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Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works
13/10/2021
Department of Defence - Facilities to support LAND 19 Phase 7B Short Range Ground Base Air Defence - RAAF Base Edinburgh - South Australia

BIZJAK, Mr Franc, Project Director, Department of Defence [by audio link]

CHARMAN, Mr Darren, Project Manager/Contract Administrator, RPS Group [by audio link]

GALTON, Brigadier Matt, Director General Capital Facilities and Infrastructure Branch, Department of Defence [by audio link]

GOULD, Brigadier Warren, Director General Systems and Integration, Army Headquarters, Department of Defence [by audio link]

HAZEL, Mr Gary, Design Services Consultant, GHD [by audio link]

SPAVEN, Mr Peter, Cost Planner, Wilde and Woollard [by audio link]

Committee met at 11:00

CHAIR ( Mr Rick Wilson ): I now declare open this public hearing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works into the Department of Defence facilities to support Land 19 phase 7B short-range ground-based air defence capability at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia. In accordance with the committee's resolution, this hearing will be broadcast on the parliament's website, and the proof and official transcripts of proceedings will be published on the parliament's website. I also remind members of the media who may be present or listening to this on the web of the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee.

I now welcome representatives from the Department of Defence. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that these hearings are a formal proceeding of the parliament. Consequently, they warrant the same respect as proceedings of the parliament itself. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. Brigadier Galton, I invite you to make some brief introductory remarks before we proceed to questions.

Brig. Galton : Thanks, Chair. Before I start on the project itself, I just want to extend my condolences, both personally and on behalf of Defence, to the family, friends and colleagues of Senator Alex Gallacher, who we sadly lost in August. Senator Gallacher was always a formidable sparring partner for us in Defence in these committee hearings. He always asked us very insightful, straightforward, professional questions. And, frankly, if our teams didn't have the answers for him, I don't think we deserved to have our projects approved in the first place. It was a great privilege to get to meet Senator Gallacher in the committee, formally, but then also in more informal settings outside of the committee hearings. For me personally, he was quite an inspirational character, having given over a decade of service to the great state of South Australia as a senator and also through his time as a leader in the Transport Workers Union before that. He was fantastic to work with, a true professional, and of great service to the nation for a number of decades. So, again, I just want to pass on my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Senator Gallacher. It's a sad loss. Thank you.

CHAIR: On behalf of the committee, I thank you very much for those kind words, which I'm sure will be much appreciated by his friends, family and colleagues. Okay—moving on to your introductory statement.

Brig. Galton : Thanks, Chair. This project aims to provide fit-for-purpose facilities and infrastructure at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, to enable the 16th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery to raise, train and sustain a new air defence capability. This new capability will be acquired under the Land 19 phase 7B short-range ground-based air defence capability project. This facilities investment directly supports implementation of the 2016 Defence White Paper through the strengthening of strike and air combat capabilities.

The new short-range ground-based air defence capability will provide Australian forces with greater flexibility in responding to threats independently or as part of coalition operations. This capability will be phased into service to replace the existing portable laser-guided surface-to-air missile system currently operated by the regiment. The new capability will be a significantly larger and more sophisticated vehicle-based air defence system. Construction of new facilities is proposed at RAAF Base Edinburgh, as regiment's existing facilities at Woodside Barracks will not be able to support the new capability.

The School of Artillery's Air and Missile Defence Wing, based in Puckapunyal Victoria, will also relocate with the regiment to RAAF Base Edinburgh and provide capability-specific training for the regiment's personnel. The proposed facilities solution includes seven project elements. These are: element 1—site-wide engineering infrastructure required to support the proposed facilities; element 2—a combined regiment, headquarters and training facility for the regiment's executive team and command staff, as well as training for both the regiment and the School of Artillery's Air and Missile Defence Wing; element 3—two mirror-image facilities providing working accommodation and undercover storage for vehicles and equipment for the regiment's two air defence batteries; element 4—a multipurpose facility for the combat service support battery that includes office accommodation, a spare parts store and workshops required to carry out low-level maintenance of the new equipment and facilities; element 5—the quartermaster storm providing warehousing of the regiments wide range of equipment; element 6—a regiment transport facility providing a fenced hardstand compound for storing vehicles when not in use; and finally, element 7—living and accommodation for other ranks' personnel who are minors or within 12 months of completing their initial employment training.

The total cost of the proposed works as listed is an estimated $240 million. The estimate includes construction costs, professional management fees and appropriate allowances for contingencies and escalation. Subject to parliamentary approval, construction is expected to commence no later than December 2022 and is scheduled to be complete by late 2024. As discussed with the committee earlier this morning, Defence is also awaiting approval of Defence's biennial update to government, which is anticipated to be considered early next week. Pending the successful passage of that update, there will be a further funding of around $50 million afforded to this project, where those project elements I just listed off will have some more work done to them, still in line with the scope I have just detailed but a more robust presentation of it with the additional funding. That concludes Defence's opening statement, and we're ready to take questions.

