Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of press conference: Bendigo: Thursday, 20 May 2004: DIGO facility in Bendigo.



Download PDFDownload PDF

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

_______________________________________________________________________________________

PRESS CONFERENCE

Bendigo

2:30pm Thursday, 20 May 2004

E&oe___________________________________________________DIGO facility in Bendigo

Senator Robert Hill

Okay. Well thanks for coming along. As we’ve said in this press release we’ve made some decisions in relation to Fortuna and the future of DIGO in Bendigo. After quite a long period of very detailed study, we’ve decided that the organisation should remain in Bendigo. This facility, whilst the major building of course has wonderful heritage values but it is not suitable for the purpose for which it’s being used. And the temporary accommodation in which most people have been located really outlived its useful life many years ago as well. So the only option really was for us to decide to build a new purpose-built facility and we’ve decided to do that and we will then dispose of Fortuna. We will obviously start a process of discussion with the local council and the various planning and heritage organisations. We would want the building, which is as you know heritage listed, we want it to remain. We want it to be conserved for those values. I’m not sure what other alternative uses would be open but that would come through the period of consultation. We would like it to be a use that allowed the public access. Just glancing at it I can see there’s going to be some major challenges involved in conserving and presentation, but that’s the same with all of these old heritage assets but they’re so special and that they’ve got to be looked after. The new building we don’t have a location for it. That will be part of our discussion and there may be some possibilities with the council and exchange of land. It will as I said be a purpose-built facility so it will have all the necessary communications some of which are lacking at this particular site. We’re not - the principle that the traditional role of map making is changing somewhat as this whole world is moved to digital and electronic presentation, and that’s also then taken into account in this plan. So the new facility will really be better able to accommodate the modern technologies rather than trying to attach them to these very ancient transportable buildings which has been a problem and a lot of areas of this site simply don’t have the appropriate communication with Canberra. So a new building will have all of that built in and it would ensure that as the technological demand continues to evolve in the years ahead and decades ahead, then the new facility would be able to adapt to those changes. Some of the functions will therefore change a bit. We have a very large printing capability which is really greatly under-used. It’s an industrial-size printing capability. We wouldn’t need that in the new building. It would be a different type of printing capability. 133 staff currently employed here, although the budget is for up to 138. We’re not sure what will be the total work force in the new building but it will be something over 110. So it will be somewhere

2

between the 110 and 135. There will be some consolidation of the administrative areas but that’s something we’re doing everywhere in Defence and there are some highly classified, small area of highly classified product that would move to Canberra where it could be consolidated. It really shouldn’t be here in the first place. So there’s a hand full of staff involved in that and they would have the opportunity of relocating to Canberra. Alternatively if they want to stay here we would look at a job swap with other parts of the establishment. In other words, we would try and manage this transformation, we are looking at a period of three years. It’ll probably be two years with the personnel changes, three years to have the new building completed and the staff moved in and operating but within that time we would want to organise any staff changes in a way that best meets the

requirements of the existing staff.

Now one of the reasons we decided to stay here is we have a great deal of value, highly trained and skilled staff and although there were strong arguments in favour of consolidating the whole function, we knew that quite a number of those very valuable staff would not be prepared to move and therefore we’d lose that capability. That’s really one of the principle reasons why we decided to go this route of maintaining a permanent capability here even though it requires the building of a new building to do so. But there may be a few staff that go to Canberra. That’s not unusual and Defence staff go backwards and forwards and all around Australia to different postings and there may be a few voluntary redundancies. We’ve actually got, I wouldn’t say an old aged work force, but as one who is already ageing - as one who is already ageing, I can say an ageing workforce and there may be some who in this, during this process will want to take redundancy, we will accommodate that. I’m not expecting any involuntary redundancies. Building for the future, we’re going to establish a trainee system, so we’ve got young people trained in the new skills and we think we will be able to train five a year. That will give us the flow of new skills that we’re going to need to meet the new capability demands in the future. So I think it’s a good outcome. It has been a lot of work to get to this point, but in terms of giving Defence the capability it needs in the long term, I think we’ve come to the right decision. In terms of treating the workforce here sensitively I think we’ve come to the right decision as well. In terms of giving the heritage back to Bendigo, I think we’ve come to the right decision as well.

