Parliament’s $40m extension a safe workplace. For the moist part11/16/2023
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Victoria’s parliamentary staff are trying to stop leaks – and not the kind involving photocopied documents in brown paper bags.
Water has been spotted trickling down walls and dripping onto carpets at the Parliament of Victoria Members’ Annexe. That’s despite the building, a modern extension of the Gold Rush-era Parliament House, only being completed in August 2018.
The Parliament of Victoria Members’ Annexe, completed in 2018, ended a century and a half of makeshift offices for MPs and their staff.Credit: John Gollings
Plastic buckets designed to catch droplets and temporary barriers to prevent politicians and their staff from tripping over have been set up in at least two kitchenettes – one on the floor occupied by Labor MPs and the other housing the Coalition.
Melbourne’s wet and windy spring weather hasn’t helped the situation, with The Age obtaining pictures from the building’s disgruntled part-time residents showing water-damaged walls and stained carpets.
The Department of Parliamentary Services, which is responsible for the day-to-day running of parliament, says investigations into the cause of the leaks are ongoing.
“There’s been three or four offices that have leaked,” said one Labor MP, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Water damage and buckets in the parliamentary annexe. Credit: Jamie Brown
“The kitchenette [for government MPs] has been a constant leak for some time. Some of the offices are mouldy and musty.”
The MP added that it was not a good look for a $40 million building to need buckets held together with masking tape to fend off downpours.
“This should be a workplace that enables the housing of MPs and their staff for the next 100 years. It’s only four years old and the thing leaks. Across the political divide, pressure is mounting on the Department of Parliamentary Services to address the building’s faults.”
A second Labor MP, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said several complaints had been made about the annexe. A third MP, a Liberal, said the leaks were “clearly not ideal”.
“The building is basically brand-spanking new,” the MP said.
A Department of Parliamentary Services spokesman said the annexe – which houses more than 100 MPs during sitting weeks – remained a safe workplace despite the leaks.
The spokesman confirmed that the related issue of air quality was raised with the department on October 31.
“To date, the results of thirteen air quality tests undertaken on October 31 and November 3, 2023, by an external consultant have each returned results confirming there are no issues evident in the annexe air samples, with all internal spore counts lower than that in the external (outside) air,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“DPS will continue to regularly monitor air quality.”
The Age does not suggest the annexe’s builder or architects are to blame for the leaking water, only that complaints have been made to DPS.
The annexe, which has won several design awards, replaced a tennis court and collection of asbestos-riddled demountables put up in the 1970s to temporarily accommodate MPs. The “chook shed”, as it was then known, was established because the original Parliament House building contains dedicated offices for people like the lower house speaker and upper house president, but not other MPs.
Former premier Daniel Andrews announced his resignation atop the annexe earlier this year. The roof of the annexe features a courtyard and rooftop garden.
The lead architecture firm for the extension, Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design, was contacted for comment. Malcolm Batten, the former managing director of contractor Cockram Construction – which has since merged with another company – was also approached for comment.
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