Nash out, national heritage in: ACT Greens urge Federal Government to consider East, West block sales

The ACT Greens today called on the Federal Government to reconsider its proposed sale of the East and West blocks, noting that the relevant Federal Minister has since been deemed ineligible to be elected.

Earlier this year, the Federal Government had announced that it intends to sell the East Block and West Block offices in the Parliamentary Triangle.

As a dual British-Australian citizen, former Senator Fiona Nash’s election was ruled void on 27 October 2017 under Section 44 of the Constitution.

On 31 May 2017, Ms Nash—as then Federal Minister for Local Government and Territories—revoked the designation of the West block, jeopardising heritage protections and facilitating its privatisation. On 25 August 2017, revocations of the designation of the East Block followed.

The ACT Greens led a recent motion in the Assembly opposing the sale. “If the East Block and West Block offices are privatised, the federal government will lose control of the heart of Canberra's national area and the National Capital Authority will come under pressure to approve unsuitable commercial development,” the motion read.

Today, the ACT Greens urged the Federal Government to reconsider. “The parliamentary precinct has huge national heritage importance and should not be privatised,” Greens MLA and planning spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said. “With the Minister responsible for the decision now deemed ineligible, the Federal Government now has an opportunity to reconsider its decision—albeit in unexpected circumstances.

“These buildings reflect the core of Canberra’s history and our heritage as the national capital. As the home of the public service, these were the very first buildings in our city designed to house government secretariats, in support of the Parliament’s move to Canberra in 1926.”

“More life can be brought into the parliamentary precinct without privatisation. For example, long-term leases to hotels or other tourism entities would mean government both maintains and protects our precinct’s heritage,” Greens MLA and Tourism spokesperson Shane Rattenbury added.