CHAIR: Thank you and thanks for the earlier presentation that the committee received. It was very comprehensive and much appreciated. I will start the questioning by asking you to drill down a little bit more into the decision to move Regiment 16 from the Woodside Barracks to RAAF Base Edinburgh. What's going to happen to the facilities at Woodside and what about the efficiency of the Woodside Barracks?

Brig. Galton : Firstly, the facilities at Woodside Barracks currently just are not fit for purpose for what the new capability requirements will be for the regiment. The equipment's larger, there is more of it requiring greater numbers of personnel. So it is a combination of both the age of the existing facilities at Woodside, the actual footprint and size of the facilities and their capacity, and also the way in which they're constructed are just not conducive to supporting the new capability. That's driven the need to have a new location, and RAAF Base Edinburgh provides the ideal location. It enables that capability to be co-located with other capabilities that are part of Defence's integrated air missile defence capability. And, as I said, it also has the real estate there available to be able to have the size of footprint necessary.

When it comes to the future of Woodside Barracks, no decision has been taken for the disposal of that barracks at all. There will be short-to-medium term need for Woodside Barracks. Defence will be doing an optimisation study now of South Australian bases, and Woodside Barracks is under consideration there. It will be needed for Reserves, cadets and as a staging area. So, as I said, there are no immediate plans to be doing any disposal whatsoever, and Defence will be presenting to government in due course just what the overall plan is for the South Australian bases. But, yes, Woodside Barracks for now does remain a base that will be used by Defence.

CHAIR: I'll throw to the deputy chair, who is a South Australian and who might understand the geography a little bit better around the movement in bases.

Mr ZAPPIA: Just before I ask my questions, as a South Australian, I thank you for your comments about the late Senator Gallacher. Following on from the chair's question about Woodside, can you advise the committee how many permanent Defence members are based at Woodside at the moment?

Brig. Galton : Brigadier Gould can give you the number of the current unit that is up at Woodside now.

Bri g. Gould : Currently, 16 Regiment is at Woodside Barracks. It has a complement of 320 personnel. Between now and 2025 that number will increase by 100. And then, at the end of 2025, with the move to RAAF Base Edinburgh, that unit will total approximately 420 personnel.

Mr ZAPPIA: And that unit will be entirely relocated to RAAF Base Edinburgh. From that answer, I take it that there won't be any permanent staff based at Woodside after 2025.

Brig. Gould : In terms of 16 Regiment, no. The entire complement of 16 Regiment moves to RAAF Base Edinburgh. I understand that there are no other Defence members or public servants at that barracks after that.

Brig. Galton : At the moment, there is no enduring presence on the base from a full-time unit. However, as I've mentioned before, Woodside Barracks will still be retained for the near to medium term—especially given the force structure plans in place, where there may be a requirement for more capabilities in the area. So Woodside Barracks will remain for now, albeit not with a permanent base presence.

Mr ZAPPIA: Sorry I'm not familiar enough with the barracks to have the answer to this myself, but is there accommodation on the barracks for the 320—which will go to 420—or do they live in Defence housing in the surrounding community?

Brig. Galton : It's a mixture of both. There are some living in accommodation there. There are also other members of the regiment who are in their own homes or Defence Housing Australia homes. And there will be others who are on rental assistance who have found their own accommodation. So it's a combination of all those.

Mr ZAPPIA: Thanks for that. My other question relates to the community consultation, and I note that there has been no objection to the works proposed at Edinburgh to date. Am I correct in saying you are meeting with Playford council next week?

Brig. Galton : That's correct. We put out letters to around a dozen local councils, federal members and state members. So far, we've had one request for a briefing—from Nick Champion—and that has been presented. Playford council has also asked for a briefing and we're scheduled to present to them on 19 October.

Mr ZAPPIA: So at this stage we don't know whether Playford council will raise any concerns—in particular, concerns relating to traffic movement on some of the surrounding roads.

Brig. Galton : That's correct. They have accepted the briefing. They haven't raised any concerns with us, but they may raise something during the meeting we have with them—we're not sure. Once we do have that meeting, though, we will definitely be coming back to the committee on how that meeting goes.

Mr ZAPPIA: In respect of the surrounding communities: over the years, there has been some concern in respect of the noise exposure forecast put out by the Royal Australian Air Force and relating to the base. To your knowledge, will the works proposed in any way impact, or possibly change, the noise exposure forecasts?

Brig. Galton : The short answer to that question is no. The noise envelopes that you've alluded to are driven more by the aircraft movements in and out of what is quite a busy air base. So during the construction of the new facilities for 16 Regiment, and also for when 16 Regiment moves into the base, the noise from both will not be in excess of what is currently happening with aircraft movement. When 16 Regiment moves, they won't be conducting any live firing or use any of their systems on the base. They will go out to training areas such as Woomera or Cultana to do that. So there will be no increase in the noise from the base as a result of this project.

