Turnbull government moves to sell off excess Commonwealth land
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Turnbull government moves to sell off excess Commonwealth land

A new federal government policy to promote the sale of excess Commonwealth-owned land will allow members of the community to propose better uses for taxpayers' assets, including for affordable housing projects and public facilities.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann released a new Commonwealth government property disposal policy on Friday, after the Turnbull government initiated a series of strategic property sales in Canberra's parliamentary triangle.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

An online federal government property register includes about 300 properties around the ACT, many of which are permanent homes of departments, agencies, public facilities and strategic assets.

The properties are owned by non-corporate Commonwealth government entities.

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Commonwealth owned properties in the ACT

Commonwealth owned properties in the ACT

"The government continues to ensure that the Commonwealth's property portfolio is appropriate for expected future needs and maximises value for taxpayers," Senator Cormann said.

"The new Commonwealth Property Disposal Policy will deliver on the government's commitment to ensure surplus land holdings are put to better use.

"There will now be requirements that place a greater focus on identifying surplus Commonwealth land and new requirements for inclusionary zoning to be considered in the sale of Commonwealth land particularly where it is suitable for housing."

Senator Cormann said the Australian Government Property Register hands Australians the opportunity to propose alternative uses for land owned by the taxpayer, including for delivery of more houses, community facilities, other services or employment hubs.

"The government will continue to strategically review its land holdings to determine where land is surplus, potentially surplus or underused," he said.

The new policy says Commonwealth property which has no alternative efficient government use must be sold on the open market and at full market value, unless an alternative decision is made by the Finance Minister.

Properties being retained by the federal government should only be retained where it "demonstrably contributes to government service delivery outcomes and ownership represents value for money."

The contribution to government service delivery outcomes must relate to core business of a government entity or a significant public purpose, or be part of strategic land holdings for future development.

Land can also be retained under the policy where it possess a unique non-financial quality which would be lost under a change of ownership.

Concessional sales of excess land may be allowed, but only with the agreement of the relevant portfolio minister.

Off-market sales could be permitted when a former owner entitlement exists or where a sale state, territory or local government would promote government interests or policy outcomes.

The policy says where land that is considered suitable for housing is to be sold, it should also include affordable housing initiatives, such as inclusionary zoning.

In August, Senator Cormann announced the government would sell the East Block in Parkes, following plans to sell the West Block and Anzac Park buildings near Lake Burley Griffin.

The properties will become the first privately owned buildings in the triangle.

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Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for The Australian Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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