Lockwood cuts loose

Lockwood Smith has launched into repeaters in the Press Gallery and laid down a challenge.

“If the newspapers do want to have a view and want to lobby on it, I’m very happy to issue them with a lobbyist card and relieve them of their [Press Gallery] offices here, and if they want to be lobbyists – fine.

“You’ve seen how principled I’ve been in the chamber, I’ll take the same approach to other things as well.”

He has a very good point. Just the other day I wrote to the Speakers Office and asked what the square meterage of the facilities offered to the Press Gallery was. The Speakers Office was not obliged to answer because Parliamentary Services which operates parliament is not subject to the OIA.

Fortunately for me the Speakers Office did reply and told me that;

?the Press Gallery occupy approximately 880 square metres. The Gallery, which comprises most of the major media outlets, does not pay rent for this space. As the Executive Wing is owned by the Crown, we do not have a benchmark for the rental value for that space.?

I had asked for what the Press Gallery was paying for the use of this space and the associated utilities. The answer is of course nothing. A quick check of a Commercial Real Estate agent shows that in such a prime location, exemplary fit-out, plus full utilities shows that Parliamentary Services could rent out that 880 square meters for approximately $350 sqm. Meaning that Prliamentary Services as the landlord is forgoing around $308,000 in rental income. Now I understand that Press Gallery repeaters also get a carpark so add on $150 per week for a covered carpark and for each repeater in the Gallery that comes to $7,800. There are 47 Full members of The Press Gallery so their carparking would be worth another $366,600 bringing the total taxpayer subsidy to news organisations to around $674,600.

Now look who is troughing. Those news organisations don’t have to pay a cent towards the cost of housing those repeaters. For the 47 Full members that equates to $14,353 of taxpayer subsidy to their respective publications. I think it is time the taxpayer sent a bill to those news organisations.