Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Public Works Committee; Report
by leave—The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works has to be one of the busiest committees that I have served on in my 20 years in the parliament, and the chair of the committee, the member for Capricornia, has given credit to the secretariat, given there are projects all over Australia. In this report that we have tabled there are nine projects with an interesting variety, as the member for Capricornia has outlined.
I want to make some brief remarks as to one of the projects included in the report, the construction of a new post-entry quarantine facility at Mickleham in Victoria. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Finance and Deregulation propose to construct the new post-entry quarantine facility. This particular project is of particular interest to my own constituency and I was a little bit disturbed to see the number of witnesses that made submissions to our committee lacking confidence that this new facility would satisfy all the quarantine requirements particularly in regard to the avian industry—so ducks, squabs and all sorts of birds. It is very important to my constituency as it is a huge employer. Significant concerns were raised by the avian industry regarding the co-location of live birds and fertile eggs in the same building. This is not something that they are used to. They go to very particular expense and attention to make sure they are quarantined to ensure there is no transfer of those pathogens that we have heard so much about recently in the media.
The key concern was that the proposal had insufficient isolation between units in the avian facility thus enabling the potential for cross-contamination. I think these concerns came about because a department was not able to explain the details of the air conditioning and the structural separation. So the committee gave consent to the preparation of documentation to enable that explanation to be made to the industry, which still continues to be very concerned about this proposal. At the committee's request DAFF established an expert advisory group to provide independent advice on this matter. We had originally expected that might have taken some time to prepare, so the committee was encouraged that this report had been provided in sufficient time for us to include comments in regards to it in the report and it is now part of the Public Works Committee website. I would urge those witnesses who came to our hearing and gave evidence and made submissions to consult that report because it has been sufficient to establish some confidence among our committee that we are satisfied that their concerns have been addressed.
I would encourage the department to be a little bit more concerned about the expressions of anxiety that have been made. These are the potential customers who will use this facility and I would hate for us to end up spending $293 million of taxpayers' money and have a white elephant on our hands that the industry itself is not prepared to utilise. So I would urge the department to work a little harder on this engagement. The committee has given them the facilities to be able to satisfy the industry and I hope that occurs. I commend this report to the House with those concerns put on the public record.