Page 3745 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 24 August 2011

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My motion is in relation to the massive, unnecessary, costly and overpriced government office building. The ACT Labor government’s proposed government office block has been an epic comedy of errors. I think what is fundamentally at stake here is a question of values and priorities. Do we spend $432 million on an office block we do not need or do we spend that money far more wisely on real and genuine community need? That is the question before the Assembly today. Unfortunately, given the $432 million price tag and what has been a total lack of accountability, should this project go ahead it will be a matter that is far from funny for taxpaying Canberrans.

In fact, after spending what has been reported to be more than $5.7 million in consulting fees and approximately 16 consultant reports later, this ACT Labor government was still uncertain on the specifics of its project. In fact, it was a moving feast and no-one was the wiser from speaking to the government about this project. Take, for example, the issue of ownership of this building once it is developed. Besides ruling out the possibility of leasing new accommodation from the private sector, as stated in the Cox financial analysis report, no other private sector options were adequately considered. Yet the government’s response to the Select Committee on Estimates in June 2011 stated that it intended to construct and outright own the building.

However, two months later the government has changed its tune and is now seeking alternative proposals, adopting a market testing process. Of course, it is testing the market having already shown its hand. It is like going to the used car dealer and saying, “I’ve got $10,000 to spend on a car, sir; what do you have for me?” You know you are likely to find a car at about $9,995. This government has shown its hand. It has said that it is prepared to spend $432 million to build this office. It has told the market its bottom line. It has told the market its price before belatedly deciding to go to market.

What seems quite obvious has taken this ACT Labor government several years of seemingly serendipitous considerations, which in turn cost taxpayers over $5.7 million in consultants’ fees. This is government waste at its worse, and it has not even begun spending the proposed $432 million. In short, we are heading down another path where Canberrans are expected to bankroll ACT Labor’s infrastructure development incompetence.

Some in the Assembly and the community may not be aware of this: the idea for a government building in the heart of Civic goes back to as early as 2007 for a 30,000 square metre, 12-storey office building to house 1,500 public servants, to cost approximately $100 million to construct and roughly $30 million to fit out. Those were the days, Mr Speaker, weren’t they? Those were the days when we were only faced with a $130 million government office building. We now are faced with a $432 million government office building.

Five years later it has escalated into a 53,000 square metre, $432 million project, with a dedicated $11 million ministerial wing made complete with private ministerial suites, lounge, crisis room and a reading room, and a $2 million fit-out. And let us not forget

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