliament and the architect, and are then formalised in those approved submissions, so there is a complete record of the process through the design.
Regarding the specific issue of the kitchens and the sloped floors, you will appreciate that over the 10 years from the design stage to now there have been a number of different people representing the kitchens, and it appears that the kitchen area is one where different operators have different major views on how you go about running a kitchen.
CHAIRMAN -That is the point I am making. Let us assume that you were an architect who was an egotist and you were determined to build a monument to yourself--
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -A typical architect.
CHAIRMAN -We are picking an apocryphal architect. He was determined that it was going to be a certain style-it was going to be done in a certain way-and there were certain practical problems that he knew were being raised by the user groups. The user groups on the whole were divided, changing in terms of who represented them and so on over a 10-year period or so. He might decide that he is going to ignore some of the substantive problems or requirements they have and press ahead with the vision as he sees it. You say that there have been meetings and that these are minuted.
MR FOWLER -Yes.
CHAIRMAN -You gave me a fairly long answer there, but I assume that somewhere we could go through the minutes, without too much trouble, of the user requirement discussions, related to the kitchens, for example, in which objections and requirements would be documented and we could say that that is what the kitchen people wanted at the time and when they changed their minds- let us say because of a new person coming in-that would be minuted. Then someone else coming in would be minuted, or the compromise would be minuted. Would that be possible for us to examine?
MR FOWLER -I do not believe that the process was as you describe-that is, by a series of meetings with minutes. Given the breadth of the project, what I am really indicating is that there were a series of points in the design process when there was a requirement for specific approvals. That required the Authority in the first instance to approve the architect's design, so there was not an opportunity for the architect to have had something built without the Authority having had a chance to comment on it. Indeed, in that approval process there was also an approval required from the Parliament, which generally was given through the secretariat of the Joint Standing Committee. What you would be able to do is to go back to a position, in the case of the kitchens, and see who approved the design at the specific stages. I suggest that what has happened is that since that approval was given there has been a change in the staffing of the kitchen areas.
CHAIRMAN -I am asking this because it relates to the first question I asked you which is about how much goes into the design brief. I think the word ` construction' slipped in there which is probably what confused you. There must have been a Freudian slip somewhere. The design brief, as I understand, is about at least 10 per cent on most major projects which, in this case, must come to something like $100m, which means the minuting of these requirements and of the discussions that are built in to find out what the users really want and to hammer it out so that you, as an architect, can get out of them what they really want as opposed to what they thought they wanted, so that there is a proper discussion by the users before they come back to you and say , `This is what we really need'. That process is pretty well funded. If you are talking about $100m, you are talking about a lot of personhours to get the whole show together. Somehow or other that seems to be the area in major public constructions where the most difficulty occurs. I do not know whether people save money in that part of the process because they have to pay for bricks and mortar and so on at a market rate or what happens.
It seems that once your design brief is out of kilter then the whole lot is very much out of kilter and you are spending the rest of your life, such as in your case, patching up the problems-pulling out walls or whatever. You have to try to sort the problems out at the wrong end of the story. We want to learn how we go about changing that. People come before us over and over again with major problems in major projects that are repeated over and over again. Senator Baume has come here on a number of occasions and asked the same questions about different buildings. We should go through these Estimates committees and learn something from them: put pressure on various authorities and set certain requirements in order that those mistakes are not repeated. If we can come back to that brief, if we, for example, were to set down, say, for the next Estimates committee and give you some specific queries related to this theme that I am setting out now, you might be able to come back to us and say, `Yes, that is the way we did it, this is how we might be able to improve on it'. Is that possible?
MR FOWLER -Yes, certainly. The Authority is already taking that on board. The Authority believes that one of the things that it should do before it goes out of existence is to try to draw attention to the lessons that we have learned, the problems that we faced, the things that we got right and the things that we got wrong. Certainly, we will take on board that briefing process as part of that. I might say that one of the problems that I think is generally faced is that in trying to put together a brief, you have the architect as an expert on the one hand trying to get information from people who are not expert in envisaging spaces.
