Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee
Defence Housing Australia

Defence Housing Australia

CHAIR: I welcome officers from Defence Housing Australia and officers from the department. As there are no opening statements, I will go to questions. Senator Conroy.

Senator CONROY: Could I just clarify: who has ministerial responsibility for Defence housing?

Senator Payne: Currently I do.

Senator CONROY: Currently you do?

Senator Payne: Arrangements are still being made, as you can imagine.

Senator CONROY: No. I would have hoped that a letter would have been received to clarify it—a month later.

Senator Payne: Not yet, no. I did leave the country for a week—

Senator CONROY: Do you expect to be?

Senator Payne: No.

Senator CONROY: An article in The Weekend West by Nick Butterly on 10 October stated that DHA had not been appointed a minister, and it was described as an oversight for the Turnbull government—not the first.

Senator Payne: Is that your gratuitous observation, or the article's?

Senator CONROY: No, that was my observation based on my conversations at estimates in the last couple of days. It appears that quite a few new visits to Government House are going to be required. You indicated that charter letters have not been circulated yet?

Senator Payne: Correct.

Senator CONROY: I refer to an article in The West Australian on 15 October, also by Nick Butterly, entitled 'Barnett bid to refurbish SAS houses'. Mr Butterly reports that Premier Barnett wrote to you, Minister Pyne, late last month—

Senator Payne: 'Payne', actually.

Senator CONROY: Payne, sorry—I deeply apologise.

Senator Payne: I would hope so.

Senator CONROY: In fact I may have to go and give myself a beating for that one on your behalf.

Senator Payne: That is a lot of information.

Senator CONROY: Mr Butterly wrote that Premier Barnett wrote to you late last month concerning the proposed redevelopment of Seaward Village. Can you confirm that Premier Barnett did write to you on this matter, and, if so, did the Premier ask you to reconsider the redevelopment plans?

Senator Payne: I understand that Premier Barnett has certain views on Seaward Village, but as yet I have not seen a specific item of correspondence from him. But I am aware that he has views.

Senator CONROY: I was going to say, 'Did the Premier express the view, as reported by Mr Butterly, that there is "better sense in continuing the refurbishment program"?' but as you have not received the letter—

Senator Payne: Let me say: to the best of my recollection, I have not received a letter. I think I would recall a letter from Premier Barnett.

Senator CONROY: I am sure you would. Did Premier Barnett also write that he shared concerns with SAS families about the security risks of having civilian houses closer to military homes and the base?

Senator Payne: Given that I do not have that correspondence with me, I am very happy to take your questions on notice and to respond to you as soon as possible.

Senator CONROY: Thank you. Could you inform the committee of your views on the issues raised by the Premier—in the media at least.

Senator Payne: I do not think that is really something —

Senator CONROY: But you are aware of the article?

Senator Payne: I am aware of the article, yes.

Senator CONROY: So you are aware of his views from the article?

Senator Payne: I am aware of the article and I have been taking advice on the matter.

Senator CONROY: Would you care to share any views you have at this stage.

Senator Payne: Not at this stage.

Senator CONROY: The Nedlands city council unanimously passed on 26 May a motion which condemned in the strongest terms the bypassing of the council by DHA in presenting the concept as an improvement plan. The council rejected this and made it clear that they wanted to be involved through formal input. The motion states that the council 'registers its objection to the improvement plan process that has been implemented in the Seaward Village development project; considers that the normal process should have been followed, involving a scheme amendment to the city's town planning scheme, followed by a development application; and strongly requests regular formal input by the city in the decision making process regarding the development of the improvement plan and improvement scheme, including formal membership of the Seaward Village project steering group.' That sounds like a fairly strongly worded resolution. Would you agree?

Senator Payne: I might ask Mr Brocklehurst to respond to that. I should imagine DHA would have that information at hand.

Senator GALLACHER: Can I just clarify something: I do not see Mr Howman there. Who actually has lead?

Senator Payne: Mr Howman is on leave, as I understand it.

