Office Desks Remain Empty As Public Service Moves Into New Building Developments

The public service sector apparently has several pieces of idle real estate in the country, with over 21,000 desks left unused and empty in government buildings occupied around Australia, with taxpayers being left the tab for all these unused properties.

Yet the public service sector seems to prefer to shop fitouts in Canberra, continuing to move forward with the new, high-end building leases in Canberra. These new building leases are worth hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer cash, and yet the Coalition appears to be insistent on new office blocks located in regional NSW towns despite the large hectares of space in Canberra and other places in the country, and the associated costs for such real estate.

The government has recently stated that the situation is improving: that its efforts to better manage the public service sector’s real estate have been yielding savings each year, $30 M according to them.

In the latest Australian Government Office Occupancy Report, it shows that there is some progress being accomplished in reducing the amount of empty office space in Australia being paid for by taxpayers.

But the efforts to maximize public service sector space is not easy, and there remains quite a bit of vacant real estate, with 14% of the 2.9M m2 of office space owned or leased by the Commonwealth remaining empty.

The Finance Department, in charge of keeping tabs on the other department’s real estate costs, recently went to shop fitouts in Canberra, moving into a new, state-of-the-art building located at 1 Canberra Avenue, in the city’s leafy inner south, in a deal costing taxpayers $ 376 M, which is set to be paid over the span of 2 decades.

Despite claims from the Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, saying that his department’s attempts to get better value from the public sector’s real estate, the issue has been heavily scrutinized by the public, and the government has come under fire, especially when news came out of yet another public service office development project, two of them no less, with one in Central Coast NSW in Gosford, the other in Armidale.  The public has taken note of these developments, especially since the public servants are moving there because Coalition ministers are forcing them to, so the ministers are then free to shore up the government’s electoral position in the closer vicinities and their accompanying seats.

Minister Cormann, however, is adamant that ‘Operation Tetris’, which is the name for his departments effort to deal with the vacant space issue, is filling out empty space, and that the empty desk issue is improving.