Fed police investigate Defence Housing

THE Australian Federal Police has been asked to investigate the organisation that provides housing for thousands of Australian defence personnel, including those based at RAAF Base, East Sale.

The Department of Finance has referred an issue concerning Defence Housing Australia to the federal police.

The department is refusing to comment, saying it would be inappropriate as it was “the subject of an ongoing AFP process”.

The Department of Finance and Department of Defence are major shareholders in the organisation which manages a property portfolio valued at more than $10 billion.

A parliamentary inquiry is currently underway into the operations of Defence Housing Australia, including senior management arrangements and board composition.

The inquiry is also investigating future land sales and the implication for residents if existing housing stock is sold.

Many properties in Sale are either owned or rented by Defence Housing.

In recent times, Defence Housing has not been disposing of local older housing, but renovating and keeping properties, presumably to cater for increased numbers of RAAF personnel with the imminent expansion of the east Sale base to accommodate the Air 5428 contract.

A local real estate agent said Defence Housing had also bought stages five and six at the Woondella Estate and was planning to develop the land, retaining some of the blocks for itself and selling the balance on the open market.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said many people in Gippsland, particularly local investors and the Defence community in Sale, were dependant on housing provided through Defence Housing, and would have a close interest in this request for an investigation.

“I’m not in a position to comment on the request from the Department of Finance as I have no additional information on the background to the department’s concerns,” he said.

Responding to speculation the government wants to privatise Defence Housing, Mr Chester said it had repeatedly stated it had no plans for privatisation. “I have no reason to believe that has changed,” he added.

The Air 5428 contract is expected to be worth $650 million to the local Wellington Shire economy over its life span.