Mr Brocklehurst : Mr Howman is on leave, and I am currently the acting managing director. In regard to Nedlands city council: DHA does have a steering group, and that does include representatives from the Department of Planning, the Department of Lands and the City of Nedlands. So they are involved in this with us through the process.

Senator CONROY: Why did DHA bypass the council against its obvious unanimous wish?

Mr Dietz : The improvement plan process is a process available to us through the state government planning process within Western Australia. It is specifically designed for complex projects with strategic need, and we deemed that the most appropriate process to use for this.

Senator CONROY: So it is too complex for the council to be involved in?

Mr Dietz : The complexities are in the ownership of the land. The land is owned by Defence, the Western Australian government and also DHA.

Senator CONROY: I come back to the question: why did you bypass the council? You have made a decision to bypass the council.

Mr Dietz : Yes, given the importance and the complexities, our need to have a project delivered in a timely fashion—given the need to have in 2017 an NHCP, the new housing compliance policy—we wanted to deliver early. We felt those complexities would imply the improvement plan process was a quicker way to get an appropriate result. It does also include input from the local council as part of the communication process within that process.

Senator CONROY: Would you agree that this casts serious doubt on any claim that DHA makes to having consulted satisfactorily, when you have bypassed one of the major stakeholders?

Mr Dietz : I feel that we do still communicate appropriately with them and that we do gain input. An improvement plan-improvement scheme process does allow from input from the council also.

Senator CONROY: That may explain your answer to question on notice No. 21 from the budget estimates, where you say:

The proposed redevelopment of Seaward Village is effectively replanning and delivering a whole suburb with a variety of Defence and civilian stakeholders, including all three levels of Government.

I am just confused. You stress 'all three levels of Government', but you have not spoken to them. In fact, you have bypassed one of the three levels of government—or have I missed a level of government?

Mr Dietz : We have spoken with each of the levels of government there and we have reacted to their concerns.

Senator CONROY: You mean 'ignored' their concerns. I read them all out. You cannot say that you have reacted to them, unless your reaction is to ignore their desire to have a normal process involving a scheme amendment followed by a development application. You have reacted by ignoring them.

Mr Dietz : We have not agreed with their approach on the process to take.

Senator CONROY: The council also wanted to be included in the Seaward Village project steering group. Who belongs to the steering group?

Mr Wallace : The steering group was established in early 2014 and since February has met monthly, with the exception of one month. That has representatives from the Department of Lands, the Department of Planning and the City of Nedlands.

Senator CONROY: No residents, no council?

Mr Wallace : Not in that steering group, no.

Senator CONROY: What decisions has it come to and what directions has it issued?

Mr Wallace : The steering group works on understanding the best path forward. We are still in the early planning phases of the project, so it is really about setting the direction that we need to take the project. That is where the idea of an improvement plan-improvement scheme process was facilitated.

Senator CONROY: Has the security assessment referred to in the answer to Defence question on notice No. 23 from budget estimates in June been completed? That is possibly a military question?

Lt Gen. Campbell : It is a Defence security agency question.

Senator CONROY: Apologies. Security assessments? Somebody must know about security assessment.

Senator Payne: I think it is likely that those individuals—and I will take advice from the Chief of Army— who may have been able to assist with that are no longer here.

Senator CONROY: Minister, has it been provided to you?

Senator Payne: Not that I am aware of, no.

Lt Gen. Campbell : If I can offer you a comment in their absence: I am advised that the security risk assessment of Seaward Village resulted in Defence Security and Vetting Service recommending security design principles for incorporation into the redevelopment and concluding that, subject to the adoption of these principles, it had no basis on which to recommend Defence rejects the Seaward Village redevelopment.

Senator CONROY: I have come across a letter, which I will seek leave to table, from the Department of Defence to the City of Nedlands, dated 15 July 2013. The letter is from a Ms Sue Parr, acting head of Defence Support Operations, Department of Defence, on behalf of Mr Steven Grzeskowiak. It concerns the development proposal within Seaward Village. Can you confirm that this was sent and that its content was in fact the view of the Department of Defence at the time?

Senator Payne: I am not able to confirm that, given the provenance of the letter in July 2013, but I can certainly seek advice and respond to you.

