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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23461

Mrs MOYLAN (4:50 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I present the 14th, 15th and 16th reports for 2003 of the committee, relating to the development of off-base housing for Defence at Queanbeyan, New South Wales; the proposed re-specified Christmas Island immigration reception and processing centre; and the proposed community recreation centre on Christmas Island.

Ordered that the reports be printed.

Mrs MOYLAN —by leave—I thank the House. The committee's 14th report for 2003 addresses the proposal by the Defence Housing Authority to construct 40 dwellings at the former pitch and putt golf club site at Queanbeyan, New South Wales. These works are required to accommodate an expected increase in defence personnel in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region over the next few years. Based on the housing preferences of defence personnel, the dwellings will comprise 33 free-standing homes and seven townhouses. Other works will include the construction of internal roads and footpaths, and reticulation of essential services and telecommunications. It is estimated that the work will cost $12 million.

In response to community suggestions, the Defence Housing Authority also intends to excise the existing golf clubhouse and associated car park from the development and to offer it for sale, possibly as a child-care centre. At the public hearing, the authority stated that the details of the proposed child-care facility had yet to be determined. Witnesses added that if the proposal should prove to be unfeasible the Defence Housing Authority would consider building an additional dwelling at the site. The committee questioned the authority about the nature of the proposed development and is satisfied that it will fit comfortably with the surrounding community and will offer a suitable level of amenity to residents. The committee commends the Defence Housing Authority on the community consultation undertaken in respect of the proposed development. The committee notes that the authority has altered the traffic flow within the development, in response to community concerns, and that an agreement has also been reached with the local racing club regarding the use of stormwater from the site. The committee therefore recommends that the work proceed at a cost of $12 million.

The committee's 15th report deals with the respecified Christmas Island Immigration Reception and Processing Centre. The project was referred to the Department of Finance and Administration at an estimated cost of $197.7 million. It is intended to deliver appropriate facilities for the humane detention of unauthorised boat arrivals, an efficient and secure facility appropriate to the location and a cost-effective execution of the government's policy of processing unauthorised arrivals on Christmas Island. The proposed respecified IRPC differs from the facility originally proposed by the government in March 2002 in that the size has been reduced from twelve 50-bed compounds, with 50 contingency places in each, to eight such compounds. This has allowed for the provision of additional open space within the facility.

In considering the IRPC projects the committee sought to confirm that the need and scope of the project were justified, and it questioned the proposed expenditure. The committee was informed that, although the number of unauthorised boat arrivals has dropped significantly since 2001, the government does not wish to be complacent. The location and scope of the proposed facility are therefore consistent with the government's policy of processing unauthorised arrivals offshore. The committee was also assured that moneys spent on the original IRPC project would not be wasted as a result of the re-specification.

The committee wished to know why responsibility for the project had been transferred from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs to the Department of Finance and Administration in February 2003. Finance explained that it had the most experience in delivering large capital works projects using a traditional delivery strategy. The committee was assured of the relevant experience of the project architects and of the ongoing involvement of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in the design and functionality of the facility. During its inquiry, the committee examined the nature of the proposed accommodation, the suitability of the building materials and services and the compliance of the facility with all relevant guidelines and legislation. The committee particularly recommended that consideration be given to the island's harsh climate in the selection of building materials.

The committee is also concerned to ensure that the project should maximise benefits to the local Christmas Island community while minimising any negative impacts. In particular, the committee notes the very practical suggestions submitted to the inquiry by the Christmas Island Chamber of Commerce and recommends that the department of finance take note of the submission and continue discussions with the chamber and other relevant organisations. Further, the committee recommends that the work proceed at the estimated cost of $197.7 million.

The committee's 16th and final report for 2003 examines the proposal by the Department of Transport and Regional Services to construct a community recreation facility on Christmas Island, at an estimated cost of $8 million. The works are required to replace existing inadequate facilities and to cater for an expected increase in the island's population. The proposal comprises a multi-use recreation centre and associated parking areas, fencing and services. The committee was concerned to learn at the public hearing that no arrangements had been made by the Department of Transport and Regional Services for the ongoing management and maintenance of the new facility. The committee requested that the department develop a forward management plan for the centre and recommends that it negotiate a settlement with the Christmas Island Shire Council to clarify management issues prior to construction.

During the inquiry, the committee sought to ensure that the proposed facility is suitably located, will be readily accessible to island residents and that all relevant parties have been consulted on the project. The department stated that consultation had been undertaken through the administrator's Advisory Council. In view of the submissions received, however, the committee recommends that the department not only continue its discussions with that body but also undertake continuing consultation with the local school and the Christmas Island Cricket and Sporting Club, both of whom have an interest in the development. As with the IRPC, the committee requests that the Department of Transport and Regional Services take cognisance of the island's climatic conditions in the selection of building materials and equipment. It recommends that construction of the proposed recreation facility proceed at the estimated cost of $8 million.

Public hearings into both Christmas Island works were held in Canberra in October this year. The committee notes the disappointment expressed by some Christmas Island residents that the hearings were not held locally. However, the committee went to the island in 2002 and viewed the site and some of the site works for these facilities. It is therefore familiar with the sites of the proposed works. Moreover, the committee is aware of the importance of the recreation facility and IRPC projects to the social and economic life of the island. Had the committee chosen to visit the island, consideration of the works could not have taken place until 2004. The committee does not believe a delay of this magnitude to be either necessary or desirable. In closing, I extend my thanks to my committee colleagues for their support and hard work through what has been a very busy year, and to the secretariat for their support. I commend these reports to the House.