11 August 2022

Alicia Payne keen to put NCA under microscope, boost capital in new role

| Ian Bushnell
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Alicia Payne

Member for Canberra Alicia Payne: “I want all Australians to love their capital.” Photo: Ian Bushnell.

The National Capital Authority (NCA) looks set to face greater parliamentary scrutiny in the wake of a damning audit report into its procurement practices, particularly as a Canberra MP now heads the committee that oversees its operations.

Member for Canberra Alicia Payne has been elected chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, a role she sought in order to make a difference in how Canberra was perceived by the rest of the nation.

The Labor MP also wants to correct the “neglect” the national capital has endured under Coalition governments.

One of the committee’s first tasks is likely to be an inquiry into the findings of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report. It found the NCA failed to go to open and competitive tenders enough, broke Commonwealth procurement rules, and kept such poor records that it could not show value for money across its multi-million dollar procurement activities.

READ ALSO Auditor-General blasts NCA procurement practices

“I think the committee should definitely look into the ANAO report’s findings,” Ms Payne told Region.

The NCA attributed the failings, in part, to a complex ageing heritage asset base and operating in a relatively specialised area, often with “unique or bespoke” equipment and/or requirements.

But there are also doubts about the NCA’s capacity to properly maintain national land, such as Commonwealth Park, a sore point with the ACT Government which uses the site every year for its premier tourist offering, Floriade.

Ms Payne also wants to go into bat for Canberra’s national institutions which – apart from the Australian War Memorial – have lost ground due to funding cuts.

“Our national institutions have been neglected for nearly a decade under the previous government and there is much work to do to ensure they are properly resourced and promoted,” Ms Payne said.

She always believed promoting the national capital came with the territory of being a local Canberra MP.

“Chairing this committee will give me an enhanced opportunity to do that,” she said.

READ ALSO Community ignored in NCA’s ‘shockingly premature’ seaplanes decision, say Lake Guardians

“Canberra has a dual role, in that it is the home we as Canberrans know and love. But it’s also the national capital, so it belongs to all Australians.

“I was very keen to take on the role of chair of this committee for this reason, and am honoured to have been elected.”

Ms Payne said she wanted Australians to want to come to Canberra and enjoy all it had to offer.

“I want all Australians to love their capital, a place they want to visit and see their stories told and culture celebrated in our national institutions, as well enjoying all our vibrant city and the natural environment we have to offer while they’re here,” she said.

Whether Ms Payne’s advocacy translates into more funding to maintain national land or for the national institutions remains to be seen, given the horrendous Budget situation the Albanese Government finds itself in.

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HiddenDragon8:16 pm 14 Aug 22

“One of the committee’s first tasks is likely to be an inquiry into the findings of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report. It found the NCA failed to go to open and competitive tenders enough, broke Commonwealth procurement rules, and kept such poor records that it could not show value for money across its multi-million dollar procurement activities.”

Sounds like the National Capital Authority would be right at home in the ACT public sector – which, in a sense, is what this is really about – i.e. white-ant and then abolish the NCA (and cede its powers to the ACT government) or de-fang it to the extent that it might as well be abolished.

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