Senator CONROY: Okay. Just for the edification of the other senators, who are only just seeing it, the letter states: 'The precinct of Seaward Village and as such its future use is particularly important to Defence.' Minister, do you agree with that statement?

Senator Payne: On the face of the document, yes.

Senator CONROY: The letter goes on to state: 'The primary tenant group in the village are members of the Special Air Service Regiment and their families.' That is still the case in Seaward, I believe.

Lt Gen. Campbell : That is correct.

Senator CONROY: The letter also states: 'The tempo of SASR is much higher than other Australian Defence Force units.' I believe that that is certainly still the case, General.

Lt Gen. Campbell : It is a high-tempo unit.

Senator CONROY: The letter also states: 'As the nature of SASR operations can be at times controversial, Defence consider it prudent to maintain the village for ADF personnel only, as this will ensure training at the barracks is not compromised.' Has this changed in the last two years? Anybody?

Senator Payne: I am actually just reading the letter, Senator.

Senator CONROY: I will keep going while people are digesting. 'This also allows the SASR to provide essential support to families when members are deployed on operations.' I am sure we can all agree that this remains the view of the service personnel and their families currently utilising Seaward Village. Given that the content of the letter was Defence's view at the time and that many of the key points it makes remain true, could someone explain the different attitude to this estate from both the department and DHA?

Senator Payne: We will start with DHA.

Mr Brocklehurst : The development concept that DHA has has been developed on a set of principles that have been agreed with Defence subsequent to this letter.

Senator CONROY: What is the difference between the request that this letter references to the proposal currently being considered for the redevelopment of Seaward Village? There is obviously a proposal that is behind this letter; the letter is responding to something. What is different?

Mr Brocklehurst : I have not seen the letter before. The only comment I can give is that the development concept that we have has been developed based on principles that have been agreed with Defence, and they have been agreed with Defence after the date of this letter.

Senator CONROY: I would be interested in more detail of the discussions that took place leading to the decision to remove the covenant that had been in place since 2001. In DHA question on notice 25(e) from budget estimates this year I asked:

How will DHA maintain the commitment made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works that 'the housing and land will not be sold into the private sector while the SASR or a similar special unit is maintained at Swanbourne'?

The answer provided by DHA was:

DHA and Defence have agreed to remove the covenant to enable the redevelopment. Upon completion, a new covenant will be placed on the new Defence houses.

That answer does not actually provide an explanation. It just says, 'We wanted to have a redevelopment involving the sale of land to the private sector. The covenant would not have allowed that. Therefore we removed the covenant.' It did not actually answer the question. So I take the opportunity to again ask: on what basis did DHA and Defence agree that it was no longer necessary to prohibit the sale of land to the private sector while the SASR was maintained at Swanbourne? What changed that makes this no longer a consideration?

Mr Brocklehurst : At this point the covenant has not been changed. It remains intact and unchanged since that version that was done in 2001.

Senator CONROY: But you are in the process of removing it. You have agreed to remove it.

Mr Brocklehurst : The principles that were agreed with Defence for the development of the concept would, if it all flows through to occur, require a change to the covenant, but that has not happened yet.

Senator CONROY: So the change to the covenant is driven by the money involved in flogging off some of the land to the private sector.

Ms Dermatossian : The covenant requires the minister's consent to lift it off Seaward Village before that occurs.

Senator CONROY: I understand that, but the department and DHA have both agreed between themselves that it has to be removed and, other than me saying it is about the money, I have not heard a single other argument about why it should be lifted.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Senator, I do not think you are going to get an answer without a representative from Defence's Estate and Infrastructure Group present here at the committee hearing, so it would perhaps be appropriate to take it on notice.

Senator CONROY: Sure. I am happy for Defence to take it on notice. I have DHA in front of me. They are 50 per cent of the parties who have agreed. I am sure they are very familiar with why they decided to go down this particular path.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Indeed, but, as with this letter, you are only seeing a part of the issue, so I think we are having a very segmented conversation.