Mr ZAPPIA: Over the last couple of years we have, as a committee, approved other works on the RAAF Base Edinburgh. To your knowledge, are there any other substantial works proposed for the base in the foreseeable future—perhaps, over the next five years?

Brig. Galton : The committee saw some of what we've already got planned to be delivered there. There are two Air Force projects—Air 555 and Air 7000—works in support of Air Force's systems of Triton and also the P-8 Poseidons. We are doing facilities work into both those capability projects at RAAF Base Edinburgh. RAAF Base Edinburgh is certainly increasing by way of the footprint between both Army and Air Force on that base.

Mr ZAPPIA: In addition to what you've just advised the committee, do you believe or do you envisage that there may be other works required on that base?

Brig. Galton : Outside of the Air Force ones I listed, there's the potential for more. I'll just pass to Brigadier Gould, who's got a few things he might throw in there.

Brig. Gould : We're moving 16 Regiment to that location. It's seeking to consolidate what we call its fires programs into that base. There are a number of other submissions yet to proceed to government for consideration. There's nothing solid or determined at this point. They're all pre-decision, with government.

Mr ZAPPIA: Thank you for that. That's probably all I have.

CHAIR: Senator Hughes?

Senator HUGHES: I'm fine, thank you, Chair. Mr Zappia was very thorough.

CHAIR: He certainly always is.

Mr ZAPPIA: Just for the public record—I'm sure that the local community would be interested in the question being put on the public record—can Brigadier Galton give us a very quick response to the question of whether the contract is likely to include provisions to ensure that local contractors get work out of what's proposed? In other words, what does it mean for local employment?

Brig. G alton : Yes, most definitely. As is the case for all the contracts that Defence now has for our facilities' major projects, there will be the requirement for each tenderer to submit what's called a local industry capability plan. Those plans require the tenderers to very clearly spell out to us how they intend to engage with the local industry, what their understanding is of that local market, and how they intend to make sure that their construction methodology and the way in which they structure their subcontract packages so that it gives as much opportunity as possible for a local firm to be involved.

We expect industry to define what 'local' means when it comes to the LICPs, the local industry capability plans. I would suspect that what they'll show as being local would be the Adelaide metropolitan area, which would encompass RAAF Base Edinburgh and the surrounds. We estimate—we haven't got the contractor on board yet; we'll go out to the market for the head contract after we've got parliamentary approval—at the moment that they'd use roughly 20 subcontract packages. Our understanding of the South Australian construction market now is that we expect a very high proportion of local subcontractors would be involved, if not the head contractor themselves. There's probably also a pretty good likelihood they'll either be a South Australian firm or, if they're a national firm, one that has quite a large South Australian footprint.

Mr ZAPPIA: Thank you, Brigadier.

CHAIR: Brigadier, for the public record—we've already discussed it in the initial presentation—we're looking here at a project that's scoped to $213 million, but there is the potential for additional funding that would take the full project up to $260 million. For the public record, can you elaborate on what that additional scoping involves and, perhaps, the benefits that getting the project going might bring.

Brig. Galton : The current funding and the current cost estimate are around the $214 million mark. We recognised when we first put that option through to government that only delivering the $214 odd million worth of works wouldn't quite meet the full capability needs for 16 Regiment at RAAF Base Edinburgh. So, as part of its biannual update to government, Defence is seeking another approximately $50-odd million to go towards this project. That will be considered by government early next week. Pending that approval, there are a number of extra elements to look at putting in. As a brief synopsis, the main funding would go towards increasing the live-in accommodation beyond what we're currently looking at now, making some upgrades to existing internal base access roads, some work on [inaudible]. They are the major elements. There is also the construction of a transport facility building. They're the key elements that we'd use the additional funding for out of the biannual update.

CHAIR: Are there any further questions from committee members? Nothing. Alright. Thank you, Brigadier Galton, and your team for your evidence today. You will be sent a copy of your evidence to make any corrections to the transcription. Do you have anything to add before we close?

Brig. Galton : On a personal note, for the public record, this will be my last hearing in front of the committee. I want to thank you and the committee members for your support and your very insightful scrutiny of Defence projects. I know our projects are only the better for it when we prepare to present these to you. I want to thank you for the way in which you've handled these projects and how you've worked with Defence on them. This is my last one, and I'll be handing over to my successor Air Commodore Ron Tilley, who's sitting in the room listening. He'll be taking over the next ones for next year. So thank you, Chair, and thank you, members of the committee.

CHAIR: Thank you, Brigadier Galton. That was going to be my last comment: thanking you for your contribution over the four years that you've been in the position. We've thoroughly enjoyed scrutinising those projects. Thank you for the professionalism with which the information has been prepared. We wish you all the best. Air Commodore Tilley, we look forward to working closely with you over the next little while. With nothing further to add, I now declare this public hearing closed. Thank you all.

Committee adjourned at 11:22