SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women
Date: Tuesday, 8 August 2023
JOURNALIST: How does it feel to be here today?
KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Well, it's a really good day. Obviously, it's a big project for this town. So, it's about $80 million investment into this, but this is really stage one of a much bigger project that's going to happen in the Parliamentary Triangle. So, we can't get that one started until we get the parking sorted and that's why it's such an important commencement today.
JOURNALIST: How important was it for Barpa to have won the contract to work on this?
GALLAGHER: Well, that is significant. I mean, this is the biggest Indigenous controlled company getting a procurement this size. You know, we're wanting to make sure that a whole range of businesses get access to Commonwealth work. And part of that is making sure that first nations companies have a level playing field that they are able to gain contracts with the government and in this procurement Barpa have won that contract so that's really great. It's good for them. I think it's good for the ACT to have a project like this go to a company like that, and they're thrilled to be doing this, and so look forward to seeing the carpark come out of the ground.
JOURNALIST: With the spiralling cost of building supplies, how confident are you feeling that we're actually going to stay to that $80.8 million budget?
GALLAGHER: Well, there'll be a contingency in that budget. And so this has been scoped I guess, within the times where we've known that building costs have gone up. So we expect that it can be built within that budget. And that's what Barpa will be working to. But obviously, you know, this is a significant project. We'll monitor it as it works through but we're hoping that the contingency that would be part of this project is able to absorb any increasing costs.
JOURNALIST: And with the childcare facility, do we have a provider for that one yet, or is that still to be decided?
GALLAGHER: That'll be decided closer to when it's ready to be opened, but it will be a big childcare centre - 170 places. So that's a significant size for a childcare center here. And it's important you know, as the employment grows in the Parliamentary Triangle, we may need to be making sure that parents can balance their work and family lives and having childcare close to where you work is an important part of that.
JOURNALIST: Will this be bringing in new people to the Territory for jobs?
GALLAGHER: I'd imagine there'd be some that would come from out of area, but you know, there's the opportunity with this project for jobs locally, and again as the project rolls through because this is part of the National Security Precinct Project, we would see I imagine more numbers coming from outside the ACT, but also local jobs here as well.
JOURNALIST: Minister can I ask about consultants. The crackdown you announced on Sunday goes to tax avoidance. What about the type of things that KPMG has been accused of - overbilling - has the government got a plan to address this?
GALLAGHER: Well, we've announced in the last couple of months, I think a number of measures that we're taking, including, you know, strengthening their procurement rules more generally. So that's outside the issues around the Tax Practitioners Board. So making sure departments understand that, you know, meeting ethical obligations is part of assessing contracts and what's going on with contracts. But we've got another piece of work going on that Finance will be leading through looking at confidentiality arrangements, but also how we manage conflict of interest across the procurement network. So I feel like we've got a good response at this stage. Obviously, we're waiting for the Senate committee to conclude some of its work. There's some other processes underway and as we need to do more, we will consider that because we're deadly serious about cracking down on this. I think from my point of view, there is no balance in the public service at the moment. It's out of balance between the use of consultants and contractors and public service, and we're trying to rebalance that but it's going to be a longer piece of work. We can't fix all the problems that have been created by this over a decade in the first year, where I'm picking some of it now and we've got more to do.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the last update we had on the price of the whole National Security Office Precinct was $2 billion. Is that the total budget?
GALLAGHER: We haven't released the costings for the project because of the nature of the project. The fact that it is a National Security Precinct, but I can say that it is the most significant investment we've seen in the Territory in a long time. It will have a "b" in front of it but we're not confirming the size because we've got to work through and the nature of the project means a lot of that detail won't be made clear.
JOURNALIST: And regarding APS capability, is the government going to revise its pay offer on August 24?
GALLAGHER: Well we're working with the CPSU at the moment. We've got an offer of 10.5% on the table over three years. It seems that the unions have said no to that. So we've got some more work to do with them. This isn't unusual that we would go through this, you know, I guess negotiation that we're doing at the moment. So we're negotiating not just on pay, but on conditions and cleaning up some of the fragmentation that's occurred over the last decade. So this is the first genuine bargaining that's occurred in the APS in a long time. I don't think it's any surprise that there'll be a few bumps along the way to getting a final resolution but I'm hopeful we'll be able to land that in the not well, hopefully soon.