Senator CONROY: That is just an accident. I accept entirely that it is not anything other than an accident, but I will pursue as much information from DHA as I can gather. I am happy for you to take the Defence side of it on notice. Who was involved in these discussions? Were ministers or assistant ministers involved?

Senator Payne: Recently?

Senator CONROY: It was probably prior to your time. I was going to ask: have you now been brought up to speed on it? But who was involved previously in the discussions around the covenant?

Senator Payne: I am happy to take advice on that and come back to you.

Senator CONROY: I am sure DHA would know. Just so you are aware, Minister, I have actually gone to a meeting in the assistant defence minister's office on this issue with a string of people, so there are a lot of people who have been involved.

Senator Payne: Thank you. Then you have just answered your own question, at least in part.

Senator CONROY: No, I was not involved in the discussion on the covenant.

Senator Payne: Okay.

Senator CONROY: But who was involved in the discussion on the covenant? You, obviously.

Mr Brocklehurst : The principles that the development concept is based on were agreed between Defence and DHA and were submitted through to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence.

Senator CONROY: Thank you. Minister, you have now read and heard a little bit about it.

Senator Payne: Yes.

Senator CONROY: Are you in a position to give us your thoughts?

Senator Payne: No, I am going to seek further advice.

Senator CONROY: In question on notice 25(c) from budget estimates in June this year, I asked:

Will the redevelopment proposal need to be assessed by the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (PWC)?

DHA responded:

This project will be assessed by the Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in accordance with their regulations.

Could you now please clarify the following: what is meant by 'in accordance with their regulations'? It is a DHA answer, so I am just asking you to explain your answer.

Mr Brocklehurst : My understanding of that would be that it would be in accordance with their regulations that would determine whether or not the proposal needs to go to the PWC.

Senator CONROY: Does that mean it will be assessed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works?

Mr Brocklehurst : My understanding is that it would not need to be, on the basis that it is an off-base project and off-base projects are not funded by Defence.

Senator CONROY: So it is off base, so they cannot assess it, then. They can consider it, but they cannot assess it and make a proposal or give a recommendation.

Mr Brocklehurst : That would be my understanding.

Senator CONROY: Okay. In view of the very strong concerns expressed and the doubts cast on the financial and economic necessity for your concept, do you agree it would be in the interests of good relations with your customers to ask the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to conduct an inquiry?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Senator, could I just inquire: in that question, were you asserting the strong economic doubts or were you asking?

Senator CONROY: I was saying: in view of the very strong concerns expressed and the doubts cast on the financial and economic necessity for the concept that has been put forward, do you agree it would be in the interests of good relations with your customers to ask the committee to conduct an inquiry?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Could I ask whom you are quoting?

Senator CONROY: I have met with a number of families—I am constantly contacted by them. I had some discussions prior to you becoming Chief with the assistant minister and some officials from DHA, who are possibly here now—I think the CEO was there, and possibly a couple of others—where we discussed the economics of the concept as well. I have been involved directly in discussions about it.

My question is, given all these concerns, do you think the committee should have a look at it more thoroughly than a tick and flick?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Are you expressing your concerns or are you expressing the concerns of others?

Senator CONROY: I am expressing the very strong concerns of others and the doubts cast on the financial and economic necessity for your concept. I think it has just been done to make money for DHA. I think that, if you measure the two or three different alternatives, DHA are just penny pinching.

Lt Gen. Campbell : It might be worth asking DHA about their cost estimates for the maintenance of those houses.

Senator CONROY: I have, and they have taken me through all their different proposals. I am just saying that it should all be aired at a public hearing. I am aware of the finances, and, as I said to you, even after they finished explaining it to me, I turned to them and said, 'This just looks like you need to finance something else and you are going to sell off part of this land.' There is no serious case that they cannot upgrade and improve them and the families are strongly objecting in the constant communication I am getting. I do not think that a financial case has been made.

Senator Payne: Whether it is a hearing or a briefing, I am sure we can assist by making appropriate officials available.

Senator CONROY: I think Senator Gallacher is more familiar with this particular committee than I am.

Senator SMITH: I am the chairman, actually.

Senator CONROY: In fact, we have the chair with us.