CHAIRMAN -I can understand that and that is where some of his skill comes in. He is the expert but he is also like a good teacher supposed to be expert at bringing out of the users their appropriate requirements-not what they thought of when it first came into their head but helping them to visualise what the whole thing is going to look like and how it should work when it is completed. You will be willing to put that in some form of report as you go towards your twilight?
MR FOWLER -Certainly, that would be our intention. Are you asking that we do that part of it more quickly for the purposes of this Committee?
CHAIRMAN -As long as it is done well and honestly, we would be happy. It is not necessarily getting it done in a month or so so that it comes back to this Committee or the Parliament, I do not care where, as long as it is open and honest and we learn from it.
MR FOWLER -We are certainly looking to do that in a proper way and we think that that could take as long as a year to put it together properly.
CHAIRMAN -We are happy. There is no value in the Opposition bashing us on the same theme for five years. It is boring. Nobody wants to run their stories any more, so in the end it is a question of solving the problem. Can I ask you one last question about the equipment or furniture supplied to Parliament House. I assume that in a way, a manufacturer who wants to make his reputation or help his advertising along a bit could almost run a by appointment advertisement-`as supplied to Parliament House'. Have any done that to your knowledge? Have you seen in trade magazines manufacturers saying, `as supplied to Parliament House'?
MR FOWLER -Yes.
CHAIRMAN -The second is on the question of the willingness of manufacturers to ensure the quality of equipment they supply, or to rectify problems with equipment that may not be working because of some design problem-either too high or too low or in the wrong place or whatever. Are the manufacturers willing to correct their mistakes and to go a little bit further than they would normally go? Have you found-this is a very general question-that there has been willingness on their part to do so because to do things badly is not particularly good for them? It could get out that they supplied Parliament House badly. But to do it well, of course, is a plus for them in terms of advertising. Have you found, generally speaking, that they will go a little bit further to make sure things work and not cost you a fortune?
MR FOWLER -I think, generally speaking, that they have gone out of their way to try to correct things. Indeed, the Authority has used, if you like, that lever of being able to say that Senator Baume would mention their names in Parliament if they got it wrong. We have certainly used that as a lever and I believe that generally speaking it has been successful.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Can I get back to my vulgar list of equipment problems?
CHAIRMAN -Yes, by all means, unless you want to table some of them. Do you think you will need to?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -No, because depending on the answers there are consequential questions about things we have discovered so far.
SENATOR DURACK -I want to know how long you are going to be on it?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -About another quarter of an hour. It might even induce the Chairman to make consequential statements.
CHAIRMAN -Not any more. I have had my say before. What I have tried to get to is the general principles and I think they are established and now Senator Baume can give you the specifics.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The exhaust canopies above the stoves, I understand, are not working and steam condensation is gathering there and dropping back into whatever is cooking on the stoves. Is that a design fault? What is the problem?
MR O'CONNELL -We believe it is due to the slope of the hoods. If the hoods were sloped a little more steeply we do not believe it would happen. The driplet would run down to the end and be out of harm's way. However, we are having some trouble establishing that with the contractor. As you would imagine, it is a fairly esoteric argument. What we are trying to do there is, as far as possible, to get the contractor to come back and admit his liability . If we are not able to establish that satisfactorily then we will have to take some action ourselves to correct it.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -That is another of those matters which for those of us who eat is moderately important. I believe the doors of the hot presses as designed are inferior and have been condemned or prohibited from being used. Is that so?
MR O'CONNELL -Hot presses in the kitchens?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -No, in the dining areas.
MR O'CONNELL -There must be another name for them. I am not familiar with that name.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -They are things which keep the tucker warm. Apparently the doors do not work and that is one of the reasons, as I understand it, that we cannot have a silver service to provide vegetables. The whole thing is because of the hot presses in the dining rooms, where people put food that has been brought up from down below in a short term holding operation.
