Seaward Village: DHA faces more scrutiny over failed development

Federal Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works chairman Senator Dean Smith.
Federal Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works chairman Senator Dean Smith.

IT will be argued for Defence Housing Australia (DHA) to be put back under the scrutiny of the Federal Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works after a failed attempt to redevelop the SAS’ Seaward Village in Swanbourne.

“I will argue through a review of the Public Works Act that DHA should come back under the auspice of the committee, and if there are any commercial in confidence matters from DHA then that evidence should be dealt with in-camera,” committee chairman Senator Dean Smith told the Western Suburbs Weekly.

The 1912-established bi-partisan committee examines the need and monitors spending on Federal projects of more than $15 million, including a rebuild of at least $230 million of the SAS’ Campbell Barracks adjacent to the village.

However, DHA was withdrawn from the committee’s oversight several years ago, despite it being a profit-orientated Government Business Enterprise (GBE) with projects that generally exceed the $15 million needed to send them to the committee.

On March 23, a contentious DHA transaction unrelated to Seaward resulted in the Australian Federal Police conducting an on-going investigation into the GBE.

Last month, community opposition prompted the Government to cancel DHA’s plans to use half of the 22ha Seaward village for civilian lots that would have been sold for about $100 million towards the $160 million-$180 million cost of 165 new soldiers’ homes on the remaining land.

A review of the proposal recommended the Government consider giving the DHA-owned village back to the Department of Defence to resolve security issues, retain SAS soldiers and help the relationship with the local community.

Opposition senators on the committee criticised the Seaward proposal but Opposition assistant defence spokeswoman Gai Brodtmann would not specifically comment when asked if her party would support DHA being put back under the committee’s umbrella.

Ms Brodtmann said the Government had created more than a year of unnecessary stress for families in Seaward and it must declare any “on-again off-again” privatisation plans for DHA.