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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3091

Mr GROOM (Braddon) (Minister for Housing and Construction) - I move:

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Rehabilitation of Radio Australia facilities, Cox Peninsula, N.T.

The proposal is to restore the facilities damaged during Cyclone Tracy with a view to allowing resumption of full overseas transmission service by the end of 1982. This proposal comprises repairs to the access jetty and provision of a new wharf head; repair and structural upgrading of buildings including services and provision of limited cyclone-proof accommodation; repairs to overhead electrical power transmission lines, substation and switch yards; repair and replacement of submarine power cables; and the replacement of transmitting aerials, associated transmission lines and switching facilities. The estimated cost of the proposal referred to the Committee was $10m at September 1979 prices, being $6.7m for radio technical equipment and $3. 3m for the civil works component.

In reporting favourably on the proposal, the Public Works Committee has made five observations which deserve some comment. In recommendation 4 the Committee is critical of the fact that the Department of Defence was not consulted when the question of a possible alternative site at Humpty Doo was first considered. I understand that this criticism arises from evidence to the Committee that the Government directed departments to consider alternative sites in May 1977. Subsequent considerations indicated major savings in time and capital costs in favour of the Cox Peninsula site and no significant savings in operational costs for other sites. The decision to proceed at Cox Peninsula was then taken on economic grounds and there was no necessity, at that stage, to consult the Department of Defence. It was not until August 1979 when reassessments indicated the possibility of savings in operational costs for the Humpty Doo area that it was then considered necessary to involve the Department of Defence and this was done promptly.

The Committee also recommends that the Government give early consideration to the installation of a further transmitter at Carnarvon. Preliminary investigations suggest that this is a feasible proposition and it will be considered further. In its final recommendation the Committee indicated that the inland radio service should proceed without delay and that the transmitters should be incorporated into the Radio Australia facilities during the rehabilitation. Provision of a high frequency inland radio service to the Northern Territory had been approved and planning for its installation was well advanced at the time of the cyclone in December 1974. Preliminary planning indicates that the most costeffective way of providing the inland service would be to co-locate it with the Radio Australia facilities at Cox Peninsula. Further detailed propagation studies are being undertaken at present and the timing of the installation will be subject to a satisfactory outcome of these studies and of funding considerations.

A further recommendation in the body of the report on which I wish to comment is contained in paragraph 5 1. It is that the Northern Territory Government be consulted during the design of the new wharf head to ensure that it is adapted, at Northern Territory Government expense, for public use. Preliminary consultations to this end have already been held with the Northern Territory Government. Finally, the Committee notes the possibility that other sites might be more cost effective but believes the time considerations override such possible benefits and recommends construction of the works in the reference. The Government endorses this view and if the House agrees to support this motion, detailed planning can continue in accordance with the recommendations of the Public Works Committee.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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