MR O'CONNELL -The only complaint I am aware of there is with what I would call food trolleys, which are used to convey the food from the main kitchens to the secondary kitchens. Some of them are too wide to fit through some doors, and that is as a result of a user inspired change to try to put bumpers on the sides of them, which we agreed to, but which, in hindsight, we should not have because--
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I would be grateful if the complaints made to me about hot presses could be pursued. What is the problem? I understand that they are being condemned because the doors are inappropriate, or do not work.
MR O'CONNELL -I am sorry, I think what you mean is what I would call the waiter stations.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Yes.
MR O'CONNELL -We did have some problems with built-in equipment. The problems are basically derived from the fact that they were one-off items; they were not proprietary items. We resolved the problems, we thought, and had them to everyone's satisfaction. Unfortunately, the user decided to change his operation so that they would not be used at all. I understand that was due to some industrial pressure from his own staff. Our response to that has since been to say, `Even though you do not want to use them in your operational sequences, we will get them fixed up to the full extent of the contract'. That would include having the doors rectified.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -With all those things-ice-cream machines, ovens, canopies, all that sort of stuff, and a coffee maker which I believe has had to be replaced-who is going to end up paying for this? Will it be the Joint House or PHCA or the supplier?
MR O'CONNELL -It would depend. An example of a contract defect is the Leonda ovens where there were some problems with it. They were fixed by the contractor, at the contractor's cost. In the case of the cappuccino machines, for example, where they replaced normal coffee machines, they were funded by the Joint House Department because, as far as we were concerned, we were not briefed to provide cappuccino machines. In some cases where it is a problem related, for want of a better phrase, to `latent design faults', then the PHCA would pick up the tab.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Thank you. Can I ask another few questions about design problems? I have had different responses to this question when I have asked it in different forums. That is why I am asking it here. The answers that I have had in the past have been in conflict. There are, in the corridors in the far wings of the building, freestanding pillars separated from the room in the corridor-round structural pillars. On one sideof the corridor there is a narrow piece of timber finish, on the other side there is quite a wide piece of timber finish, with these pillars in the middle. I understand the reason for that is that the rooms on the outside of those structural pillars were additional rooms arising from the decision by the Government to increase the size of the Parliament. Why did the walls of those additional rooms not incorporate those pillars, rather than leave them sticking up, taking up large amounts of waste space, within the corridor area? It just looks extraordinary .
MR O'CONNELL -I think it is an architectural design feature, or design detailing, which people would have differing opinions on.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I was told, for example, the reason was that if those rooms did incorporate the pillars so that the corridor was, in fact, an even corridor, that would have meant that those rooms would have been up to two feet larger than corresponding rooms for other members of equal status. Surely that is not the reason, is it?
MR O'CONNELL -I would not imagine so. I will have it checked, if you like.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I would be grateful for that. If there is a coherent sound reason for it, I would be interested to hear it because it looks to me to be ungraceful.
MR O'CONNELL -There can be an architectural reason, but not necessarily a coherent reason.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Point taken. Who is the client now, for the remaining spending?
MR FOWLER -Could you explain that?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Who is the client? Presumably in a project of this size , there is a client.
MR FOWLER -The client has always been the Parliament.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The Joint Committee?
MR FOWLER -The Authority has always worked through the Joint Standing Committee.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The client is still the Joint Standing Committee and there is still something like $84m to be spent.
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -When did the Joint Standing Committee last meet as a committee and discuss this matter with you?
MR FOWLER -I believe that it was before the last parliamentary recess.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -In April or May?
MR FOWLER -Yes, it was of that order. There have been two meetings, I believe, scheduled in this current session which have been cancelled and the next meeting of the Committee I know to be on 11 November. That is a scheduled meeting of the Committee.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -That is good. I am glad about that because I, to my knowledge, have not received a notice to that effect. Have you had to get many decisions from the client since the Committee's last meeting?
