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Ummm, remember the identical building across the way??

June 1st, 2011 at 01:11pm

I knew it would happen one day, I just knew it. One day, the ACT Government would complain that the Legislative Assembly building just isn’t big enough and they would claim that they have to build a new building.

It was one of the great mistakes of the Carnell government. The building opposite the Legislative Assembly, the building which looks just like the Legislative Assembly, was transformed from a government office building in to a flipping art gallery and museum, something which Jon Stanhope later saw fit to put one of his many public art works taxpayer-funded monstrosities in. Historically, these were the north and south buildings, now one is an overpacked government building, and the other is an art gallery and museum.

So, to solve the problem that should never have been created in the first place, the amazingly wasteful ACT Government wants a big shiny new building.

The $432 million building will be built on London Circuit in Civic next to the Legislative Assembly to house the Territory’s revamped public service.

It will also include ministerial suites for the Chief Minister and other Cabinet members, which will be connected to the Legislative Assembly by a sky bridge.

The public service unions think it’s a fantastic idea, which of course they would as it gives their members something new to have a gazillion meetings about.

Vince McDevitt from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says the building is desperately needed.

“Obviously it’s a significant investment into the local service, the biggest ever. And it really is long overdue,” he said.

“It’s always difficult of course to come up with a significant sum of money to build something like this, but we really do need it.”

Mr McDevitt says the new office will improve government services by serving as a one-stop shop for the community.

Yes, that’s right, the unions are selling the idea with the reintroduction of the Civic Government Shopfront, a thing which the Stanhope government decided that it didn’t need many years ago because people could just go to Dickson in their lunch break…forgetting that many people in the private sector have a half hour meal break which is barely enough time for the queue, let alone actually getting the business done or travelling there.

And it’s a tad funny that the unions are selling this idea in a way which might appeal to the public when the best the government can do is:

“This [the sky bridge] may well be in some of the previous drafts, but when it comes to making final decisions about constructions, I don’t consider it a priority,” [Andrew Barr] said.

“As long as the two buildings can be connected I think that would make sense. I don’t have a preference one way or the other about whether that connection is at ground level or the first floor, that really doesn’t matter.”

Really? You want to spend $430 million on a building in the CBD which is either going to sit right in front of the already hard to notice theatre, presumably replacing the expensive new library (the government shopfront used to be attached to the old library in East Row, by the way…it used to be where IGA is now) or on the carpark on the other side of the Legislative Assembly, further crippling parking in the area (if this thing has an underground carpark for public servants, will you make them pay for it Andrew), and you think the details of how you want to spend the money really don’t matter? Oh Andrew, you have said some dumb things in your time, but this one is truly spectacularly stupid.

To me, this all sounds like it is making way for the odd idea put forth by the government not that long ago of consolidating every government department in to one mega department, all in the same building. What that would solve is best left alone, lest a brain explosion occur, because it stands to reason that even in a mega department, various people are going to be responsible (or not, as the case may be) for certain things, effectively creating departments. About the only thing a mega department creates is an ability to reduce responsibility by more easily being able to shuffle people from one job to another when they screw up.

The problem here is not an overpopulated Legislative Assembly building, the problem here is an ACT Government which has far too many public servants. Chief Cyclone Katy effectively admitted this herself yesterday:

As the second biggest employer in Canberra with a workforce of nearly 20,000

(h/t ABC News, this and the other articles)

20,000 public servants in the ACT Government alone…goodness knows how many more Canberrans are employed by the federal government. But 20,000 out of a population of 345,000. How can it possibly take 20,000 people to push the paper required to keep a tiny government like the ACT Government running? It shouldn’t. This number should be halved, at least.

The other question is, who are all these people who are overcrowding the Legislative Assembly building, and what do they do? Surely they can’t all be essential to the running of the offices of MLAs? Surely some of these people can be moved to the buildings of other departments…the departments to which they belong perhaps, and then of course there is the simple fact that a whole heap of people in that, and many other ACT Government buildings, are doing jobs which are unnecessary.

What the ACT Government, and the ACT as a whole needs, is not more government buildings, rather it is a more efficient government, so that it doesn’t cost so much to run, and therefore isn’t such a burden on people and businesses, which will in turn make it more viable for businesses to employ more people.

With a little less government waste, Canberra could be an economic hub as well as a government hub, not that I can see this happening under the reign of Chief Cyclone Katy.

Samuel

Entry Filed under: Canberra Stories,Samuel's Editorials

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