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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 942


Ms SAFFIN (5:23 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works I present the first report for 2011 of the committee relating to the referrals made in October and November 2010.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.


Ms SAFFIN —by leave—This report deals with two public works with a total estimated cost of $43.7 million. In both cases, the committee has recommended that the House of Representatives agree to the works proceeding.

Both works in this report are fit-outs in leased premises. The first is the proposed fit-out of new leased premises for the Attorney-General’s Department at 4 National Circuit in Barton, ACT. The second is the proposed fit-out of leased premises for divisions of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research at Buildings 2 and 3, Riverside Corporate Park in North Ryde, New South Wales.

I will turn first to the fit-out for the Attorney-General’s Department. This work would provide the department with considerable office space across the road from its current national office in Barton, allowing the consolidation of numerous disparate premises across the ACT. The committee was particularly interested in how the Attorney-General’s Department could ensure good value for money, given that there was not an open-market process to identify possible sites. The department informed the committee that it had sufficient market information to ensure that it does not pay a premium as a result of the non-competitive selection and negotiation process, and it gave evidence to the committee in this regard.

The department also assured the committee that adequate staff facilities will be available for staff who move from other locations to Barton. The Attorney-General’s Department provided the committee with further information showing that there would be improved access to child care as a result of the broader development at 4 National Circuit.

I will now speak to the second work in the report: the fit-out for divisions of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. This fit-out will provide new office and laboratory space for the Australian Astronomical Observatory—formerly the Anglo-Australian Observatory—the National Measurement Institute and Enterprise Connect. AAO and NMI are impressive research organisations, and the committee inspected some of their existing laboratories, met staff and observed active research. The committee is particularly concerned about the existing facilities for these organisations. Many of the laboratories are unsuitable for the research being undertaken therein. Conditions are cramped and amenities are old and shabby and plainly looked unsuitable for the important work that is being done there. The committee found that there is an urgent need for new accommodation.

The committee sought the department’s assurances about managing the risk of bushfires in the North Ryde area. The department has confirmed that the building and fit-out will be appropriate to the site’s particular risk, with requisite regulations being complied with. The committee has underlined the critical importance of giving clear and unambiguous information to staff regarding safety during a bushfire.

Finally, the committee is aware that there is no spare childcare capacity in the new location. However, the department is confident that most employees will be able to retain existing arrangements given the proximity of old and new premises. The committee has asked the department to continue to provide as much assistance as possible to staff who need to change their childcare arrangements.

I would like to thank members of my committee and the secretariat for the good work that was done to get these reports prepared and the inquiries completed in good time. I commend the report to the House.