Page 3363 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 17 August 2011

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Government office building

MR SMYTH: My question is to the Deputy Chief Minister. Minister, on 31 May this year you said:

The government office block is the best value for money for the ACT taxpayers …

Further, you said on the same day that the project was:

…the best way to provide ACT public servants with appropriate and safe workplaces.

Minister, on 15 August, this week, you said the proposed model—that the government construct and own the building—may not be the best option and you would ask the private sector. Minister, why did you say the government constructed and owned model was the “best value” and the “best way” when you had not even market tested the project with the private sector before saying it?

MR BARR: I think I may have been verballed a little there by the shadow treasurer. It certainly is not the first and nor will it be the last time whilst I am a member in this place. My comments were in fact related to the concept of the co-location of the ACT public service, or certainly those functions that have a direct relationship with this place and are involved in the policy development areas in particular. Being co-located, moving out of a large number of buildings into one, would certainly have benefits for the territory in relation to our annual rental bills, for example.

My comments of more recent times this week go to respond to some particular concerns and some suggestions that were put to the government as to the advice of our consultants that the best way forward would be for the government to be owning and building the piece of infrastructure. There were some within the membership of the Property Council who believed they could it in a more cost-effective way.

I have accepted that advice and I have put the challenge out to the property sector to better the outcomes that those from within the same sector, amusingly, who have been advising us in relation to these projects have put forward. If there are those other members of the Property Council who can deliver the project in a more cost-effective manner then I look forward to hearing from them through this process. I note that the spokesperson for the Property Council, Ms Carter, believed that my approach was both sensible and pragmatic.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Smyth has a supplementary.

MR SMYTH: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, are you now laying the groundwork to abandon this project?

MR BARR: I outlined yesterday to members the government’s commitments in relation to new office accommodation. As I have indicated on a number of occasions,

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