Senator Payne: You are the chair of Public Works, yes?

Senator SMITH: Yes.

Senator CONROY: There you are. All I am saying is to let the Public Works Committee do its job, rather than, as has been pointed out—

Senator Payne: I will leave that in the hands of the Senate and the senators.

Senator SMITH: Defence Housing Association is exempt from scrutiny by the Public Works Committee.

Senator CONROY: So we need your permission, Minister, for the committee to have a look at it.

CHAIR: Perhaps the minister might consider that.

Senator Payne: I will indeed. Thanks, Chair.

CHAIR: Senator Conroy, can I go to Senator Smith on the same topic of Seaward Village? We will come back to you if we need to.

Senator CONROY: Sure.

Senator SMITH: My questions are related to Seaward Village as well, and I think it is important that I disclose that I am an honorary member of the association of the SAS regiment. I want to go to the issue of the security review. In your evidence to Senator Conroy, General Campbell mentioned that the Army has said that—and I am paraphrasing now, so correct me if I have paraphrased incorrectly—if the design security principles were adopted from the security review, then the development at Seaward Village would be free to proceed. What were those design principles?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Could I just make a comment there, Senator?

Senator SMITH: Of course.

Lt Gen. Campbell : My comment earlier in reply to the question from Senator Conroy was, in the absence of members from the Defence Security Agency, to note their comment. They are the authority within Defence with regard to security assessments, and they were indicating that they would have no objection if these design principles that they were proposing in their security review were adopted in the design for the redevelopment of Seaward Village.

Senator SMITH: Let us go back a step: has Defence Housing Association seen the security review?

Mr Wallace : We have been provided with a copy of the security principles.

Senator SMITH: How many security principles are there?

Mr Wallace : I do not have that information in front of me.

Senator SMITH: Can you provide it to me on notice?

Mr Wallace : I could provide the number of principles, yes.

Senator SMITH: Has the proposed development at Seaward Village been changed to accommodate the design principles?

Mr Wallace : Following receipt of the design principles, as well as our ongoing communication with the local community, we have been refining our concept plan. It is still a concept plan that is being further refined as we consider the information collated.

Senator SMITH: When did you receive the security review?

Mr Wallace : I could not tell you the exact date, but it would be somewhere about six weeks ago, perhaps.

Senator SMITH: You have received a security review. It sounds like it is a collection of principles. You have seen those. You have refined the proposal at Seaward Village to accommodate those principles. Were they onerous principles?

Mr Wallace : Some of them were, yes. But we have been able to incorporate those into the concept plan.

Senator SMITH: Could you give us a sense of what the themes of the principles were?

Mr Wallace : I might defer that question to Defence, given the security nature of the information as to whether they are comfortable with that being provided.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again, Senator, I do not have with me that security review or, indeed, the design principles. This will have to be taken on notice to provide you that information from the Defence security and vetting agency.

Senator SMITH: So there were some security concerns?

Mr Wallace : There were principles provided that needed to be addressed. As to the details, as I said before, it would be a question for Defence whether they would like to release those publicly.

Senator SMITH: I just want to go back to the issue of consultation with local stakeholders. I was under the impression—not from the WA state government but from interested constituents—that the Premier had written to the government with a view about Seaward Village. Are you familiar with whether the Premier of Western Australia has written to the government in its broadest forms?

Senator CONROY: We had a bit of discussion earlier.

Senator SMITH: And I am free to ask my question.

Senator CONROY: I am just letting you know in case you had not been here. The minister is saying she has not received it yet.

Senator Payne: No, I said I had not seen it.

Senator SMITH: Am I questioning?

Senator CONROY: I was not trying to split a hair.

Senator Payne: It is a little late for that. I said, Senator Smith, that I understand that, as has been indicated in the media, the Premier had written to me. I have not seen the letter. I am sure it had been received and dealt with. But I had seen the stories.

Senator SMITH: I am sure the Premier would not address a letter incorrectly, but it is not beyond the possibility that it might have gone to Defence Housing Australia.

Senator CONROY: Or he may have given it to the journalist first.

