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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5215

Senator MICHAEL BAUME (5.53 p.m.) —I want to deal with the report relating to the relocation of the Australian Hydrographic Office to Wollongong, New South Wales. Having had a long association with the Illawarra region as my office is in Wollongong, naturally I am keen to see anything that will alleviate the high levels of unemployment in the Illawarra region. I have a concern, however, that Wollongong should not receive unfair treatment ahead of other areas with massive unemployment, for example, the Newcastle region, which I understood was one of the three location options put to the Minister when this whole proposition of moving from the present north Sydney premises was first raised.

  The three locations were Leichhardt in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. According to the report, these were subjected to detailed financial evaluations using discounted cash flow techniques. The aim was to determine the financial attractiveness of the options by comparing receipts and expenditures with a view to generating a net cash flow over a 12-year period and which, when discounted back, would yield a discounted net present cost.

  The figures I had seen from the Navy many months ago indicated that Newcastle was a far cheaper option than Wollongong. It was on that basis that I reluctantly said that it seemed to me to be unfair to give Wollongong this project ahead of Newcastle as both had suffered the same social and economic disasters and that a judgment had to be made based on where the greatest benefit would accrue for the least cost.

  Strangely, this report does not further mention Newcastle at all. There is no indication of how it relates to the cost. All we find out is that, if the Department were to select Leichhardt over Wollongong, the Department would be $1.8m better off over 12 years. In other words, it is cheaper to move it to Sydney than to send it to Wollongong.

Senator Reid —Where is it now?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —This report recommends that it go to Wollongong.

Senator Reid —Where from?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —From Sydney. In present net value terms, the report says that, having regard to the time value of money, the difference between Leichhardt and Wollongong, which is about $150,000 per year to the disadvantage of the Department, is considered to be marginal in the context of the benefits produced by the organisation. My concern is this: why is it up to the Department of Defence to provide funding for what is a good purpose, that is, to provide assistance in alleviating unemployment in Wollongong? Why is it not open to the Government through its other funding mechanisms to provide that sort of assistance if it needs it? Why does this report totally ignore the Newcastle option which, on the original figures, was far cheaper than the Wollongong option? All I want is for Wollongong to get this on its merits or else for it to be funded by a proper funding structure by way of specific assistance. It is grossly improper for decisions of this kind to be made for what appear to be political reasons if there are good, social and sound—

Senator Calvert —That is why we voted against it.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Yes, but on the other hand I think it is proper for the Government to look at providing specific assistance to projects like this if it wants to put them there for sound social reasons. There is a sound social reason for this office going to Wollongong, but it should not be done at the expense of the Defence Department. It should be as a result of deliberate and determined policy decisions by the Government out of funds specifically appropriated for the purpose. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

  Leave granted; debate adjourned.