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Doorstop interview of the Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill [together with Gary Nairn MP and Senator Gary Humphries]: Bungendore, New South Wales: 1 September 2004: New headquarters joint operations command.

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TRANSCRIPT SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate




1:45pm, Wednesday 1 September 2004

E&oe____________________________new Headquarters Joint Operations Command

Senator Robert Hill

Well firstly to my two colleagues can I say how pleased I am to inspect the site for which we’re going to build the new operational headquarters for the Australian Defence Forces. It is a very important project in terms of defence of Australia. We’ll be co-locating some eight different headquarters that are currently located across the country. The most important of course will be the co-location of the maritime headquarters, the Air Force’s headquarters and also the Army. But all sorts of ancillary bodies will join with them. And it will enable us to develop a state-of-the-art operational headquarters which will better integrate each of the three Services and allow the sort of connectivity which is necessary for today’s Defence. There has been trend in this direction across the world to bring different Services together and for jointness and then to link up with (inaudible) strategic operational capabilities together through co-locations such as this.

This is the first time that I have been able to visit the site so I just wanted to put on record my appreciation to the owner because the acquisition process is not complete and it is good of him to allow us to inspect the premise. It will be a $300 million project so it’s very big. It’s pretty big in Australian terms let alone regional terms. We will construct headquarters building, three stories here. The expected daily work force will be around 1000 men and women, but on occasions it could get up to about 1200. We identified the area for this site after an exhausted process actually about three years ago, three years ago now. We’ve been through, been engaged since then and selecting the detailed location then in the environmental assessment process which is now very well advanced, the final reports are with the Minister for Environment. Also we have gone through all the initial engineering studies, we’ve taken the matter to the public accounts - the public affairs committee - sorry Public Works Committee and they’ve just brought down their report earlier this month as well.

And what we now have is a decision by Defence on the final three contestants for the task which will be not only to construct but also to support the new … finance, to construct, finance and support the new facility for a period of 30 years. It has been a project not surprisingly of great interest to both constructing and finance sectors within Australia because of its size and also because this will be by far the


largest privately financed greenfield site construction for the Australian Defence Force. So the finance sector is obviously hoping that this will be a precedent for the future and are very keen to win in this first major opportunity. But after detailed analysis and I think quite a difficult task for the project team and the probity support team and the governance board and all of the others within Defence who have this difficult task, they have reduced those who responded to the request proposals down to three consortia and we can announce the three consortia today. First is Australian Defence Capability Partnership and I think Bauldistone Hornibrook is the name there that people will recognise. I think it is pronounced Praeco and Leighton’s are the name there that’s familiar and Synersec that’s the Multiplex group, so three well known construction organisations will compete for the final, in the final contest to be selected to do this job.

So what’s the timing? We now are looking for building works to start about the middle of next year and we are looking to be in occupation of the site about two years after that. So we’ve got another two years of hard work to get to that point. And my colleagues will no doubt talk about the regional significance but 1000 jobs located here bringing Defence personnel from across Australia to this region must be good for the region, not only in the build stage but also for the ongoing operations here.

Can I just conclude by thanking those in the Department, uniformed and non-uniform, for the hard work they have put in to date. And to thank my colleagues and also those within the community that have been supportive, there has been detailed consultation with the local government community and other community groups and we want to bring the community with us in this project. It’s a very exciting project as I said in terms of the defence of Australia and our Government’s are very pleased to be associated with it.

Gary, one Gary - which Gary wants? Gary - it’s your electorate.

Member for Eden-Monaro Gary Nairn:

Thanks Minister. It’s certainly is a very significant project for the region that I represent and beyond as well. The project being the biggest capital works project in this area since new Parliament House. This probably puts it into perspective. It’s something like about 50 per cent bigger than the National Museum project as well. That in itself obviously has great benefits for Queanbeyan and the region. And then the ongoing aspect of 1000 odd jobs here, those people are all basically coming, all those positions are all coming elsewhere, they have to live somewhere, shop somewhere, their kids have to go to school somewhere and that’s certainly a huge benefit for the future. But I think also the other aspect which probably isn’t been thought about too much yet is the flow on affect for other businesses in servicing such a major facility in the region and also for attracting defence related businesses to this region. We are very well placed to attract Defence-related businesses to this region. We’re very well placed to attract new businesses in the region. We want them to interact with Defence. Queanbeyan already has some very smart technology businesses there that are involved already with Defence and I think defence is a great opportunity to expand on that.


ACT Senator Gary Humphries

I can only confirm my delight that this decision is proceeding, that another tangible step has been taken today to bring forward the construction of this extremely important facility. Gary Nairn has indicated how significant this is from the point of view of the economy of this region. Many, many families would be affective


positively by a construction of this scale and by a workforce of this size coming into our region and we know, well both of us know as local members that that’s going to be very important in sustaining the viability of businesses and operations throughout our region. And I thank the Minister particularly for the Defence dimension of this decision. It is obviously important in Australia enhancing its security profile of this time. It’s sometimes said by our opponents that the federal Liberal government disfavours the national capital. I have to say Minister if this is an example of disfavouring the national capital, disfavour some more please.

