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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2098

Mrs MOYLAN (4:22 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, I present the committee's third and fourth reports for 2004 relating to the mid-life upgrade of the existing chancery building for the Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand and the provision of facilities for Headquarters Joint Operations Command, New South Wales.

Ordered that the reports be printed.

Mrs MOYLAN —by leave—The first of the two reports addresses the provision of essential refurbishments to the building interior and engineering services of Australia's permanent mission to New Zealand. There has been no significant refurbishment of the chancery since its construction 26 years ago, and the building no longer provides an appropriate level of service and amenity.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expects that the upgrades will fulfil the requirements of the Wellington post for the next 25 years. The estimated cost of the proposed works is $9.309 million. The works proposal includes: modernisation of building services and the removal of hazardous waste material; improvement of security provisions to meet the needs of Australia's overseas agencies; consolidation of functions and occupation into the basement, ground, second and third floors; and refurbishment of the first floor as an office shell suitable for future tenancy or moth-balling to minimise costs.

At the public hearing, the committee questioned the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on a range of issues, including: the removal of hazardous asbestos; security arrangements; structural requirements relating to local seismic activity; and consultation with the Australian Greenhouse Office regarding energy conservation provisions. The department explained that asbestos sheeting in the eaves needed to be replaced with non-hazardous material and assured the committee that these works would be carried out by a licensed operator to the highest safety standards. In respect of security, the department outlined its intention to install a range of new security features, including more rigorous access arrangements at the main entrance.

Further, the department explained that a detailed structural audit had been undertaken and that the building would satisfy local standards for seismic stability. Details of this audit were provided to the committee subsequent to the hearing. The department added that, while it had not consulted with the Australian Greenhouse Office, energy conservation was a priority. The department expects to achieve a saving of 20 per cent in energy costs by mothballing the first floor and installing intelligent lighting and a state-of-the-art building management system. Having considered the evidence before it, the committee recommends that the proposed mid-life upgrade of the existing chancery building for the Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand proceed at the estimated cost of $9.309 million.

The committee's fourth report of 2004 examines the provision of facilities for Headquarters Joint Operations Command near Bungendore, New South Wales. The work was referred to the committee by the Department of Defence at an estimated cost of $318.08 million. This inquiry was something of a landmark for the committee as it was the first entirely privately funded project presented for consideration. This posed some difficulties for the committee as the project was referred at a very early stage of development. This occurred because Defence requires parliamentary approval for the work in principle before it can seek tenders from private finance consortia. Detailed design, therefore, will be undertaken only after the selection of a successful tenderer. In view of this, the committee recommends that Defence provide it with reports on the progress of works and associated costs at each stage of completion of the project.

The inquiry generated considerable local interest and there was general community support and excitement about this project. We did have the member for Eden-Monaro at the hearings, and he is very supportive of this project as well. But there were particular aspects of the project that were of some concern. One was the anticipated traffic impacts of the development. It is estimated that, once this facility is operational, it will generate some 800 additional traffic movements to and from the site each day. Having heard evidence from both the Greater Queanbeyan City Council and the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority on this matter, the committee recommends that Defence liaise with both these organisations with regard to traffic management and road safety issues arising from the proposed development.

The committee also received evidence from the University of Sydney's Molonglo Radio Observatory, a significant scientific facility located some five kilometres from the site of the proposed work. The university outlined the potential for radio frequency interference from the new headquarters to impact negatively on its operations. The university explained that, should the Molonglo radio telescope be forced to move from its hitherto radio-quiet location, this would disrupt research programs and incur large costs. The committee was pleased to note that Defence intends to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the observatory. The committee recommends that this close consultation continue. Furthermore, the committee recommends that Defence implement all possible radio frequency interference mitigation measures during both the construction and operation of the new command facility, to ensure that the observatory can continue to operate without interference.

In keeping with its continued efforts to ensure the ecological sustainability of the Commonwealth's building proposals, the committee also questioned Defence on its intentions with regard to the minimisation of waste and the reduction of energy consumption for the new headquarters. Defence stated that it aims to have no waste leaving the site and intends the new headquarters to be a five-star green building. Having received a submission from the New South Wales Department of Environment and Conservation sustainability programs division outlining a number of waste management and energy use reduction strategies, the committee recommends that Defence and its private consortium partners liaise with that agency to ensure that the Headquarters Joint Operations Command facility meets the highest possible standards for the minimisation of waste production and energy use.

Other issues investigated by the committee with regard to the proposed development included: the selection of the preferred site for the facility; impacts on the social infrastructure within the neighbourhood; impacts on neighbouring properties; consultation; processes; and project delivery. The committee also received a comprehensive in camera briefing from Defence on the financial particulars of the project and, having satisfied itself on these matters and having received assurances from Defence that further reports will be provided as the project progresses, the committee recommends that the proposed provision of facilities for Headquarters Joint Operations Command, New South Wales, proceed at the estimated cost of $318.08 million. I would like to take the opportunity to thank committee colleagues, Hansard and all of those who have been involved in helping and facilitating these inquiries. I commend the reports to the House.