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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 1 Hansard (22 February) . . Page.. 169 ..

Mr Berry: You just wanted to hold your budget together and put it off.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Berry interjects that we want to hold it up. If we held it up for as long as the former Government did, we would be pulling a very extraordinary confidence trick. The money was available in 1992. As of the change of government in March 1995, not one stone had been laid on another; not one sod had been turned; not even one plan had been drawn up. The question remains: How can we not do better than that?

We do intend to do better than that, but we do have the little landmine left for us, in a sense, by the former Government. Apparently, shortly before it left office, it commissioned a report by consultants Renfree and Hanrahan into the costs associated with proceeding with the North Building site. That report suggested that, on top of spending $7m for the actual building of the Canberra Cultural Centre, there would need to be an additional $3.8m spent on the isolation of levels 2 and 3 of the North Building and the maintenance of access and use of those floors during the period that the building was going on; as well as a sum of $5m to be spent on relocating staff in those areas to temporary accommodation.

Obviously, it depends on which of the two options you choose to take, but let me say that the Government certainly was not prepared to let this particular report stand in the way, necessarily, of the North Building proceeding. But let me make it quite clear also that the Government simply cannot proceed with the North Building site without coming to terms with that report. The report may well have - and I say this purely on the basis of my own gut feeling - an element of exaggeration in it. That may be the case. Even if it is exaggerated to the extent of a trebling or a quadrupling of the amounts entailed in using that site, we retain the problem that we still have to expend a considerable sum of money to be able to use the North Building site for the Canberra Cultural Centre. I, for one, frankly am not prepared to spend one cent of the $7m set aside for the Cultural Centre on work which will not see any permanent exhibition of that expenditure after the work itself is completed. Spending money on relocating public servants or on temporary works associated with the building is such work.

That is a major issue in front of the Government. But let me assure members of the Assembly that the North Building is not excluded as an alternative site; we will press ahead to have that work begun as soon as possible. I hope that the Planning and Environment Committee will assist the Government in the process of trying to identify what those options are and, if we can proceed with the North Building, managing the process of having that happen as soon as possible.

MR WOOD (11.33): Mr Speaker, I will add a little to this debate since it relates to a matter of long and considerable interest to me. I regret that it has had to be such a long interest. It goes back to the time of the First Assembly when I chaired a committee which was looking at facilities for arts activities. This centre grew out of that. I did not have any copyright on it; it had been mooted at various times well before that. Part of the delay that Mr Humphries mentions about the allocation of the casino premium to that work was due to the fact that the Second Assembly decided that it wanted to get its hands on that decision-making. Another committee was set up to look at the distribution of that money from the casino. Inevitably, that took a very long time.

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