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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19212

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (1:51 PM) —I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Provision of facilities for the collocation and re-equipping of 1st aviation regiment at Robertson Barracks, Darwin.

The Department of Defence proposes to provide new facilities at Robertson Barracks in the Northern Territory to support the relocation of the 1st Aviation Regiment to Darwin. In December 2001, the Howard government approved the acquisition of 22 armed reconnaissance helicopters at a cost of $1.3 billion. The aircraft, referred to as the Tiger, will be introduced into service between the end of 2004 and mid-2008, with initial deliveries assigned to the Army Aviation Training Centre at Oakey in Queensland. The combat unit to be equipped with the Tiger is the Army's 1st Aviation Regiment.

The potential of the new aircraft will be optimised by locating training and operations in a single regimental site. Presently, the regiment has its headquarters, technical and logistic support and other elements located at Oakey in Queensland. Its two reconnaissance squadrons are located at Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, North Queensland, and at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin. An element of a surveillance squadron is also located at Darwin. Locating the regiment at Robertson Barracks, Darwin, will co-locate it with the 1st Brigade, which is the mechanised ready formation of the Army. This is consistent with the intended capability of the 1st Aviation Regiment. The 1st Aviation Regiment will comprise some 400 personnel and 17 aircraft.

The following facilities are to be provided by this project: headquarters facilities for the regiment, the two flying squadrons, the technical support squadron and the logistics support squadron; a logistics precinct comprising the regimental quartermaster store catering for regimental and squadron equipment, stores and maintenance requirements; a specialised workshop for aircraft repair and maintenance; a discrete workshop for the repair and maintenance of vehicles and stores; hangars for 12 aircraft, workshop shelters for a further five aircraft and approximately 160 unit vehicles; an aircraft wash bay, compounds, aircraft parking aprons and taxiways, and take-off and landing pads; training facilities including instructional facilities and a simulation facility specific to the needs of pilots, battle captains, flying instructors and operational planners; engineering services, roads and landscaping, inclusive of relevant security measures for the new asset; and live-in accommodation for up to 110 personnel within the Robertson Barracks complex.

Over the construction period of some two years, an average of about 150 personnel will be directly employed on construction activities. In addition, it is anticipated that construction will generate further job opportunities off-site in the design, manufacture and distribution of materials. I outline to the House that the honourable member for Solomon has been a particularly strong supporter of this project. The budget for the proposed work is $75 million. In its report, the Public Works Committee has recommended that this project proceed. Subject to parliamentary approval, construction will start in early 2004 and be completed by mid-2005. On behalf of the government, I thank the committee for its support and I commend the motion to the House.