The cost of a federal government office building is handled by taxpayers, which means that any proposals for new government department buildings tend to get noticed. From the costs of having to shop fitouts in Canberra, to the worries of real estate and the issue of unused government office space.

So when the Immigration Department’s Peter Dutton proposed a plan for a new office fit-out costing over $250M, there was quite the buzz. And the opposition.

The Coalition responded by using the numerical advantage on the parliamentary committee assigned to evaluating the Immigration Department’s proposal, and, despite concern and criticism regarding the budgeted quarter million office fit-out, the Public Works Committee gave it their approval sometime around the midway point of May this year. The proposal met flak due to the $256M budget for the proposal, which is said to be the most expensive budget ever in federal government history.

The project’s approval was already seen as inevitable even before the parliamentary committee had finished its report on it. The proposal, “Headquarters Project”, was met with a rare scenario. The four members of the committee from the Labour party decided to submit a dissenting report against the proposal, which listed their concerns regarding the project.

Under the ‘Headquarters Project’ the Immigration Department will reduce the number of buildings they inhabit, from 12 to five, with the primary headquarters set to be a new, state-of-the-art building located close to the Canberra Airport.

The proposal amounts to a 85,700m2 multi-building fit-out, which suggests that the cost per square metre sits at around $3000, which is a big step up from the average costs of $1200/m2-$1800/m2 usually associated with similar projects and all of their steps, including having to shop fitouts in Canberra and the associated costs.

The government has budgeted for the first step: to shop fitouts in Canberra, and it estimates a cost of $22.6M, followed by another $20.6M in cost from the Immigration Department’s operational costs. According to the Immigration Department, $212M of the costs will originate from landlord lease incentives.

According to Mike Pezzullo, the Department’s secretary, the payoff is that the new plan will deliver $200M worth of saving for taxpayers over a 30-year period.

All the same, members of the committee have criticized the proposal, pointing out the department’s prior endeavours as having questionable results.

The fit-out for the new building is set to being August this year, and is set to be completed sometime in February of 2021.

About Author: Christopher Williams