MR FOWLER -There is a continual request for information from the Committee secretariat. That has been the case since the project began. Most decisions are of a relatively minor nature and the secretariat provides the answers directly to the Authority. Of course, it uses its judgement as to what issues need to be decided by the Committee and schedules those issues to be dealt with by the Committee or by the Joint Chairmen, the Speaker and the President.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -When you say they are generally of a minor nature, what are the directions that you have received from the client? Can you think of any one of modest importance or of any approvals that you have sought?
MR FOWLER -I am sorry, I cannot think of a particular example, Senator.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -In the six months or so--
MR FOWLER -There would be letters passing between the Authority and the secretariat. On a daily basis there would be, I would guess, a dozen letters passing between the secretariat and the Authority on a range of issues and that has been the case since the project began.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Since April or May you have not had to face, if you like-and I am not saying it is your responsibility; on the contrary-questions from the statutory client.
MR FOWLER -That is correct.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -That is on the spending of $90m or so. That is interesting. I just raised that to have it on the record.
MR FOWLER -That expenditure, of course, Senator, is on contracts that have been let for some time.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You mentioned that all the furniture was approved through the Joint Standing Committee. I want to ask you about the desks and the seats in the chamber because, as I recall it, the desks in the chamber prototypes were found to be unsatisfactory by the Joint Standing Committee on the recommendation of senators and members. There was a request that they be widened and that was done. But as I understand it, the consequences of that request were not relayed at the time to the Joint Standing Committee in the sense that it would significantly reduce the leg room between the seats and the desks; subsequently we found out that the area available had been settled in the preliminary brief. As I understand it, the floor of the Senate chamber was not laid until late 1987, was it?
MR O'CONNELL -I think it was earlier than that.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I am concerned about the nature of the approvals given, because it seems to me that full information on which a coherent decision could be made was not given to the Joint Standing Committee. I am open to correction, but if the floor was not laid I cannot see why there would have been a necessary limitation on the gap between the seat and the desk. Quite frankly, I find it uncomfortable when I stand to speak to find that my calf hits the seat and I end up with some kind of intimate relationship with my desk drawer. Some people might find that attractive but I do not. My concern is: when you say all the furniture was approved by the Joint Standing Committee, in your view were the approvals given in full possession of the facts in every instance?
MR FOWLER -To answer the specific question of the seats in the chamber, that matter went through a much more extensive process than did any other piece of furniture in the building or, indeed, any other part of the building. One of the very few things in the initial brief that was very specific was the dimension of the seats for the chambers. That dimensional clarity was because of the need to allow the number of members in the chamber to expand over a period of time, so the dimensions initially were very specific. The Authority made a prototype to those dimensions which, as you say, was rejected by members. At that stage it was because the seat was considered to be too narrow ; there were some other more minor comments, but that was the major one. The Authority then produced a new prototype with an expanded seat and at that stage the complaint by the Committee was that the desk was too narrow and we were asked to expand that. We indicated at that stage that the consequences of that change would naturally be that the space between the seat and the desk would be further narrowed. That was accepted by the Joint Standing Committee after a survey by members. The only allowance which the Authority was given to increase the overall area to be taken up by a seat and a desk was in the width. The width of the seats was expanded, with the consequential loss of potential future seating in the chambers. So I believe that the process, particularly for seating, was very extensive. The decisions were made with all possible knowledge that could be made available.
The only thing that we could have done-as I say, we did produce two prototypes-would have been to produce a third prototype, but of course by that stage the project was well advanced and the Committee made its decision in the full knowledge of that situation. You make the point about the floor area not being finalised at that stage. The Authority was constrained, and continued to be constrained, by the brief which required that in the ultimate the number of seats in the chamber could be increased. If you made a change in the floor configuration at such an early stage, it would mean that further seating could not be installed without completely reconfiguring the floor, as well as changing the size of the seats.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Having seen the enormous volume of waste space in the chamber, I can only express surprise at that conclusion. There is an enormous area behind the last row. I find that really remarkable. As I recall, the first prototype was a different kind of seat altogether. I remember a seat that swung around. Correct me if I am wrong, but I did not think that the objection was necessarily in terms of the extent to which the seat stood out; it was the question of whether that was the kind of seat one wanted, was it not, in the first prototype?
