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In defence of the Death Star

By johnboy - 5 May 2011 14

Chief Minister Stanhope is addressing the sole specific Liberal complaint about his 2011 budget, the planned half billion dollar construction of a mega office to house the entire ACT Public Service (less the penal battalion to be exiled to Gungahlin).

“Compared to all other viable options for meeting the Government’s accommodation needs, the new office block will deliver operational savings of around $19.3 million per year and an estimated $15 million of indirect savings annually,” Mr Stanhope said. “Additionally, on completion, the building’s value will be considerably more than the construction cost.”

Mr Stanhope said by financing the building itself, and taking advantage of the Government’s AAA credit rating, the Government could access finance at rates significantly below those available to the private sector.

He said the co-location of public service functions was a priority recommendation of the Hawke Review and would help fulfil the Government’s ambitious target of carbon neutral Government buildings by 2020. Initial estimates predict a reduction of 60 per cent of Greenhouse gas emissions per employee could be achieved.

“Public servants who would relocate to the Government office building are currently dispersed across the ACT and occupy a total of 19 separate offices,” Mr Stanhope said.

The Government has benchmarked the project against other organisations that have achieved major consolidations of their workforces. In particular, the co-location of employees at the ANZ Bank at the Docklands in Melbourne, SA Water in Adelaide and the Brisbane City Council, has shown benefits that significantly exceeded initial expectations.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Mr Stanhope said. “Currently we are paying rent for poor quality accommodation, in multiple locations and we own buildings that will never be capable of achieving our environmental targets, even with significant investment.

“This $432 million investment is not competing with funding for hospitals, schools and roads, rather it is replacing existing rental and owned buildings with one new building. The construction of the new office building would also lead to the sale of a number of existing offices such as Macarthur House, Dame Patti Menzies House and the Callum offices, which would be surplus.

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14 Responses to
In defence of the Death Star
Gerry-Built 10:34 am 06 May 11

Thumper said :

[Stanhope’s] argument this morning was that ACT public servants are all operating in substandard facilities, which begs the question, why haven’t they been refurbished or the people moved to better facilities?

Should see the conditions most teachers work under… ACT Public Service Policy P21 states that workers should have a minimum 9m², but most teachers are lucky to have 3m² , but we’ve been told time and again they are “just a guideline”… If all ACT Public Servants work under similar conditions (which I believe is true to a large degree), then this development is urgently needed… It would be nice if they provided all ACT Public Servants (including school staff) with appropriate conditions – which really should be an entitlement… Lucky for the ACT Government, it isn’t actually an OH&S issue… ’cause the bill would be much larger than $432M…

Thumper 8:44 am 06 May 11

There does appear to be a fair bit of empty space around at present so i’m really wondering whether this is more about Stanhope’s grandiose plans than real efficiencies.

His argument this morning was that ACT public servants are all operating in substandard facilities, which begs the question, why haven’t they been refurbished or the people moved to better facilities? After all, he has been in power for ten years now. Apart from that he stated that the government would save $20 million per year in rent, a quite ridiculous arguement when you are spending $420 million (conservatively, as this government has never been able to bring anything in on budget, or remotely close to it.)

In my opinion complete centralisation is foolish as it concentrates everyhting, obviously, in one place to the detriment of other places, ie woden, tuggeranong, gungahlin, belconnen. And by taking public servants away from these areas you will weaken the economy in that place. ie, less coffee shops, takeaways, shops in general.

And I won’t even start on the car parking or the traffic problems this will create although I do get Orwellian visions of all the workers getting on buses to get into the city and then filing like grey mindless drones into the building, one by one, their ID/ security cards checking them off. I guess the Greens will like that then.

Anyway, none of this matters because Stanhope will get his way. The Libs are useless and the Greens have a large rubber stamp. Galactic Headquarters will be operational sometime in the future, no matter what.

Ian 9:18 pm 05 May 11

Don’t forget the 20,000 public servants includes teachers, nurses, bus drivers and a whole bunch of other people who I can’t see moving into the GOB/Death Star. It’s probably more like 8,000, and I’d suggest at least some of those are already in Civic.

Not sure why people need to be co-located for efficiencies. I work for a global corporation and we seem to do just fine collaborating via email, IM, teleconferencing, web conferencing, etc. Many companies like mine seem to be able to work happily across the world – I’m sure it can’t be all that hard to work efficiently across a few suburbs in Canberra.

johnboy 2:05 pm 05 May 11

AG Canberra said :

Do we have to own the building?

Why not give some land to a developer and then just sign a 15 year lease? Get them to put up a generic 6 star building and bob’s your fathers brother.

Wouldn’t that save us money? Or is it cheaper to own rather than rent (a big office building).

Well Mr Stanhope raises the legitimate point that the ACT government can borrow more cheaply than a developer.

Then the question is which organisation is more efficient and if the developer’s efficiencies will go to quality or pure bottom line?

