Thursday, 17 March 2016
Public Works Committee; Approval of Work
I give my warmest regards to the members for Dunkley and Brisbane and thank them for their great contributions to public life. I seek leave to move a motion to approve a proposed work that was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Mr Deputy Speaker, if the government is determined to go ahead with this motion today, we will grant leave and we will not block it. But it is the view of the opposition that not enough information has yet been provided to the parliament to make the case for this decision, and we do caution the government—in terms of the large amount of public money that is involved—that we are currently being asked to act on insufficient information.
I thank the Manager of Opposition Business for granting leave. 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: Fit-out of the new Australian Embassy, Doha, Qatar.
As I advised the House when referring this project to the Public Works Committee, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade proposes to undertake a fit-out of leased premises to establish a new Australian embassy in Doha, Qatar.
On 12 May 2015, the government announced that it would open a new embassy in Doha. Doha is a key growth area in the Middle East, and the establishment of an embassy there would facilitate Australia's commercial links with Qatar. The proposed works will provide efficient, modern and functional accommodation that meets the needs of diplomatic representation in the country.
The committee has conducted an inquiry and is of the view that the project signifies value for money for the Commonwealth and constitutes a project that is fit for purpose and expedient to carry out. In its report, the committee has made a number of recommendations in relation to receiving progress reports at key milestones and DFAT establishing clear criteria for its spatial requirements for the different types of diplomatic work for its overseas embassies. DFAT acknowledges and will implement the recommendations of the committee.
On behalf of the government, I would like to thank the Public Works Committee for once again undertaking a timely and vigorous inquiry. I note there is a dissenting report, but the government agrees with the majority of the committee. Subject to parliamentary approval of the project and fit-out, it is expected to commence in mid-2016 and, with best endeavours, be completed by late 2016.
I commend the motion to the House.
It is the case that, on the information provided to the Public Works Committee, the Labor members believe that the parliament is not ready to make this decision. Labor members listened to and took heed of all the evidence and, based on the evidence provided, determined to prepare a dissenting report. There may well be other evidence that has not been shared with the Public Works Committee, but committee members can only make recommendations based on the evidence the committee has. Labor urge the government to act with caution and with reference to the significant amount of taxpayers' money involved.
Question agreed to.