Senator Hill:

How about another $300 million?

Senator Gary Humphries:

Yes, keep it coming please. So I’m delighted and I thank the government for it’s support for this project in this region.

Senator Hill:

Any questions?


Yes, I would like to pop in and ask, it has been suggested that you have had two bites of the cherry. This centre was announced back before the 2001 election and what we are hearing today is in fact a shortlist of tenders, no successful tenders to move it forward?

Senator Hill:

Well we think it is a very significant step forward obviously. I think there were some who wondered whether the project would progress, it’s very expensive and quite complicated in terms of the ADF. Achieving jointness is easily said in principle but it’s no so easy implemented in practice. The fact that the whole of the ADF is so strongly on board now I think that it is a positive outcome in that regard. But getting to the shortlist I think will demonstrate to anyone who is still a little sceptical that this is actually happening. As I said the building works are now scheduled to start half way through next year, finished in two years and we will have 1000 people working here on a daily basis.



Senator Hill:

I’m not sure, by early next year, about March I think. It will be a vigorously fought contest. It will be very tight. I know it will be a difficult choice to make, three very competitive organisations.

Mr Nairn:

Can I just comment further on the first point Minister if I could? To put it also in perspective that where some have said it has taken three years and two elections to make further decisions - currently in Queanbeyan there is a proposal to upgrade the Queanbeyan hospital which is in fact a $30 million project compared to this one is a $318 million project and effectively they haven’t got as far in three years as this project has got in three years. So it probably pulls capital works into some perspective to what, as to why it takes the time that it does and certainly such a complicated complex sort of project like this you don’t do in five minutes.



Regarding the infrastructure to support this development, Kel Watts seems to think that it won’t be up to scratch and therefore the benefits may be lost and people might be using Canberra rather this electorate. What do you say to that?

Mr Nairn:

It sounds like a fairly uninformed view. But it is interesting that every time we have made a significant step forward with this project the only people that have tried to pour some cold water on it is the Labor party. And I think you have to really question whether they actually do have a commitment to the project and I think people understand that in the forth coming election who really has a commitment to it. I’m confident that the infrastructure is here in the region and it is a regional project. Nobody’s trying to keep this project on one block of land. It is a regional project. The benefits for the electorate that I represent - the broader part of it,

Queanbeyan, Bungendore - that region as well as the ACT. And we have never hidden that and I think that is really the most positive thing about - is that the whole region can benefit from this greenfields project.


Mr Watt’s actually been pushing too that about 70 per cent of the people, quite a high percentage, will live in Canberra so in a sense all the support that you would expect for child care centres, the schools, the money going to local grocery shops would be going into Canberra rather than the Queanbeyan and marginal Eden-Monara seat that you represent?

Mr Nairn:

Well more uninformed views by the sound of it I have to say. Because nobody knows at this stage exactly where everybody will be located. And at the moment we have Defence facilities at Russell, at Weston Creek, there are people living at Jerrabomberra, there’s people living at Queanbeyan, there’s people living Tuggeranong, Belconnen. People will ultimately live where they want to live in the region and the whole region does benefit as a result. Queanbeyan people travel into Canberra, Canberra travel into Queanbeyan, we are really one region in that sense. But Queanbeyan particularly is well located to benefit greatly because it basically sits nicely between this project and Russell. And many of the people working will probably work in Russell, get a promotion to work out here towards Bungendore, as they go up the Defence ladder they might get a promotion and go back to Russell for another year then come back here. So on that basis I think Queanbeyan is well placed market the housing, the shopping and everything else for people in that circumstance.


The other question I should ask you too is that the Queanbeyan City Council or Greater Queanbeyan, they’ve changed there name again, they’re lobbying for about $40 million to spent to upgrade the road, they’re concerned that there is going to

be more accidents, what is the response of the federal government?

Mr Nairn:

Well that’s been well catered for in the EIS and the public works committee report as well. They’ll be certain works being done by this project on Kings Highway to get access to the project. The Kings Highway is a state responsibility road and in fact the Federal government has had $2 million on the table now for about, over three years for the heavy vehicle bypass around Queanbeyan and to this day the NSW government has still only drawn down about $600,000 of that $2 million in over two


years. The road is a State responsibility. I don’t think, and the EIS certainly shows this and the engineering, independent engineering advice clearly shows that this project in itself does not then require a major upgrade of the Kings Highway. The Kings Highway is under pressure every Friday and Sunday for anybody in this area knows by the exodus from Canberra down the coast, down to the other part of my electorate. And the sort volumes of traffic that go along the Kings Highway on a Friday afternoon and then back on the Sunday sort of makes the sort of traffic that we’re are talking about with this project paling into insignificance


So at this stage you would say their claim for $40 million to be pay for the upgrade for a dual highway all the way down to Bungendore would be excessive?

Mr Nairn:

Oh absolutely. And I mean it’s a State issue anyway with the Highway, but the public works committee report called on Defence to work with the NSW RTA and the local council on any aspects and they’ll be doing that for sure.

Senator Hill

Okay? Thanks for coming out.