AG Canberra 2:01 pm 05 May 11

Do we have to own the building?

Why not give some land to a developer and then just sign a 15 year lease? Get them to put up a generic 6 star building and bob’s your fathers brother.

Wouldn’t that save us money? Or is it cheaper to own rather than rent (a big office building).

p1 1:59 pm 05 May 11

Gerry-Built said :

I’d suggest an office park development (rather than a single large building) somewhere a little less central might be a better option, especially if a small lot of land was included for future growth. There is a nice block of land between Government House and the Mint, on the edge of Curtin (or on the land between Government House and the Woolshed)… there is certainly capacity to bring roads off the major arterial roads nearby, space for parking. Alternately, using one of the sites from the closed school sites…

This would be better than centralising up to 20,000 public servants into the city…

I just hope Stanhope builds it right the first time; it is a little harder to add floors above when you realise what you delivered wasn’t adequate… such is his legacy…

Perhaps in the new Stromlo mini-town-centre?

bitzermaloney 1:52 pm 05 May 11

How’s this going to work?

– 1 building to house the whole ACT public service; and
– 500 ACT public servants being moved to Gungahlin.

Must be a huge building? No wonder it’s $432m… might even have it’s on light rail system so that they can get to the cafe… I mean, meetings with his holiness.

Rollersk8r 1:48 pm 05 May 11

EvanJames said :

Wow. Almost 20,000 people re-locating to Civic. Given the ACT gov’ts dislike of people parking in the CBD, the new building will of course set an example by having NO parking spots, not even for the bosses. Yeah, sure.

Don’t worry – they’ll all catch the bus! LOL. LMAO etc!

Gerry-Built 1:17 pm 05 May 11

I’d suggest an office park development (rather than a single large building) somewhere a little less central might be a better option, especially if a small lot of land was included for future growth. There is a nice block of land between Government House and the Mint, on the edge of Curtin (or on the land between Government House and the Woolshed)… there is certainly capacity to bring roads off the major arterial roads nearby, space for parking. Alternately, using one of the sites from the closed school sites…

This would be better than centralising up to 20,000 public servants into the city…

I just hope Stanhope builds it right the first time; it is a little harder to add floors above when you realise what you delivered wasn’t adequate… such is his legacy…

p1 12:50 pm 05 May 11

futto said :

The only use i can think of is for some futuristic paintball fun park…

I vote for this.

How much you want to bet if Callum was ever sold it would “burn down” mysteriously?

LegalNut 12:44 pm 05 May 11

@Beau Locks – the biggest recommendation of the Hawke Review was that there no longer be “departments” within the ACT Public Service. Rather, the ACT public service would be a single entity and each of the current departments would be like a division of an APS department. I believe that the idea was that at only 20 000 people, the ACT public service could be looked at as nothing more than a large Federal level department and thus the benefits of having everyone together, talking to each other (in theory) outweighed the lack of separate identities.

EvanJames 12:33 pm 05 May 11

Wow. Almost 20,000 people re-locating to Civic. Given the ACT gov’ts dislike of people parking in the CBD, the new building will of course set an example by having NO parking spots, not even for the bosses. Yeah, sure.

Beau Locks 12:09 pm 05 May 11

You will be assimilated…resistance is futile.

I can just see it now…”Alpha 2709, dispatch a drone to Sector G immediately.”

Yes, there may be any number of efficiencies about this new plan, and I am all for reducing energy use of Territory-owned buildings. But…I am certain this will lead to a(nother) soulless mausoleum. Also, I think a bit of separation between departments can promote a sense of identity, and probably fosters a bit of independence. (This may also sound inefficient, but it promotes debate between different departments with crossovers in responsibility in their respective portfolio areas, and can actually lead to good policy development. I can think of several good examples of this in the ACT.)

If we do end up with a Death Star, it’d be worth seeing a bit of innovation with what happens to the other buildings slated for sale. For instance, Callum Offices would make absolutely fantastic apartments. It may be that Mac House could be retro-fitted and made into a green building. (Just check out the work that Viridus E3, whose office is directly below RA’s in the city, have done on retrofits.) Alternatively, and given the government would have total control over the conditions of sale, it could be used as a showcase for awesome sustainable housing or–better still–a mixed use development. Some shops and a pub at that end of Wattle St would be awesome, and would provide a bit of focus, especially given that the houses all around there are zoned for medium density. A pub crawl from Lyneham to O’Connor (or vice versa) would be great with another watering hole at the confluence of David and Wattle Streets.

Basically, if we do end up with a Death Star (which will likely be a disaster for the above reasons, and also the ACT Council’s record in general), it’d be beaut if we could offset the stoopidity with some radness and lateral thinking.

futto 11:33 am 05 May 11

LOL! Sell Callum Offices! Who would buy that if they cant modify it due to the heritage listing.

The only use i can think of is for some futuristic paintball fun park.

P.S. Civic parking will be FUN when this building is finished!

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