ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr. Photo: Rohan Thomson
ACT government properties in Civic and along Northbourne Avenue could be sold off, making the territory eligible for large federal incentive payments to be spent on infrastructure projects such as a new convention centre.
The territory government is drawing up a privatisation hit list that could include the Macarthur House offices, some public housing properties, the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre and the Dickson Motor Vehicle Registry. It already plans to sell betting agency ACTTAB.
In return for selling approved assets, the territory could receive federal funds to invest in infrastructure projects such as the Australia Forum convention centre and the Capital Metro light rail network.
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey last month offered the states and territories incentives for privatising public assets and spending the proceeds on productive infrastructure.
ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr said the federal government was particularly interested in infrastructure projects that could be shovel-ready by 2015-16.
"The Commonwealth stipulation is that they have to approve the infrastructure project in order to offer a concession or a top-up,'' Mr Barr said.
"And so the sorts of projects that I discussed with Joe Hockey that would be likely to receive support would be transport and a convention centre, but not a stadium for example.''
Mr Barr said the ACT government was already planning to sell ACTTAB but had inquired whether the sale of publicly owned land or buildings could be considered eligible privatisations.
"An opportunity might be to dispose of some of the older commercial buildings that we currently own and allow for their adaptive redevelopment into mixed-use commercial/residential and the like, particularly as a number of them are in the CBD or along the Capital Metro corridor,'' he said.
"Macarthur House, the old Motor Vehicle registry, the visitor information centre - not to mention all of the public housing along the corridor.
''Some of the proceeds from those asset sales can be directed into productive infrastructure that the Commonwealth supports; that frees up our own capital to reinvest in social housing.''
State and territory governments receive "tax-equivalent'' revenue from the trading enterprises they own which can act as a disincentive to privatisation.
In order to encourage the sale of some enterprises, the federal government has offered to provide compensation worth up to 10 years of tax equivalent payments.
ACTTAB paid the ACT government more than $1 million in tax equivalent in 2011-12 and $450,000 in 2012-13.
The federal government would offer compensation through the grant process to states and territories for other eligible asset sales.
Mr Barr said the ACT would put forward a range of options on possible asset sales and infrastructure investments. "In the end, what appears to be driving this policy approach from them is a desire for states and territories to bring forward infrastructure projects that are non-mining related that could be shovel ready, particularly in the 2015-16 financial year,'' he said.
"So we've got to make some quick decisions to bring forward some projects.'' The government has ruled out selling ACTEW or its shares in joint venture ActewAGL during the current term of the Legislative Assembly.
"Privatising public monopolies means there's a range of regulatory issues,'' Mr Barr said.
The ACT government will on Monday release the 2013-14 update of its infrastructure plan.
The government is committed to several major projects, including the convention centre, light rail, a sub-acute hospital at the University of Canberra and a new stadium.