Parking dramas in the Parliamentary Triangle. Photo: Graham Tidy
Defence is being accused of arguing against government policy by opposing the introduction of paid parking in the parliamentary zone.
The charge was made by Gary Rake, chief executive of the National Capital Authority, at the first hearing of a parliamentary inquiry into the lack of amenities in the precinct.
The session also heard the federal government has no intention of releasing the $74 million in revenue from paid parking on national land in the centre of Canberra.
The inquiry is examining the demand for a mini-mart and other services for the thousands of workers who face being charged $2600 a year for parking from July next year, as announced in the budget.
Politicians from the federal Labor and Liberal parties have refused to support the plan for paid parking unless better services are provided for public servants.
Defence is objecting strongly to paid parking being forced on its Russell offices, saying there is no need to keep out tourists.
The department suggests its employees are hard done by, compared with public servants who work on the doorstep of shopping malls.
Mr Rake said on Tuesday he was surprised the submission from the Defence Department was ''arguing against government policy''.
''I thought that was strange,'' he told the hearing. He said Defence controlled the use of spaces for cafeterias in its buildings.
''If the Department of Defence was convinced there was a need for expansion of those services, it is within their purview to expand the space they make available,'' he said.
''If they wanted a dry cleaning agent or if they wanted a hairdresser or a barber to establish, Department of Defence could, within its current tenancy arrangements up there, bring those in.''
Mr Rake took issue with the department's submission that ''infrequent public transport services'' meant private transport was necessary for staff to travel to Civic for retail and personal services.
''There are buses running every eight minutes, even during lunch hours,'' he said. ''I dispute the claim in the Defence submission that Russell is poorly served with public transport outside of peak hours.''
The primary motivation for introducing paid parking was to ''remove encroachment'' from the zone, Mr Rake said. Commuters who parked in the zone and walked to work in Civic saved $13.50 a day in parking costs.
However, this meant visitors were missing out on car parks close to cultural institutions.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has stepped up pressure to ensure that the millions of dollars to be raised in parking revenue from the parliamentary triangle remains in the ACT.
She has written to Territories Minister Catherine King saying there is ''a strong argument'' for the funds derived from paid parking in the parliamentary triangle to be used to support amenity development for NCA land and to provide an additional resource stream for national institutions.
ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries, a former ACT chief minister, told the hearing he believed there had always been an assumption the parking revenue would go to the ACT government.
But Mr Rake said that any revenue generated from national land owned by the federal government should stay with the federal government.