Wednesday, 13 September 2006
Public Works Committee; Report
On behalf of Senator Troeth and the Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, I present the following reports:
- Report No. 14 of 2006—Facilities Upgrade to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Rockhampton, Queensland; and
- Report No. 15 of 2006—Facilities for Troop Lift Helicopter, RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland.
That the Senate take note of the reports.
Again, I will not keep the Senate for long, but these reports came to my attention because they highlight two things: first of all, the good work that the Joint Standing Committee on Public works does—and beautifully and well chaired, I might suggest, by Mrs Moylan—with a number of senators involved in that, including Senator Troeth. Secondly, this gives me the opportunity to highlight the subject matter of these reports tabled today—both adding to the government’s contribution to the economies of Townsville and Rockhampton in the way of additional investment in defence forces in those areas.
The particular report on the facilities for troop lift helicopters at the RAAF base in Townsville has lead the committee to recommend that the provision of those facilities proceed, at an estimated cost of $20 million. Townsville is now quite clearly the lead defence city in Australia and these additional facilities, for the troop lift helicopters at the RAAF base, will add to that recognition. Townsville is well placed, with Lavarack Barracks and a very substantial air force base and the very substantial other defence facilities in the area, to accommodate the troop lift helicopters. These new facilities highlight the Howard government’s investment in the defence of Australia, an investment that is well supported by the people of Townsville.
The defence communities in Townsville are a very significant and very much involved part of the city’s community. As I mentioned earlier, they have a significant impact on the local economy and make Townsville a city that continues to thrive in all aspects of lifestyle, economy and its support for the military forces.
Townsville has a long and proud history of involvement with Australia’s defence forces. I mention briefly the Howard government’s commitment to keep the Jezzine Barracks site as a very significant memorial to past defence activities in the area. That commitment by the government to transfer a very significant piece of land at the Jezzine Barracks to the general public came with an offer of $20 million, providing it was matched to the extent of $10 million by the Townsville City Council and $10 million by the Queensland state government. The Townsville City Council have indicated that they will be matching that commitment by the federal government. Unfortunately, we are still yet to hear from the state government on whether it will match that commitment. I certainly hope they will do that.
I will refer briefly to the other report, on the facilities upgrade to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Rockhampton, Queensland. I note the recommendation of the committee that the Department of Defence:
... continue its close ongoing consultation with all relevant groups and organisations with regard to the facilities upgrade of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
I note the second recommendation:
... the committee recommends that the proposed facilities upgrade to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Rockhampton, Queensland, proceed at the estimated cost of $11.16 million
The Shoalwater Bay training area is a world-class training area that you, Mr Acting Deputy President Brandis, would be well aware of. It is used not only by Australia’s defence forces but also by our allies regularly because it is seen as one of the best training facilities anywhere in the world. As well as being good for the Australian defence forces, the investment in Shoalwater Bay is another continuing investment in the Central Queensland area. The city of Rockhampton certainly benefits from the economic spin-off, not just from the $11.16 million in this capital works upgrade but also from all of the activity that continues each year to operate out of the Shoalwater Bay training area. The involvement of the defence forces in the area—the presence of the troops and those at the training area—do add to the economy of Rockhampton in a very significant way— (Time expired)
Mr Acting Deputy President, I am not sure that we have seen the document. I am not sure what Senator Scullion is referring to. Perhaps he could clarify that.
It is a short tabling statement by Senator Troeth.
The statement read as follows—
Report No. 14 of 2006—Facilities Upgrade to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Rockhampton, Queensland
The fourteenth report of 2006 addresses the proposed facilities upgrade to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Rockhampton, Queensland, at an estimated cost of $11.16 million.
The Shoalwater Bay Training Area is an area of approximately 454,000hectares, located 80 kilometres north of Rockhampton, Queensland. The Shoalwater Bay Training Area provides a highly effective training location for the Australian Defence Force’s three services, and a focal point for major national and multilateral combined arms exercises. These exercises commonly involve defence forces of the United States, New Zealand and the Republic of Singapore.
