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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 13 Hansard (3 December) . . Page.. 4306 ..

Commonwealth Buildings - Management Contracts

MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Business and Minister for Urban Services, Mr Tony De Domenico. Can the Minister comment on recent criticisms levelled at our Government by the Opposition spokesperson on economic development, Mr Wood, relating to a decision by the Commonwealth Government to award the right to manage 30 Commonwealth buildings to a local company known as P&O? Minister, is it the case, as Mr Wood would have us believe, that the ACT Government has failed to support regional business by allowing a non-local firm, as he put it, a foot in the door? Is that a fact?

MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Mr Hird for his question. Mr Speaker, members would be aware of the recent announcement by the Federal Government, in fact Mr Jull, that P&O had won the right to manage some 30 Commonwealth office buildings here in the ACT. I think that is what Mr Hird is referring to. The services P&O will be providing, I am advised, include tenancy management and leasing, building maintenance, energy management and performance reporting. The announcement, I am advised, came after an extensive tender process and represents an important element of the Federal Government's diversification away from its property management role. Despite reassurances that public servants currently involved in property management here in Canberra would be amongst those employed by P&O, Mr Wood, I am told, somehow managed to brand this move as one which will be detrimental to the Canberra region.

Had Mr Wood bothered to do a bit of investigation before shooting from the hip, had he contacted my office for a briefing, for example, or had he even bothered to read Mr Jull's media statement on this matter, which was a public document and I am sure was issued to all and sundry, he may have saved himself some unnecessary embarrassment. Mr Wood has criticised this Government for "failing to support Canberra's businesses by reacting too slowly to Commonwealth outsourcing". He went on to say that the decision to award a contract to a firm outside of the ACT is a concern.

Mr Wood's criticism, Mr Speaker, seems to be based solely on the premise that P&O - a company that has been operating in Canberra for the past 20 or so years, a company that has from time to time employed such notable Canberrans as yourself, Mr Speaker, and a company that currently employs over 850 people in the Canberra region - is not a local company.

Mrs Carnell: It is one of the biggest employers.

MR DE DOMENICO: It is even bigger than some of our departments, Mrs Carnell. He has criticised them, saying they are not a local company. Mr Speaker, one can only wonder at the simplicity of an opposition that would come to such a conclusion. Perhaps Mr Wood was thrown by the unlikely nexus between a company best known for its shipping lines and a city with the geographic location of Canberra. That is an honest mistake, I suppose, Mr Speaker; but the fact of the matter is that Mr Wood has totally missed the boat on this one. Mr Speaker, pardon the pun.

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