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Thursday, 26 February 1959


Mr FREETH (Forrest) (Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works) . - by leave - Mr. Speaker, on 19th February, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) asked me a question without notice regarding the leasing of accommodation in Adelaide from Advertiser Newspapers Limited. I undertook to examine the position. As the honorable member's allegations implied either some irregularity or some extravagance on the part of the Department of the Interior in its handling of public funds, I thought it desirable to give this information to all honorable members.

Office accommodation totalling 61,330 square feet is being rented in the Advertiser building, in Adelaide, at a cost of £90,000 per annum. That is made up of £66,100 for rent, £14,700 for rates and taxes and £9,200 for cleaning. The building is supplied with linoleum and Venetian blinds. The overall rental amounts to approximately 29s. 6d. a square foot, and this is slightly below the rental originally sought by the owners. I find that the owners had appointed real estate agents as their agents, and had accepted their advice as to appropriate rents. On this basis, the accommodation was offered to the public. The Taxation Branch entered into negotiations and in fact obtained a slight reduction in rent because it was taking over a bulk area. Other tenants will be charged the rents originally fixed.

The honorable member for Hindmarsh is very wide of the mark indeed in saying that the rental to be paid is at least 50 per cent, higher than the highest rate charged for other rented Commonwealth office accommodation in Adelaide. A base rental of 30s. a square foot per annum was quoted in the case of each of the last three major buildings constructed in Adelaide. Rentals being paid for Commonwealth accommodation in Adelaide in buildings comparable with the new Advertiser building range from 24s. 8d. to 30s. a square foot. Linoleum and Venetian blinds are not provided in the area rented at 24s. 8d. a square foot. I should point out, moreover, that in order to be of service to the public the Taxation Branch must be in a conveniently central location. In this respect, the site of the Advertiser building is one of the best available.

It is not possible at this stage to give a firm indication as to when the Commonwealth can commence the construction of its own office buildings in Adelaide. I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh may have overlooked the fact that, when the Commonwealth constructs its own buildings, it will not be liable for rates and taxes, which, as I said earlier, amount to £14,700 in respect of the accommodation rented in the Advertiser building. In that respect, at any rate, there could be a direct loss to the ratepayers of Adelaide.







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