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Monday, 23 November 2009
Page: 8616


Senator McLUCAS (8:43 PM) —On behalf of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I present the sixth report of 2009, Redevelopment of the Villawood Immigration Detention Facility, and the seventh report of 2009, Referrals made August to October 2009, and seek leave to move a motion in relation to the reports.

Leave granted.


Senator McLUCAS —I move:

That the Senate take note of the reports.

This report addresses the Redevelopment of Villawood Immigration Detention Facility project, jointly proposed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at an estimated cost of $186.7 million.

The Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is an essential component of Australia’s immigration detention infrastructure and is in urgent and critical need of upgrade. The committee found that the current centre is largely inappropriate for housing people under administrative detention. It looks and feels like an antiquated prison, offering little recreation space and very little individual privacy. The committee is well aware of the importance of this facility to Australia’s migration system and was concerned to ensure that the redeveloped centre would both be operationally effective and respect the rights of detainees. The report’s nine recommendations focus on this outcome.

The committee has recommended that the proposed works proceed, with some recommendations to be implemented immediately, including providing a lockable space for detainees and ceasing use of the loudspeaker paging system, as in our view it breaches the privacy of detainees. However, the committee has reserved its judgment over certain elements of the project, recommending that the final designs and costings be brought to the committee prior to construction commencing. This is because the committee is not confident that the existing buildings can either be adequately retrofitted to afford dignity to detainees or cope with surge conditions.

In addition, the committee was concerned that no decision has been made on the stage 1 high-security facility, which we were told would be phased out of use. This facility is so inappropriate that the committee has recommended that it be demolished. The committee has also recommended that, in line with the centre being renamed the Villawood Immigration Detention Facility, the accommodation sections within it be renamed more appropriately to help break down some of the institutional culture of the place.

The committee was pleased to note that, as a result of its 2005 inquiry into the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre, DIAC has written standards for the design of immigration facilities. In recognition of the importance of this document, the committee has recommended that it be accredited by Standards Australia to ensure that all future facilities are of the highest possible standard. The committee received submissions from local residents concerned about security and site management, and we have recommended that the proponent agencies work more closely with the local council and residents throughout the redevelopment.

Finally, the committee met with a group of detainees while at the VIDC. This meeting informed many of the committee’s deliberations on the state of the current centre, and the committee is grateful for their input. I would like to thank senators and members for their work in relation to this inquiry, and I commend the report to the Senate.

The second report I table this evening is entitled Referrals made August to October 2009. The report addresses six works, located from Queensland to Afghanistan and from Sydney to Paris. Unfortunately, we did not do an inspection in Paris! Together, these projects represent $1.7 billion of infrastructure investment. In each case, the committee has recommended that the House of Representatives agree to the works proceeding.

The works in this report are: Defence housing at the Gordon Olive Estate in McDowall, Brisbane for Defence Housing Australia at an estimated cost of $27.2 million; Defence housing on Larrakeyah Barracks in Darwin, also for DHA, at an estimated cost of $52.4 million; a midlife engineering services refurbishment of the Australian Embassy in Paris for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade at an estimated cost of $28.3 million; the Enhanced Land Force Stage 2 Facilities Project for the Department of Defence at 12 Defence bases and training areas across Australia at an estimated cost of $1.457 billion; the redevelopment of Tarin Kowt in Afghanistan, also by the Department of Defence, at an estimated cost of $86.4 million; and the tropical marine research facilities in Townsville and Cape Ferguson near Townsville for the Australian Institute of Marine Science at an estimated cost of $49.5 million.

This report demonstrates the breadth of projects regularly considered by the committee, and the committee is pleased to table a report that is so diverse in both its subject matter and the geographical locations of the proposed projects. The works approved by the committee in this report will help protect Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan, develop internationally unique marine research facilities, provide housing for members of the ADF and their families and ensure the viability of one of Australia’s best known embassy buildings as well as providing the Army with facilities for its expansion.

The committee was pleased throughout the inquiry process to have a number of submissions from members of the public about projects under consideration. We are particularly pleased to note that practical solutions to some project issues were developed through discussion amongst witnesses and proponents at the hearings. The committee will continue to promote broader community consultation and discussion as an essential part of all projects, as members have seen repeatedly how this leads to tangible results.

In respect of the Enhanced Land Force Stage 2 Facilities Project, for example, the committee has recommended the Department of Defence develop a consultation protocol to ensure that it mirrors consultation required under routine local planning procedures. This is particularly important for Defence given the constraints that are increasingly imposed on established bases by growing urban areas. There is sometimes a tension between competing priorities and, whilst everyone demonstrates considerable interest in working toward practical and workable solutions, the committee is of the view that Defence needs to follow a predictable consultation plan that allows community members with an interest in a project to have input. The consultation protocol would also allow local governments and, where relevant, state governments to be provided with information about a proposal prior to the planning works getting to finalisation.

Given the obvious diversity of projects considered by the community, it is worth noting some common threads running through the proposed works. In each case, the committee has sought to ensure that agencies plan and design facilities with reference to local climate and weather conditions. The committee has also placed an emphasis on the environmental sustainability of each project as a whole, including demolitions, adaptive reuse, new construction and ongoing use of facilities. The committee inquired about the flexibility of projects and the capacity for future expansion of planned facilities as well as their impact on local communities. The committee was pleased to note that agencies are attentive to these considerations throughout the planning, design and construction process.

I again thank senators and members for their work on these various inquiries. As this will be the last report to the parliament of 2009, I take this opportunity to also thank the secretariat for their excellent work over the year. It is our view as a committee that we should deal with matters that are brought before us in a very timely way. I particularly want to thank the secretariat for assisting the committee to deal quickly and efficiently, but also fulsomely, with proposals that are brought to us. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.