MR FOWLER -The first prototype was made exactly to the design of the original brief. To try to accommodate the range and often conflicting requirements from the various members and senators who commented, we not only brought forward a prototype using the same style, that is, bench seating, but we also brought forward a prototype of a loose or swivelable, adjustable seat. Both Houses rejected that form of seating, but at the initiative of the Authority and the architect we brought that forward as an option.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Was that the second prototype or the first?
MR FOWLER -It was the second.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I do not have many more questions. Thank you for your patience, and thank you also, by the way, for including in the annual report the excellent table on additional costs in various areas, which has limited considerably the number of questions I would have been asking. This sort of annual report is a massive improvement on past ones, and I thank you for it. We probably would have had half the delays in many of the other hearings if we had had such a good report in the past. You say that the level of industrial disputation during the year was half that of 1986-87-that is in the year to June 1988.
MR FOWLER -Yes.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -What was the reduction in the volume of expenditure?
MR FOWLER -The reduction in the volume of expenditure in the year did not in itself reflect the halving of industrial disputation. The reason for that was that there were some industrial disputes the effect of which were not felt until last financial year. So some of the payment in the last financial year was, in fact, for disputes that occurred in the previous year. In round figures the cost of disputation in the 1986-87 financial year was $14.5m, and in the financial year just ended it was $10.8m. As I say, when you take into account the costs that were incurred in that earlier year, and that were paid for last year, it does bring you to a reduction of about 50 per cent.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I see. Yes I wondered why there was a difference. You say several of the more disruptive disputes were again the result of industry- wide issues, but how many industrial disputes on-site were in the face of, and against, the spirit and word of the site agreement?
MR FOWLER -Senator, we had to provide that information at the last estimates in a question that Senator Reid asked. I could have that updated if you wish.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -If you would, thank you. I wanted to ask you another question following the response to major criticism by the Auditor-General, in which the Authority asserted that the Auditor-General's conclusions were incorrect. What is happening to resolve this disagreement, if anything, between the Auditor-General and the Authority?
MR FOWLER -The Authority has formally responded to the Auditor-General's report, which was tabled in November of last year, and that report has also been passed on to the Public Accounts Committee. The Authority has taken note of those elements in the Auditor-General's report where we agreed that improvements could be made, but, obviously, there were those on which we disagreed and we remain in disagreement.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -The response to Senator Aulich's comments about providing some sort of review of where you did well, or where perhaps there is scope for improvement, would that include the area of financial controls?
MR FOWLER -Most certainly. I might just add to that, Senator, by saying that, obviously, the Authority considers it is in a unique position with an organisation that is going out of existence and that has no reason perhaps to try to defend a longer term position.
CHAIRMAN -That is why I think we are lucky in that sense, in that now it is a unique opportunity for us to get a review from people whose empires are not necessarily going to still be there in five year's time.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -In the House of Representatives wing, you noted that supply and quality problems were experienced with grey box timber, which is the timber nominated for the seats and desks. It was the first time this species had been used on such a scale for fine joinery. Was this an experiment in using it like this?
MR FOWLER -No, it was not an experiment, Senator. The use of grey box in the early years of settlement is well-known. It is a timber that has not been used over recent years, because imported timbers have been much more readily available and easier to work. The Authority at the outset took the attitude that this was the Australian Parliament House and therefore it should use Australian materials wherever possible, and the architects worked with the various timber authorities and forestry commissions to select timbers. It is certainly a timber that has not been used in recent times.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Did those supply and quality problems add considerably to the cost?
MR FOWLER -They certainly were greater than we had anticipated and would have attracted a cost penalty, yes.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Do we have any view of by how much they exceeded your expectations?
