New digs, embassies and government office upgrades

By Harley Dennett

May 12, 2015

Five new overseas missions will be built in the single largest expansion of Australia’s diplomatic network in the last 40 years.

The new foreign posts include some of our nearest partners, the location of the controversial 2022 World Cup, and one of the most remote capitals on the planet.

The federal government has announced the new posts will be established in:

  • Doha, Qatar
  • Buka, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea
  • Makassar, Indonesia
  • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
  • Phuket, Thailand

Officials in Washington DC will also get a new chancery. The iconic, but space-limited building near Dupont Circle will be demolished and rebuilt to the tune of $236.9 million. The various agencies hosted in the existing building will be temporarily relocated during construction.

The Washington chancery will be paid by selling off existing chanceries in Jakarta and Bangkok. New chanceries are currently being constructed in these locations.

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is also divesting. Up to 23 properties across regional Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory will be sold. The department has identified the properties as surplus to its existing service delivery requirements and are expecting to net $10m back to government, as well as save on future unnecessary maintenance.

Four ageing and partially empty buildings in the parliamentary triangle have been earmarked as surplus, but will not be sold. Instead the market will be gauged for interest in a long-term lease and upgrade arrangement.

Police, parliament and vice-regal upgrades

The Australian Federal Police will get an upgrade to its Melbourne office. The estimated cost is secret pending commercial negotiations. Once complete the new digs are expected to meet operational needs for the next 15 to 25 years.

The AFP is also spending $17.6 million to undertake the first phase of a project to bring its data storage into line with the whole-of-government data centre policy. The funding will come from AFP’s existing resources.

Government House in Canberra and Admiralty House in Sydney will get $7.9 million to wrap up heritage and maintenance works. The Vice Regal Heritage Property Master Plan to an end on 30 June 2015.

Australian Parliament House is getting an upgrade too, largely for security purposes since the attack on the Canadian Parliament last year. An ongoing concern has been the need to hide security features behind the heritage intent of the original building plan.

Department of Parliamentary Services, House of Representatives, the Senate and the Parliamentary Budget Office will get a collective $112.2 million over the next five years for capital works to address critical failures and long-term under investment. The shortfall was identified in the Building Condition Assessment Report for Parliament House commissioned last year.

The government has gifted MP and senators with a digital network security upgrade to their offices. Department of Finance will overhaul existing parliamentary and electorate offices with new secure networking equipment and secure wireless capability for connecting to the Parliamentary Computing Network.

Toxic solution

Lucas Heights will never be as attractive as where politicians spend their days, but the nation’s radioactive waste facilities also need some capital upgrades.

Australia’s radioactive waste storage is almost at capacity and expected to hit its limit in 2017. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Agency will be get $22.3 million to make sure the facilities at Lucas Heights don’t overflow with an additional 45 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste and 1200 cubic metres of low-level waste. The measures are still only an interim solution until the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is established.

The UK’s nuclear waste will go home to the northern hemisphere too, but not just yet. The ANSTO will get $26.8 million to store the waste at Lucas Heights until 2019.

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