Senator SMITH: Excuse me, Senator Conroy. Has the Defence Housing Australia seen a letter or heard of a letter that the Premier might have written about the Seaward Village proposal?

Mr Brocklehurst : We have seen a copy of the letter from the Premier.

Senator SMITH: You have seen a copy of it?

Mr Wallace : Yes we have.

Senator SMITH: Are you at liberty to disclose the theme or themes of that letter?

Mr Wallace : I have only seen a copy of the letter. It was written in his capacity as the local member for Cottesloe. It just makes reference to would the government consider a refurbishment program continuing.

Senator SMITH: A refurbishment program, as opposed to a redevelopment program, continuing?

Mr Wallace : Correct

Lt Gen. Campbell : I am advised that the department has copy of that letter and is considering it and preparing some advice to the minister on it.

Senator SMITH: Which is the appropriate course of action. There is no issue from me with that from me at all. I want to move on to consultation with families currently resident in Seaward Village and what, if anything, that has involved in recent months.

Mr Wallace : You are talking about Defence families in Seaward Village. Prior to 1 July 2015, Defence had been the lead in communications and engagement with the Defence families in Seaward Village. Since that time we have undertaken a survey of the residents of Seaward Village. Following that, we undertook on 14 September a Defence information session, specifically exclusive for the Defence residents, which outlined our plans for a redevelopment program and the impacts that would have on those residents that attended.

Senator SMITH: Was that briefing on 14 December the refined proposal incorporating the principles that were communicated as part of the security review or was it, let's call it, the unrefined proposal?

Mr Wallace : It was a refined proposal that has been further refined slightly since then.

Senator SMITH: Right, so it does not incorporate the principles that were communicated to you through the security review?

Mr Wallace : It incorporates the key information that is provided in the security review. It has been further refined based on some further information being discussed with Defence on how those principles should be incorporated.

Senator SMITH: In your earlier evidence, you did say that you had received the principles of the security review some six weeks ago or so.

Mr Wallace : Approximately, yes.

Senator SMITH: So that fits. How many families or people attended the briefing?

Mr Wallace : Approximately 30 attendees.

Senator SMITH: And how would you characterise them—wives, soldiers, children, families?

Mr Wallace : A mix of husbands and wives, partners, a few children as well, probably an even split of husbands and wives.

Senator SMITH: What was your assessment of their reaction to the refined redevelopment proposal?

Mr Wallace : The tone of that meeting was actually very positive. There were only a very small number of people who seemed to be against what was going on—probably only two or three. The balance of the group were very interested in how they were going to be housed during the redevelopment and what housing options would be available to them. There certainly seemed to be a lot of interest in a brand new house being provided for them for those that were going to be available at that time.

Senator SMITH: We have had a security review of the redevelopment proposal. I am curious, General Campbell—and I had not seen this letter of 2013 until it was circulated.

Lt Gen. Campbell : Nor had I, Senator.

Senator SMITH: I am curious to know: has a capability review been done? Has a review been done on the impact of the redevelopment and by that I mean the location of civilian people adjacent to SASR families and the relocation of some families into communities or dispersed through communities? Has a capability assessment been undertaken by Army because the letter here does demonstrate—and this letter is only two years ago, dated 15 July 2013. It is clear from this letter that the operational tempo of the SASR is different from other Army elements. I am curious to know: has a capability assessment been done as a result of the redevelopment on the capability of the SASR?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Specifically no, but let me add to that. The greater majority of the families of the personnel who serve at Campbell Barracks live out in the wider Perth community, with only a smaller element of SAS families and then an additional group of other defence families from the Perth area living at Seaward Village. So while a capability assessment has not been undertaken—and I understand when you read this letter you might inquire as such—I would slightly recharacterise your question to ask: has the consideration of defence families living in a community with other Australian citizens around them been undertaken? It has not and, quite frankly, with the great majority of the regiment's personnel living out in the wider Perth community, I am disinclined to think it would be of any value and that capability, in fact, is not affected but for considerations of those design principles which maintain the integrity and security of the barrack area and a maintenance of what ultimately is a village community in Seaward Village, which I think is being maintained by the concepts that have been developed by DHA.

