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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3275


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (15:59): On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works I present the committee's report entitled Report 2/2012:referrals made in November 2011.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Ms SAFFIN: by leave—On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works I present the second report of 2012 addressing referrals made in November 2011. This report deals with two inquiries with a total estimated cost of $101.7 million. In each case, the committee recommends the House of Representatives agree to the works proceeding. Chapter 2 of the report deals with projects 2 and 3 of the Christmas Island New Housing Program referred by the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. The two projects have an estimated cost of $11.1 million. Chapter 3 of the report considers Defence Housing Australia's proposed development and construction of defence housing at Ermington, Sydney. It is estimated this project will cost $90.6 million.

Let me first deal with the new housing program on Christmas Island. The new housing program on Christmas Island consists of three projects with a total allocated budget of $26.6 million. The committee was notified of project 1 in December 2010 as a medium works proposal of between $2 million and $15 million. The committee agreed to project 1 proceeding as medium works, provided that projects 2 and 3 were referred to the committee for full inquiry. Project 1 is likely to be completed in June this year and will deliver 16 new houses on Christmas Island at Drumsite village. In project 2, the department proposes to construct a further 14 houses at Drumsite. If the remaining budget allows, the department proposes to construct two further larger dwellings at a site called Silver City.

The department states new housing is needed on Christmas Island to reduce pressure on the local rental market. Constructing new dwellings will reduce the number of houses leased by the Commonwealth for staff providing essential services and support. The dwellings will encourage employees to live on the island for longer periods with their families, building strong and long-lasting relationships with the local community. The department also argues that current housing requires substantial and ongoing maintenance, as it is outdated and not fit for purpose. The new houses would use materials which can withstand the tropical climate and other conditions unique to the island. The design would reflect the needs of Commonwealth employees, and their families, who reside on the island.

The committee visited Christmas Island in June 2011, where it received a comprehensive briefing from the department on the new housing program. The department provided a further briefing on projects 2 and 3 before the hearings were held in Canberra on 2 March this year. The committee is satisfied from the detailed evidence provided that projects 2 and 3 of the Christmas Island New Housing Program are needed. The committee is also satisfied that the works will offer value for money for the Commonwealth.

I move to speak to the second inquiry of this report. Defence Housing Australia proposes to develop and construct 209 new dwellings at a designated site called AE2 Ermington in Sydney, at an anticipated cost of $90.6 million. The purpose of the project is to reduce the number of defence families residing in private rental accommodation in the Sydney area. Almost 36 per cent of defence families in Sydney are utilising Defence's rent allowance housing subsidy, which is significantly higher than the target of 15 per cent. The works would include road and civil infrastructure works as well as the construction of the dwellings. The project will be rolled out in four phases over a three-year period. Nine superlots, which can accommodate 228 apartments, will also be developed. The superlots will be sold and Defence Housing will have the option of utilising 30 per cent of the apartments for defence personnel.

The site at Ermington was previously owned by Defence, who prepared and sold the site for residential development. The site was a naval depot in World War II. This site has been named AE2 in recognition of its Navy heritage. AE2, the 'Silent Anzac', was the first Allied and Australian submarine to enter the Dardanelles Strait in 1915. The committee thanks AE2 Commemorative Foundation for its submission to the inquiry and for attending a public hearing in support of the name AE2. The housing project will be developed in accordance with the Ermington master plan. This plan was developed in consultation with the local community group, the Ermington Residents Committee. The committee was pleased to see that Defence Housing Australia has continued a positive working relationship with the Ermington Residents Committee and the wider local community. The committee would like to thank Mr Ken Newman, Chairman of the Ermington Residents Committee, for preparing a submission to the inquiry and for providing evidence during the public hearing.

The committee is satisfied that the proposed development and construction of defence housing at Ermington is needed. It will provide additional housing options for defence personnel and their families in the Sydney area. The committee is of the view that the development will be fit for purpose and will offer value for money for the Commonwealth. Indeed, the cost of the project will be recovered through the agency's sale and lease-back program.

I would like to thank members and senators for their work in relation to these inquiries. I would also like to welcome the member for Shortland to the committee and thank the member for Oxley for his service to the committee in this parliament. I commend the report to the House.