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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12888

Mrs MOYLAN (10:03 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Committee on Public Works, I present the 12th and 13th reports of the committee for 1999 relating to the Staff Colleges Collocation Project, Weston Creek, ACT, and the ANZAC Hall extension, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Ordered that the reports be printed.

Mrs MOYLAN —by leave—The reports I have just tabled give approval for two facilities which will add to the existing range of works projects located in the national capital. These are the proposed construction of a collocated defence staff colleges complex at Weston Creek and a new exhibition hall for the Australian War Memorial at Campbell.

The estimated cost of the collocated defence staff colleges project is $28 million, while the Federation Fund is providing the $11.9 million for Anzac Hall.

The committee has recommended that the works should proceed. Both projects will significantly enhance the value of existing facilities in Canberra and complement the national institution functions of the federal capital.

The first report I have tabled deals with the collocated defence staff colleges. Each of the three single services currently conducts middle level officer training in separate staff colleges. These services colleges are located at Queenscliff, Victoria; Balmoral, Sydney; and Fairbairn, ACT for Army, Navy and Air Force respectively. Collocation of the three colleges onto one site was most recently proposed in the context of Defence Efficiency Review studies.

The Department of Defence proposes to collocate the three existing single service staff colleges in new facilities to be constructed at Weston Creek, ACT, adjacent to the existing Australian Defence College. The works are needed to improve efficiency in the delivery of middle level officer training and thereby realise savings in operating costs. Collocation is also seen as a means of reinforcing an emerging ADF joint culture.

The committee took evidence from Defence officials at the public hearing held in Parliament House, Canberra, on 11 June 1999. In addition, on 17 August the committee met with the councillors and staff of the Borough of Queenscliffe before inspecting historic buildings and a new military instruction facility at Fort Queenscliff. The opportunity was also taken to have informal discussions with members of a large group of local residents assembled at the entrance to the fort who expressed deep concerns about the ramifications of the relocation of the Army Staff College from Queenscliff to Canberra. On 2 and 30 September and 21 October, the committee held further hearings at Parliament House, Canberra and took evidence from Defence officials and the Australian Heritage Commission.

The committee noted the concerns of local residents that collocation of the Defence staff colleges in Canberra would require abandoning Queenscliff, with a modern military instructional facility, and developing a similar institution at another site. The committee therefore sought to quantify the extent of these benefits and, between August and October, sought additional information from Defence to substantiate the decision to collocate the colleges in Canberra.

In its conclusions, the committee has made reference to the future use of the Fort Queenscliff property when the Army college is collocated in Canberra and has stressed the necessity to preserve the heritage value of the property when ownership is transferred. Whilst the committee's inquiry on this reference was unusually protracted, it was felt necessary to conduct an exhaustive examination of the rationale and justification for the location decision.

The second report I have tabled concerns the construction of a new exhibition hall for the Australian War Memorial at Campbell. The importance of this site has been recognised since 1941. Since that time, the memorial has developed and maintained a collection of historic material, conducted research into all aspects of Australia's military conflicts and is involved in other activities such as the dawn service on Anzac Day.

Anzac Hall will provide visitors to the memorial the opportunity to view much of the memorial's collection at the one site, including many of the large relics that have been housed at the Mitchell depository. One such relic is the Japanese midget submarine that was recovered from Sydney Harbour, with the Lancaster bomber—`G for George'—and other assorted tanks and artillery expected to be strikingly displayed in the modern exhibition space at Anzac Hall.

It is proposed that Anzac Hall be constructed on the existing car park at the Campbell site and be connected to the Aircraft Hall in the memorial by way of a glass link at a mezzanine level. The loss of the existing car park will require the development of several new parking areas. The committee is particularly concerned that adequate parking spaces are provided, including spaces for people with disabilities and for buses.

The construction of such a large exhibition hall obviously entails a considerable expanse of roof. At the public hearing, the committee extensively questioned the architect and representatives of the memorial and the National Capital Authority about various aspects of the roof. The committee is satisfied that the nature of the design, being set behind the memorial and sunk into the ground, minimises any visual impact that the roof expanse may have when viewing the memorial along Anzac Parade or from places such as Parliament House.

The committee is also satisfied that the proposed Colorbond roof meets the requirements of the brief. This is despite the fact that both the National Capital Authority and the Australian Heritage Commission have indicated that a better quality material, such as zinc or copper, would be more appropriate. At an additional estimated cost of $2 million, the committee does not believe that a zinc or copper roof represents value for money. However, in recognition of the concerns raised by those organisations, the committee has recommended that the Australian War Memorial and the National Capital Authority resolve the issue prior to the commencement of work.

The committee recognises that as many people as possible should be able to access a building of such national importance. The committee notes the progress of the memorial in this area over the past few years and supports the decision by the memorial to engage a consultant to advise on issues relating to people with disabilities.

It is anticipated that, subject to parliamentary approval, the construction of Anzac Hall will be completed by 31 March 2001 and officially opened on Anzac Day 2001. The addition of Anzac Hall to the memorial complex can only enhance the experience of the visitor; it can only enhance the understanding of the individual sacrifices made in times of war. I commend both reports to the House.