The facility enhancements to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area involve the construction of an Exercise Control Building and an Urban Operations Training Facility to support the upcoming Exercise Talisman Sabre 2007.
The committee visited the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in July this year, conducted a site inspection of the area and public hearing which was well attended by the local community. The committee investigated all aspects of the works paying particular attention to the nature of activities within the area; environment and heritage concerns; and consultation.
The committee noted that submissions to the inquiry and evidence provided at the hearing raised concerns with the consultation process. Defence assured the committee that it, through HLA Envirosciences, had undertaken all consultation as listed in its statement of evidence including community meetings, escorted tours of the training area, and specific indigenous community consultation.
In this regard the committee recommends that the Defence continue its close ongoing consultation with all relevant groups and organisations with regard to the facilities upgrade of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
Environment and heritage concerns for the inquiry included the use of depleted uranium; and sites of heritage significance within the training area. Defence assured the committee that there is no depleted uranium used within the Shoalwater Bay Training Area by Australian or international forces. An Environmental Advisory Committee has been established by Defence to ensure it is open and transparent about the environmental effects of its activities.
Defence stated that the proposed facilities upgrade would not impact on any historical or heritage sites within the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. A number of heritage studies had been undertaken, including a specific study to identify and address indigenous cultural heritage considerations. Subsequent to the hearing, the committee was provided with a copy of this report.
Having given detailed consideration to the proposal, the committee recommends that the proposed facilities upgrade to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Rockhampton, Queensland, proceed at the estimated cost of $11.16 million.
Report No. 15 of 2006—Facilities for Troop Lift Helicopter, RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland
The committee’s fifteenth report of 2006 presents findings in relation to the proposed facilities for Troop Lift Helicopter, RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland, at an estimated cost of $20 million.
The purpose of the proposed works is to provide facilities to support the introduction of the Multi-role Helicopter 90 (MRH90) aircraft. This will include the refurbishment, re-use and construction of facilities at the 5th Aviation Regiment facilities.
The 5th Aviation Regiment is located in the south western precinct of RAAF Base Townsville which is approximately seven kilometres from the Townsville CBD. The base is maintained for the defence and surveillance of the northern areas of Australia.
A concern raised at the hearing was the sharing of the runway between RAAF Base Townsville and the Townsville Airport. Defence were able to clarify for the committee that the runway belongs to the Commonwealth, and there is a Joint User deed between Defence and Townsville Airport. At the committee’s request, a copy of the Joint User deed was supplied to the committee subsequent to the hearing.
The MRH90 aircraft is being introduced under the Defence Capability Plan Project Air 9000. Defence stated at the hearing that in June this year the Prime Minister announced the purchase of an additional 34 multi-role helicopters as part of Project Air 9000. In this regard, the committee enquired as to the impact of this operational change and how it may affect Defence forward planning. Defence responded that it was confident the proposed works can accommodate the multi-role helicopters, and that RAAF Base Townsville is consistent with Defence future long term planning.
At the public hearing the committee sought assurance from Defence that ecologically sustainable development (ESD) initiatives had been incorporated into facility design. Defence confirmed that cost effective ESD as a key objective in the design, development and delivery of new and refurbished facilities. The list of features included:
- insulation and weatherproofing seals;
- energy efficient lighting and lighting control systems;
- energy efficient plant and equipment; and
- specification of waterless urinals and AAA water efficient fixtures.
At the hearing the committee expressed its appreciation to Defence for the comprehensive site inspection and quality of evidence provided to the inquiry, which greatly aided the committee in its consideration of the proposed works.
Having examined all the evidence presented to it, the committee recommends that the proposed provision of facilities for Troop List Helicopter, RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland, proceed at the estimated cost of $20 million.
Mr President, I wish to thank my committee colleagues and all those who assisted with the inspections and public hearings.
I commend the reports to the Senate.
Question agreed to.