Increasing public service numbers are changing the real estate map of Canberra.

Earlier this week, The Canberra Times reported that the Australian Federal Police has abandoned plans to move into what was supposed to be its new $70 million headquarters in the Parliamentary Triangle as the building was now too small because the number of staff to be accommodated has more than doubled.

Shadow finance minister Lindsay Tanner describes the news as “$50 million in wasted expenditure”.

“This latest bungle follows Centrelink’s new building being too small for its soaring numbers and AusAid’s new building in London Circuit being inadequate for its fast expanding workforce,” Tanner says.

“The issues demonstrate Senator Minchin’s failure to ensure that new buildings actually meet operational requirements; and control the speed at which the public sector is growing.

“In the past few years, with revenues burgeoning from the mining boom the Government has led a building boom in Canberra.

“Lucky Departments benefiting from this boom include: the Department of The Prime Minister and Cabinet; the Australian Tax Office; Centrelink; AusAid; the Attorney General’s Department; and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.

“However, because of poor planning and lack of management from Senator Minchin, many of these Departments are too big to fit into through the doors of their new accommodation.”

Tanner noted in his National Press Club speech last week that public service employment had grown much faster than overall employment since the start of the decade.

While total employment growth has been 15.1%, Tanner says public service employment – excluding Defence, ASIO and the AFP – is 25.3%.

“The number of senior public servants has soared by an astonishing 44 per cent,” he says. “The number of ministerial staff has increased by 30 per cent since 1996.”

Tanner unfavourably compared the spending of the Hawke and Howard governments.

“If John Howard were spending at the same rate as Bob Hawke at the end of the 1980s, government spending would be nearly $17 billion lower,” he said. “Even though our economy is growing strongly, the government’s own 2007 Budget figures project even faster growth in government spending over the next few years. By 2009-10 it will be 0.5 per cent of GDP higher than in 2005-06.”

“The party of small government isn’t the party of small government any more.”