Senator SMITH: Thank you, Sir. I respect your judgment on that. When you say 'a greater majority of the families and smaller element' can you give me an indicative, unless you have it in detail, a sense of proportionality between majority, smaller element and other?

Lt Gen. Campbell : I might be able to. I will have to take that on notice, I think.

Senator SMITH: I am very, very comfortable with it being indicative or with you being a bit circumspect about that information.

Lt Gen. Campbell : I can offer then an indicative proportion. I would think it might be 20 to 25 per cent of the barracks population—something like that. And then you might see Seaward Village occupying 60-40: 60 Campbell Barracks residents; 40 others—something like that.

Senator SMITH: That is helpful. In my final line of questioning I will be very, very brief, Chair. I just want to go to the issue of Campbell Barracks being an enduring facility. It is correct to characterise Campbell Barracks as an enduring facility in terms of the terminology that you would use in Defence and Army?

Lt Gen. Campbell : Again I am going to respond, respectfully, on behalf of Defence and in particular the Defence Estate and Infrastructure Group, who are, within the Department of Defence, if you like, the owners of the facilities of which I am a tenant. Yes, Campbell Barracks would be seen as a long-term location for military personnel and, in this particular instance, for the Special Air Service Regiment.

Senator SMITH: This is the first time I have used the estimates to explore issues around this, but, just to be clear, my interest is simple and it is twofold. The first is the welfare of SASR families at Seaward Village. Secondly, in my role as Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, having given approval to a $225 million redevelopment of Campbell Barracks on top of significant investment that has already been made there over a considerable period of time, anything that has the hint of putting that taxpayer investment at risk and—perhaps not in the short term but over the medium term—forcing or precipitating a discussion about the suitability of that site after there has been a tremendous amount of taxpayer investment is something that I am very, very sensitive to. But thanks very much for your cooperation, General Campbell and Minister. Thanks very much.

Senator Payne: Thanks, Senator Smith.

CHAIR: Colleagues, we just have to formally table the letter provided to us.

Senator CONROY: I will try to be as quick as I can. I do not have too much left, so that is the good news. You will recall that DHA committed to conduct a full survey of ADF personnel living at Seaward Village in June last year. When asked about this issue during the budget estimates in June 2014, Mr Howman said:

Before any final decisions are made we will be going back to the members. And, more importantly, we will be going back to the spouses and the families of the members who actually live there while the members are away.

DHA also undertook to conduct a formal survey, and again I quote:

We will do a survey. It is not hard to do. We will do a formal survey as well as the informal surveys.

When we next discussed it at the following year, at budget estimates in June 2015, it emerged that there had been focus groups but not a survey. Has DHA now conducted or arranged for the conduct of formal and/or informal surveys specifically and solely for SASR residents of Seaward Village, aimed at getting a full picture of everyone's views?

Mr Wallace : Yes, we have.

Senator CONROY: It was stated in a response to question on notice No. 10 from budget estimates in June 2015:

Focus groups have highlighted that some residents may be unhappy about relocating.

But during our June hearing Ms Dermatossian said:

One of the outcomes of the focus groups of the Seaward Village residents is that they are happy to relocate on the village as long as they remain on the village.

So there seem to be two different interpretations of those focus groups. Then it really does come back to needing a full survey, so I want to understand that we are on the same page and what we both mean by the words 'conduct a survey'.

Mr Wallace : DHA conducted a survey. The survey was prepared internally by DHA with input from Defence and Defence Families of Australia as well as Special Operations Command headquarters.

Senator CONROY: What constituted that?

Mr Wallace : The survey has a number of questions. We would happily provide a copy of the specific questions.

Senator CONROY: If we could get it tabled, that would be great, thank you. You have indicated that you have completed that survey. It went to each resident—each home on the village?

Mr Wallace : The survey was conducted of the entire posting location. However, there were specific questions that were available only to residents of Seaward Village. We took the opportunity to create a wider survey.