Journalist:

How have staff received the news?

Senator Hill:

Well staff are being briefed on it now. It’s an administrative function within the public service.

Journalist:

How close are …

Senator Hill:

I think many will be relieved that they can stay in Bendigo and continue to work here in a new facility.

Journalist:

Was the decision a close run thing or was it just with regards to three different options? We heard there was lots of different possibilities? Was it an easy decision to make or was it a tough one?

3

Senator Hill:

Well we have the room in - the majority of the organisation is in Canberra. We have the room in Canberra. We have all the communications in built already. There were arguments in favour of consolidation, but basically that was outweighed by

the value of the skills and commitment of the existing staff. So then we started to look at well how could you do it within Bendigo, so we said you can’t do it in the current facility. We then had to look at what other options there’d be in that regard. So I put it in terms, the fact that it’s taken us a long time to reach the decision, meant that there were many issues to weight. But in the end I’m confident that we’ve reached the right decision. And both for Defence and for the people who work here and (inaudible).

Journalist:

Inaudible.

Senator Hill:

This type of printing …

Journalist:

… well that effects obviously employees, will they be given opportunities to move into other areas?

Senator Hill:

In the new form of printing, which I don’t understand all the technical, you might better than me, I think there’s about 11 at the moment with the new type of printing, there’s likely to be about 8 jobs. So there might be a couple of people that we’ll invite to work elsewhere in the organisation.

Journalist:

What year do you hope to have the new building up and running?

Senator Hill:

We want to be in and operating within three years from today. So we’ll start the process straight away. We’ve got a fair idea of the sort of building we want, the size of the building and the technical issues in relation to communications and the like so we’ll get on with it straight away.

Journalist:

How much will the building cost, do you know?

Senator Hill:

We think the project is going to cost about $10 million.

Journalist:

You’ve discussed with the city council sites?

Senator Hill:

No. I think - there has been discussion over the years, some general discussion but I’m assured that there are many adequate appropriate sites in the Bendigo region. There have even been discussions as to whether it should be on part of this land because we’ve got in the old language 13 acres of land here. But I think if you start from the point of view of what’s the most appropriate use for this site, would that allow parts of that to be cut off, if so would that be the best location to build a new facility, or might it be better located somewhere else in Bendigo.

4

Journalist:

Apart from the skills base is there any other advantages to having a mapping facility in a location like Bendigo?

Senator Hill:

Not really no. The skills base and the recognition that if the product, if you can get the same outcome within regional Australia then we tend to support it because it’s always so easy to consolidate into the cities and we don’t necessarily think that’s in

the national best interest. But it’s not as if there’s a location issue here or something like that, it’s really that this is where the skills have been built. So if you can accommodate people who have got those skills and who have been very dedicated, why mess up their lives.

Journalist:

Just to clarify then, we’re probably looking at a staff reduction of up to maybe 20.

Senator Hill:

But that may not be so because it’s three years, the work of DIGO overall is growing. They’re having to produce more product and more complex product. So you may well find that new jobs will be created in the next few years as well. So we haven’t taken that into account, the growth prospects.

Journalist:

How important was the lobbying of the staff when they came up to meet you in March? (Inaudible).

Senator Hill:

Well I more or less was heading in this direction anyway. But I was impressed by their commitment. And they talked a lot about the work force and you know in effect not only what they contribute here but what they contribute to the community, how many of them worked in the voluntarily fire agencies and various other community organisations. Which I think reinforces the point that I was making that if you withdraw key capabilities in regional areas, then there is a flow on consequence that’s detrimental. So that tended to reinforce the direction that I was already heading in.

Journalist:

(Inaudible).

Senator Hill:

No.

Journalist:

Is the announcement one the government expects will win it the next election?

Senator Hill:

No I don’t think - I think most people who think about it will see why we’ve made this decision and see that it’s the right decision to take. So if making the right decision wins votes then maybe but it certainly is not designed for that purpose. Okay? Thanks very much.

ENDS