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Monday, 22 April 1985
Page: 1283

Senator COOK —My question is directed to the Minister for Finance. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to a report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph last Thursday that the Government has approved the provision of new office accommodation in Sydney to the former Governor-General, Sir John Kerr? Is this report accurate? If it is accurate, can the Minister say how he, as Finance Minister, sees spending for this purpose fitting in with the Government's general expenditure priorities, particularly those in favour of the most needy sections of society?

Senator WALSH —My attention was drawn to that Press report last week and I asked for some information on it. It appears that it is basically correct, although some of the language used may be a bit extravagant. I am informed that the rental cost for the new accommodation is somewhat above $32,000 per annum and the fit-out cost has been currently estimated at $17,000, following some discussions with Sir John which scaled down his original ambitions. I know that Sir John was previously located in the Commonwealth Government Centre offices in Chifley Square, Sydney, and it is difficult to assess what the cost of rent there was as no rent is paid because the Commonwealth owns the building. I have been told informally that when in the Commonwealth building in Chifley Square he was adjacent to the office of the survey department of New South Wales through which he used to lurch regularly or occasionally and it was considered that he might damage some of the sensitive and valuable equipment therein. I do not know whether that was one of the reasons behind the decision to move him, but I will see whether there is any further information to supply.