Lt Gen. Campbell : This is an important point which I was particularly keen to see considered because, on posting cycles, not only are the current residents of Seaward Village eligible to be residents of Seaward Village but in proportion, roughly speaking, as it stands now between families of Special Air Service Regiment members and families of other Defence personnel in the Perth area, non-Seaward Village residents or persons coming into the Perth area both for the Special Air Service Regiment and for the wider Defence community are all nominally potential residents of Seaward Village either now or into the future. So absolutely the views of Seaward Village residents matter, but so do the views of other SAS Regiment families and other members of Defence within the Perth region matter. That is why that wider view was taken.

Senator CONROY: Sure. I enjoy the description. Is it possible to isolate out of the survey just the responses from the current residents of Seaward Village?

Mr Wallace : Yes, it is.

Senator CONROY: What was their response solely? Not the whole survey—what was their response?

Mr Wallace : The key information that came out of the survey—there is a lot of detail. However, of the 61 responses from residents of Seaward Village—

Senator CONROY: Out of how many?

Mr Wallace : 61 responses out of 153 properties—59 per cent of respondents were in favour of a redevelopment; 21 per cent were neutral or had no opinion; and 20 per cent were against a redevelopment.

Senator CONROY: Have you circulated those results?

Mr Wallace : We advised the Defence community at that information session of those results.

Senator CONROY: I also understand from the answer to question on notice No. 22 from budget estimates in June 2015—I think you may have now done that. You have now notified everybody of those results? I think you indicated that you told the Defence community, so that means you have told the families the results?

Mr Wallace : The results were presented at the information session to those that attended.

Senator CONROY: How many was that? Last time we had a discussion about how many attended it was—

Mr Wallace : About 30.

Senator CONROY: less than 10 and more than five. That was my recollection of last time.

Mr Wallace : Sorry, this is the survey results we are talking about.

Senator CONROY: Yes. But you are saying that a larger group of residents turned up.

Mr Wallace : About 30 people attended the Defence information briefing session which was about the wider development, where we advised those key information results from the survey.

Senator CONROY: Okay, but my recollection is that those groups that you previously held were composed of more than just residents.

Mr Wallace : They were the focus groups conducted back in April.

Senator CONROY: So this meeting you held was of the residents only, and 30 residents turned up?

Mr Wallace : Correct.

Lt Gen. Campbell : In the interests of a complete view, I do think it is reasonable to suggest that that wider Perth residency view also be offered.

Senator CONROY: I am happy for a summary to be tabled.

Lt Gen. Campbell : They are all potential residents of Seaward Village.

Senator CONROY: I do not disagree that one day some of them may be there. I am happy for you to take it on notice and give us a summary of the total findings across all of the cohorts, both residents and non-residents.

Lt Gen. Campbell : My point here is that I think some of them are not residents of Seaward Village now—potentially, as I read the data, because it is less attractive to them at the moment but it would become more attractive to them.

Senator CONROY: I appreciate that that could be the case. Hopefully we will see that in the summary that we will get from DHA. According to the Nedlands city council minutes of 22 September, the council voted unanimously to close Sayer Street from 26 July 2016 for the following reasons:

i. to reinstate the area to its original natural state for park and recreational use;

ii. to address a serious concern regarding a major increase in traffic on Sayer Street post development of Seaward Village;

iii. because the planning of the new subdivision can incorporate a secondary access road without impacting on current residents.

That is, I think, the resolution. I understand also that there was a DHA representative at the council meeting and that he spoke against the motion. Is that correct?

Mr Wallace : That is correct.

Senator CONROY: What implications, if any, does the council position on the closure of Sayer Street have for the Seaward redevelopment project?

Mr Wallace : Sayer Street is an integral part of the Seaward Village redevelopment and also of Seaward Village as it is today. Any development site or existing residential area requires two access points. The information that council stated about there being another option available is incorrect: DHA is not aware of any secondary access point. However, what council has started is a process to close Sayer Street, which will trigger community consultation and referrals through to state government, which is an appropriate method to assess whether Sayer Street should remain open or be closed.

Senator CONROY: I am happy to place the rest of my questions on notice, given the time.

CHAIR: That concludes the committee's interrogation of Defence Housing.