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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 30 June 2010) . . Page.. 2974 ..

questions: if the LDA can do it, why can you not do it? We have not had an answer to that.

Again, we are going to be asked to pass a budget where the government refuse to tell us how they are spending the money. The LDA are telling us how they are spending the money, and, as I say, I give them credit for that. We see $448,000 being spent on design and construction of the Bonner land sales office and $567,000 on the Bonner display village landscape construction. There are areas where the LDA could get better value for taxpayers’ money, but I will not further labour that point. I will make the point again that they have bothered to be transparent with the Assembly and, through that, with the community. They will stand behind their spending and justify it. But what we have in other areas is a complete lack of transparency.

The flipside of not being able to itemise how you are going to spend this money is that you are simply asking for a bucket of money and saying, “We’ll spend it how we see fit,” instead of saying, “This is how we are planning on spending it.” There may be some variations to that as the year goes on, and that is why there is a Treasurer’s advance and that is why there is some flexibility in the way that departments and agencies manage their budgets. But you should be able to say what you are planning on spending the money on. If you cannot, the logical question is: why do you need it? If you cannot tell us what you are spending the money on, why do you need it? It seems that it is just a bucket of money for agencies to spend as they see fit.

Mr Smyth touched on the issue of the whole-of-government office building. There are a series of unanswered questions in relation to this project. We learnt that the government is considering spending $300 million to $400 million on the whole-of-government office building for 11 departments and agencies, housing 3,745 officers. Now, that is a fair whack of taxpayers’ money. In fact, I would suggest that it would probably be the biggest infrastructure project that has been embarked upon by the ACT government in the ACT’s history. I think the dam would have been the biggest to date at $363 million budgeted, but if this project stays within the range, it will be the biggest.

I suppose taxpayers will be asking whether this is the most important capital spend for the ACT government and for the ACT taxpayer. Is it worth while to spend more than we have ever spent on any other project on a government office building? Is it worth while to spend it at a time when we are projecting significant vacancy rates in the ACT commercial property sector and to add to that large vacancy rate? The economic case that has been put is brief. It talks about marginal benefits at best. That is, of course, if we accept all the government’s figures. We have not been given all of the detail that would give us any confidence to say, “Yes, those figures are about right.” They may be, but even if they are, it talks about a very marginal benefit at best.

Of course, that does not take into account some of the downside for the commercial property sector in the territory and the flow-on effects of that. For every dollar of economic activity that we see from this building being constructed, you could argue that you will not see that elsewhere, particularly when you are facing a 15 per cent vacancy rate. Of course there is the effect on outlying town centres—there is the effect on Gungahlin; there is the effect through removing public servants from places like Tuggeranong. I do not think these things have been properly considered, and at

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