Bishop to act for SAS families over land sale

Nick Butterly Canberra

The member for Curtin, Julie Bishop, has stressed that no final decision has been made on whether a planned redevelopment of a Special Air Service Regiment village will go ahead after hearing concerns from military families.

The Foreign Minister met wives and partners of SAS members in Perth yesterday and promised to take their complaints directly to Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert.

The Federal Government is planning to sell a quarter of Swanbourne's Seaward Village to make way for private homes.

The millions of dollars raised would be used to upgrade ageing housing stock for SAS families and build new units for single soldiers. But the plan has raised fears among the close-knit SAS community that security in the village will be compromised and that Defence families will be uprooted.

Seaward Village is the so-called "marriage patch" of SAS family homes adjoining Campbell Barracks. "I understand their concerns and I will raise this issue with Stuart Robert," Ms Bishop said. "There is quite some time to go before any final decision is made on this."

Ms Bishop, whose electorate takes in the Campbell Barracks, said some of those SAS members to be affected by the redevelopment had formed part of her personal security detail when she travelled to Kiev last year.

Last week, Colin Barnett signalled his concerns about the redevelopment, admitting he was uncomfortable with civilian homes encroaching on the SAS village. "I share concerns for the privacy and safety of Defence families," the Premier told _The West Australian _.

"I don't believe mixing civilian housing with Defence personnel makes good sense." The push for the redevelopment has puzzled some. A number of the homes to be demolished under the scheme were renovated in 2011.

There are also questions being raised whether the redevelopment is part of a drive to strengthen the property portfolio of Defence Housing Australia before its possible privatisation. Details of the privatisation could be announced in the May Budget.

Seaward Village is on prime beachfront land and the sale of part of the land is likely to fetch more than $100 million.

But the money raised will not cover the total cost of the redevelopment and DHA will tip in another $25 million to build SAS homes and apartments.

The Government says there will be 165 Defence homes available for SAS families and unmarried personnel in the village by the time the development is complete in 2020.

A security assessment of the redevelopment is to be overseen by special operations commander Maj-Gen. Jeff Sengelman.

The Government has promised there will be a buffer between the civilian homes and the new, smaller SAS village.