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Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 686

Senator MacGIBBON —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of the critical shortage of essential equipment for the Australian defence forces, why is the Government wasting $4.1m of the defence budget on a new 36-bed hospital for the Defence Force Academy in Canberra, complete with operating theatre, central sterilisation and all accoutrements? Given that the reason for the hospital is to serve the needs of only 1,400 superbly fit young men and women who are officer cadets, and given that Canberra has an oversupply of hospitals, hospital beds and associated facilities to the extent that there is over capacity equal to one unused hospital in this city at present, how does the Government justify this action?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I recall this question being directed to me in the context of the Estimate Committee hearings, and I have had a subsequent opportunity to raise the matter with the Minister for Defence. Although I do not have a detailed written briefing in front of me at the moment, the short answer is that the project has been very carefully evaluated as to its cost as compared with other available options utilising beds within the Canberra area. It has been the subject, I understand, of consideration by the Public Works Committee of this Parliament and has been approved by this Parliament. I further understand that the rationale for the project not only has to do with the availability of immediate medical resources to the personnel at the proposed Defence Academy, but also is perceived as having some utility as a training facility for medical personnel in a variety of different situations. They are the reasons which underlie the decision, but I will seek a supplementary response from the Minister for Defence if he wants to add anything further in reply to Senator MacGibbon's question.