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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17315

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (4:33 PM) —I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration and report: Refurbishment of staff apartments at the Australian embassy complex, Paris, France.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposes to refurbish 29 staff apartments at the Australian Embassy in Paris. The embassy is a purpose-built complex that was completed in 1977. It was designed by eminent Australian architect Harry Seidler in collaboration with prominent French architect Marcel Breuer and is considered in Paris to be a building of architectural significance. The complex comprises two buildings, one housing the chancery and the other comprising 29 residential apartments for embassy staff. The complex also houses the official residences of the Australian Ambassador to France and the Ambassador to the OECD. These residences are not included in the scope of this refurbishment proposal.

When refurbished, the apartments will provide modern and appropriate staff accommodation for Australian embassy staff and their families well into the future. The embassy complex is now 26 years old, and, while the apartments have been well maintained, their architectural finishes and fittings have become run-down and are at the end of their useful life. The apartments do not meet modern-day requirements with respect to lighting levels, power and data reticulation, electrical and fire detection infrastructure, ventilation and engineering services access. The engineering services infrastructure within the apartments no longer complies with current standards, including occupational health and safety regulations, and does not meet tenant requirements.

The works will be undertaken on a rolling program in groups of three, but generally four, apartments at a time. This approach offers the most viable economies of scale in the construction phase while minimising disturbance to the occupants of the complex. When completed, the refurbishment works will ensure that the apartments comply with current standards and codes and protect the investment of the Commonwealth. Subject to parliamentary approval, construction is scheduled to start in January 2004, with practical completion expected in the second half of 2005. The out-turn cost of the proposal is $9.5 million. I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.