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Thursday, 1 December 1960

Mr HASLUCK (CURTIN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Territories) - Matters concerning the relationships between the Government and the Public Works Committee are under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Works. I will not attempt to cover ground which he can himself cover. The House may find it instructive, however, if I give some brief information about this project. After the honorable member for the Northern Territory asked a question about it yesterday, I checked up on the figures, as I promised him I would. I find that the real problem has been related to steadily mounting financial commitments in respect of this work. As long ago as 1953, as Minister for Territories, I approved of the building of this school at a cost of £175,000, a figure below that for projects that are usually referred to the Public Works Committee. When the project reached the design stage, however, additions of various kinds were made to the basic requirements of the client department, and because of the mounting estimates of cost the project missed Budget after Budget, because we could not accommodate it within the total amounts available for the works programmes of the Northern Territory.

Finally, early in 1958, we reached a stage at which there were three different proposals before the Northern Territory Administration. Using round figures, the proposals were for schools costing £541,000, £419,000 and £353,000. The Northern Territory Administration, after considering the various proposals, expressed its preference for the third and cheapest proposal - for a school costing £353,000. It was that proposal which was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Works. When the report on the matter emerged from the committee, a project which we had hoped would cost £353,000 had become a project costing £557,000, as a result of certain additions and proposals made by the committee. When a further estimate was made and this proposal was ready for submission to Cabinet earlier this year, the estimate presented to Cabinet was £630,000 for a school for 500 children. Cabinet, in its first reaction, asked that this cost be reexamined to see whether some reduction could be made, but the only offer for economy that was made in redesigning was a reduction of £20,000.

In those circumstances Cabinet, knowing quite well that a school for 500 children costing £630,000 could not be accommodated within the prospective works programme of the Northern Territory, and wanting to have the school as early as possible, made two decisions. One decision was to delete from the present stage of construction an assembly hall costing £175,000. The Public Works Committee, in its wisdom, had proposed that an assembly hall sufficient for 1,000 children should be included in stage one of the school. Cabinet decided that the building of the assembly hall for 1,000 children should be deferred, and the reduction made on the current proposal was £175,000. So the assembly hall will go in at the second stage of the building of this school when funds are available. The other question to which Cabinet addressed itself was that of air-conditioning or mechanical cooling by forced draught ventilation or natural ventilation. In the upshot it was-found that we could not return to natural ventilation because of the way in which the school had been designed, and so the choice was between air-conditioning or mechanical cooling through forced draught ventilation. Again, for reasons of trying to accommodate the whole project within our financial resources, we saved £68,000 by a choice of mechanical ventilation instead of air-conditioning.

In the upshot, Cabinet's decision was to reduce the estimated expenditure, in round figures, by £243,000, and to put to design a school which, on current estimates, will cost £440,000, plus surrounding services such as water, sewerage and preparation of the site, which will probably bring the cost of the school to about £480,000. 1 remind the House that we have to cut our suit according to our cloth. At the present time this is a school, for which, immediately, approximately 300 secondary school students are available. At the time of completion about 500 secondary school children will be available and, as the population of the Territory grows, successive stages of the school will be undertaken. I think that gives the full history of the project and the reason why Cabinet has deferred the building of the large assembly hall at a cost of £175,000 and has chosen mechanical ventilation instead of air-conditioning.

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