CRITICS of Defence Housing Australia’s proposed demolition of the SAS’s Seaward Village in Swanbourne want a report from the project’s review released to end SAS wives’ and voters’ uncertainty.
“Any delay in the public release of the review by Federal Government and the Assistant Minister for Defence would only strengthen suspicions that the review merely put out DHA’s side of the story,” Swanbourne Coastal Alliance convenor Jean-Paul Orsini said.
Assistant Minister for Defence Michael McCormack, who got his job in the February 13 Cabinet reshuffle, has received the report from a review assessing redeveloping the 22ha village for 140 private lots and 165 new soldiers’ homes.
“We suspect the report will not be released immediately as there is a new assistant minister, and he will have to get up to speed on it, when lots of people, not just in the village but in surrounding streets, are sweating on its outcome,” Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said.Cottesloe MLA Colin Barnett said while the report’s release was a ministerial decision he hoped it would be public, and there should not be any private homes in the village, which should stay a defence precinct because there was other western suburbs’ land for civilians.
In January, reviewer Lieutenant-General Mark Evans said he would ask the report be public, but Minister for Defence Marise Payne said it would be “up to the Government” on February 10.
“If the Defence Minister suggests that the DHA proposal can go ahead on the basis of information in the report’s Security Risk Assessment that she is not willing to release, then we will be justified in questioning that decision,” Australian SAS Association chairman Terry Nolan said.
Mr Nolan said it was “farcical” there had bee three defence ministers and three assistant defence ministers – since Federal Cabinet was briefed on DHA’s proposal in 2014.
Review instigator, Curtin MHR Julie Bishop, said she would seek a briefing on the report, but she expected defence minister would take “some time” to consider it, depending on the extent of its recommendations and if more work was needed.
Mr McCormack said he had briefings with the Department of Defence and Lt-Gen Evans last week, and understood the concerns of the community, Mr Barnett and Ms Bishop, but a decision was “complex” and needed to be considered in a “thorough and timely manner”.