For an ageing fellow who worked for
many years in the old miniature Parliament House before it became an excellent
museum, it is a little bemusing to read an auditor’s report that suggests that
the giant building up the hill is too small. But too small it apparently
is.

Report Number 51 of the National Audit
Office for 2005-06 covers a performance audit of “Implementation of the
Parliamentary Resolutions Arising From the Review by the Parliamentary Service
Commissioner (the PSC) of Aspects of the Administration of the Parliament”. And
there in a section on Parliament House accommodation the Auditor General notes
that since 1984 (four years before the new building actually opened for
business) there have been nine reviews/inquires into accommodation space in the
new Parliament House.

Central to all of the accommodation
reviews, the audit found, is the shortfall of accommodation space within
Parliament House. The report continues:

The reviews found that there are
numerous factors contributing to this situation, including increased numbers of
parliamentary staff and Parliamentary Secretaries, and changing needs of
clients. The ANAO notes that staffing numbers in the parliamentary departments
have not yet declined significantly since the PSC Review was presented to the
Presiding Officers. In 2006, the SMCG outlined a strategy to assess short and
long-term accommodation requirements of all occupants of Parliament
House.

A clue to what the SMCG (the Senior
Management Coordinating Group of the Parliamentary departments for those of us
not up with the language of Canberra acronyms)
will come up with has been given by the secretary of the Department of
Parliamentary Services, Hilary Penfold. According to Ms Penfold, one option is
to add extra buildings.

“Architecturally it is possible to
put another wing on I think – both the Senate and the House sides, that would
provide quite a lot more office space there,” she told the ABC this morning. “If
we did that I think it would solve the problem for quite a few more
years.”

Peter Fray

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