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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2218

Senator CALVERT —On behalf of the Joint Committee on Public Works, I present the committee's 57th general report.

  Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator CALVERT —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

The committee's 57th general report deals with the committee's activities during 1993 and covers the work of the 30th and 31st committees. During the year the committee met on 33 occasions and presented nine reports.

  The estimated cost of public works on which the committee reported was just over $252 million. Projects ranged from the construction of a new transmission tower on the top of Mount Wellington to improve and enhance the scope of television and radio reception in southern Tasmania, to the refurbishment of historic Victoria Barracks in Melbourne to provide modern office accommodation, and to the redevelopment of CSIRO facilities at Prospect near Sydney. The projects were varied in extent and function. All were recommended for approval by the committee.

  As in previous years the committee has taken the opportunity to highlight a number of important matters in its general reports. A feature of the past year was the number of briefings from senior officials of departments, agencies and industry. Officers from the Department of Defence, the Defence Housing Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Australian National Audit Office, Overseas Property Group, Commonwealth Fire Board, and Kelstrom Pty Ltd briefed the committee on a wide variety of matters relevant to inquiries and public works in general.

  Another highlight of the year was the second Public Works Committee Conference which was held here at Parliament House. Members of public works committees or their equivalent from the Parliaments of Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, the ACT, and the New South Wales Public Accounts Committee, because of its interest in the private funding of public infrastructure, as well as the Commonwealth, attended the conference.

  The conference addressed a variety of statutory and operational matters which are common to, or have significant ramifications on, inquiries involving the proposed expenditure of considerable public funds. Matters discussed at the conference included the use of consultants; the use of value management techniques to assess public works; follow-up procedures on works in progress; the private funding of infrastructure; and the impact of the untying of Commonwealth departments and agencies from a central government design and construction authority.

  It is planned to hold these conferences every year if the calendars of the various parliaments permit. The next conference will be held in Hobart later this year and we hope to see each state and territory represented—perhaps even Papua New Guinea.

  A number of significant issues emerged during the year, and these are described in the report. They relate to the provision of earth leakage circuit breakers and smoke detectors in Defence Housing Authority dwellings; the provision of facilities in all Commonwealth buildings for people with disabilities to ensure that right of equal access is maintained; and energy conservation.

  The Public Works Committee Act precludes the committee from meeting overseas, although the committee is required to inquire into and report on overseas works such as embassies and high commissions. This anomaly has caused problems. The committee is unable to inspect existing buildings and sites proposed and to hold informal discussions with local staff and officials responsible for the design and construction of what are, after all, buildings which in some way should reflect Australia. The committee therefore believes that the Public Works Committee Act should be amended to enable the committee or a sectional committee to undertake inspections overseas and for the resources to be available for it to do so. It is much more prudent and effective if local inspections and discussions are held before the committee inquiries as is the case with other projects.

  In conclusion, on behalf of the committee I would like to make special mention of a number of former committee members who retired from the committee, and the Parliament for that matter, during the report period. Mr Lloyd O'Neil, the former member for Grey, and Mr Ewen Cameron, the former Member for Indi, served on the committee from May 1990 to February 1993. I would like to thank them both for the contributions that they made to the committee and to the parliament. I should also mention the former vice-chairman, the member for Groom (Mr Taylor) and another former member, the member for Maranoa (Mr Bruce Scott) for their contributions.

  The committee also thanks the staff for the friendly and efficient way in which they respond to the many demands members place on them. I commend the report to the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.