JOURNALIST: Given those bumps are you still confident most enterprise agreements will be up and running early 2024?
GALLAGHER: Well, yes, I would hope so. I mean, really, there's a couple of stages to it. So you know, we try and land the kind of the core part of the agreement and then agencies will negotiate their own part. You know, the sooner we can get it done, the better basically, because then the pay rises will flow and any benefit in conditions as well. We've, you know, I think for the last couple of months, there's been some very intense negotiations, so hopefully they can conclude pretty soon.
JOURNALIST: And the Albanese Government has made some ambitious commitments to the APS. You've given the APS workforce 10,000 more roles in the last Budget. You've got your in-house consultancy getting up. But that's only going to be staffed by about 38 people, and the 10,000 roles is a one-off sort of boost. So are you going to have to do more to reduce the reliance on contractors?
GALLAGHER: Oh, well, as I said, we'll, we'll assess as we go. We've got a lot of work underway. The rebalancing has started. The jobs that we've invested are ongoing jobs. So where we've trying to rebalance, you know, those investments in departments, they do have an ongoing impact. So we feel that if we invest more public servants into the jobs that public servants are meant to do, there will be less reliance on consultants. Not that you'll never need consultants, you will, but just understanding exactly what we need them for, I think is a good start. In relation to the in-house consultancy, we've been overwhelmed with interest in that function within government. So I feel very excited about that. But again, it's a start, you know, you've got to start somewhere. We've had 10 years of eroding of the public service. We've had one year of reinvesting back into it. We've uncovered some major issues in relation to external labour and we're trying to address that, but it will happen over time.
JOURNALIST: Do you support Senator Pocock's push for more Senators to be introduced for the Territories?
GALLAGHER: Well, this is something the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is looking at at the moment. I personally think there is an argument around representation in the Territory. It's clear, you know, we've got two Senators for our population, which is just a bit smaller than Tasmania that has 12 Senators. So, you know, I think this is something that we should look at, but we'll wait for the Joint Standing Committee into Electoral Matters to hand down their recommendations before finalising a position.
JOURNALIST: And what do you think of his vision to send Parkes Way underground using the National Capital Investment Framework Do you think that's a good use of the money?
GALLAGHER: Well, again, this is something that we looked at, so City to the Lake was a project that we looked at a few years ago, I guess it's a matter of where the first projects are for this investment framework and the cost of those, so we'll work with the ACT Government about their priority list. I don't think Parkes Way has been top of their priority list in engagement with me, it's been other projects, such as things like a convention centre, looking at how we manage some of the issues around the stadium, looking at what happens at the AIS at Bruce. So there are all of the issues that have been raised. There's no shortage of projects, I would say that have been raised with me. But it's a matter of prioritising, I think is that the first top priority, if you're going to spend and invest money in the ACT, would it be that project or would it be this long list of others and that's what we've got to land with the ACT Government. We want to work with them basically.
JOURNALIST: Is there any change to timelines around the National Security Precinct so start building next year and then completion by 2028 if all goes to plan?
GALLAGHER: Yeah, that's the timeframe. So it's a long project, but that build over in York Park will be over a number of years because of the size and scale of that project. Hopefully this will take you know, the next 18 months to two years to finalise and then that work can commence.
JOURNALIST: And it's due to inject 5000 people into this precinct. Are you confident that you will have the skills or the labour available to make that commitment?
GALLAGHER: Well, look, I think on the construction side, that's going to be a challenge because it's going to be a high secure construction build so that we're going to have to manage workforce there. In relation to staffing, the agencies that go in that building, I don't think there'll be an issue. I mean, workforce is an issue everywhere in a sense, and they are going to be highly skilled and trained public servants across the board. So you know, in many of these areas, we have them already. They're just not accommodated in appropriate facilities. So that's part of what's behind the National Security Precinct is making sure that our public servants can do the job we need them to do in a secure way.