MR FOWLER -I do not have that information. It would be difficult to put together because, of course, the grey box is used in a number of areas throughout the building, and that would be in a number of contracts, some of which would have been relatively easy to have solved because they were in first and got the best of the materials. So it would be a difficult figure to put together.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Did the Speaker's chair, once again made with the grey box, cost $50,000?
MR FOWLER -Yes, it did.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -You note that the major difficulties encountered in the areas surrounding the chambers concerned acclimitisation and finishing of the timber in the corridor parquet flooring. There are still, in some areas, bumps and curves in some of the parquetry. Is that part of the responsibility of the Construction Authority to fix up, or is that now a Joint House problem?
MR O'CONNELL -You say, `bumps and curves'. Could you be a little more specific ?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Yes. Near those passageways that link the wings, for example, there are some waves, almost, in the parquetry.
MR O'CONNELL -That would be an example where we believe the contractor has fulfilled his obligations. If people were insistent that it be replaced because the parquetry is following the level of the floor and the concrete floor has within it a tolerance of accuracy, then that would be something that the PHCA would have to fund. I do not think we could pursue the contractor for that because his responsibilities were to lay the parquetry on the concrete floor that was available.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Where that curving and bumping is the result of flooding, who will pay to fix it up?
MR O'CONNELL -It would depend on what the flooding was caused by. If the flooding was caused by a failure in a fire sprinkler, and the failure was due to some sort of equipment failure, we would be insisting that the contractor met the cost of rectification. However, where the flooding was due to some latent condition, then we could not expect the contractor to do so. It would depend on what the cause was of the flooding.
CHAIRMAN -Senator, how long do you think you will be?
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Five minutes.
SENATOR ROBERT RAY -Mr Chairman, I agreed to sit on Wednesday night on the basis that we would finish on Wednesday night, and we are already four hours into today. Please excuse me for not being here, but I made appointments on the basis of the understanding that we would finish on Wednesday night. I have now completed those appointments.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -I have a question on the security system. As I understand it, there has been a significant level of theft in the place. What success has the PHCA had in examining the cause of those thefts? In other words, has it been alleged that it is because the building is still under construction? Have you been involved in any of the problems about theft?
MR FOWLER -The Authority, of course, had the responsibility for the whole of the site up until the proclamation of the Parliamentary Precincts Act. Therefore, responsibility for security on the site remained with us until that time. Accusations were made of theft from the project, which were examined by the Australian Federal Police, who are not pursuing any further inquiries in terms of the accusations. Thefts from the building since that time on have been the responsibility of the Parliament and the Authority has been involved only when there was a suspicion that one of our contractors may have been involved. In those cases, of course, we have had the construction manager examine the situation. To date I am not aware of any claims that have been sustained in that way.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -One last question relates to the wood in a couple of areas. Firstly, I have to admit to having made an error in a statement I made, having been wrongly informed, about the cost of the wooden venetians per window. What is it?
MR FOWLER -Approximately $450 installed, per window.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -How many windows have them?
MR FOWLER -The total number of blinds which the Authority has purchased is 1, 866, of which 50 are spares.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Is there any evident reason why they were late and why the decision was made to put them in rooms in courtyards, ahead of those that had western sun coming in?
MR FOWLER -The reason that the blinds were late is that there were some supply problems. They were made from one of the few timbers that was imported. We were using western red cedar and there was a much greater wastage factor than we had anticipated. The blinds were installed against an original program which contemplated the successive completion of the building. As it turned out , a number of the areas of the building were completed later than programmed and members occupied some areas which were on the extremity of the building. The Authority really does not have an excuse for not having done those first. Had we anticipated the overall delay we perhaps would have resequenced them. But by the time that we recognised the delay and members and senators coming into the building in advance of when we expected, that mismatch was an inevitable consequence.
SENATOR MICHAEL BAUME -Can I thank whoever was responsible-after I whinged I got some blinds. Can I also thank you for the frankness of the responses today ; I must say I found them very useful.
CHAIRMAN -Thank you very much, gentlemen and Minister. That concludes the examination of the Department of Administrative Services.