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Wednesday, 9 October 1991
Page: 1560

Mr HAWKER(4.30 p.m.) —-While supporting the motion to move that the Public Works Committee looks at this reference, I would like to raise a number of matters in relation to the reasoning behind the proposal. I note that the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Price), drew attention to a number of anomalies that I see as needing to be responded to.

He makes an observation that SBS has operated in leased premises, points out that none was ever constructed to accommodate the special requirements of a special broadcasting organisation and goes on to say that this has created a significant restraint on the programs. It is interesting to note that, if that is a justification for moving, one has to ask: why is SBS moving to a 25-year-old industrial complex; in other words, why is it moving to something that was not built specifically for a broadcasting organisation, either? I think that is an interesting question that ought to be raised.

There are a number of other questions that ought to be raised. This proposal is going to cost nearly $35m, which is more than 50 per cent of the total SBS annual budget. Yet, we note that the leases on the current buildings of SBS are certainly assured of lasting for another four years, until May 1995. It may not be guaranteed that the lease on one of those buildings can be extended beyond May 1995; but there is nothing to say that it could not be. I would have thought that four years down the track does give SBS plenty of time to decide whether that one lease is not likely to be renewable beyond May 1995 and that, therefore, it would have plenty of time to make that decision.

We then go on to see some rather interesting `justifications'. It is suggested that SBS will be able to fund this new accommodation from borrowings recently approved by the Loan Council. It almost looks as though, having suddenly got the opportunity to get hold of some more money, SBS has succumbed to the temptation to get a building and completely refurbish it at considerable expense because of this opportunity which has suddenly arisen. But the justification then goes on to say that the project will not only be funded by these borrowings, but also by repayments to be made from future rental. This is because the building will initially be too big for the operation anyway. So that seems to be a nice little thought, but it is really a poor justification for getting a building that is too big. Operational savings are then mentioned. I think those operational savings ought to be spelt out in considerably more detail.

Mr Price —-The Committee will do that.

Mr HAWKER —-I hope the Committee will do it, because I think this whole project does need considerably more scrutiny. I guess the thing that concerns me is that, while the Committee will be looking at the building per se, the way this motion has been framed it looks as though the Government assumes that the decision has already been taken, that it is only a matter of getting approval for the building itself.

I think there are a number of questions which should be looked at very carefully. I think the justification for SBS to move to a building which, as pointed out, is too big, raises further questions particularly as to what the Government's future plans for SBS are or, alternatively, what SBS's future plans are for SBS. Otherwise, we are left in the dark as to why SBS apparently needs to expand when the current premises, which will certainly be available for at least four years and may be available for a lot longer than that, have obviously proved adequate up until now. I hope that the Public Works Committee, in its deliberations, looks at all these points and closely scrutinises what is a fairly large amount of expenditure on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Question resolved in the affirmative.