Media organisations covering Queensland politics could be charged a combined total of $33,000 a year to continue to use their dedicated space in the parliamentary precinct.
Clerk of the Parliament Neil Laurie has revealed plans to change the current arrangement, whereby the Parliamentary Media Gallery was “provided with a variety of accommodation and services within the parliamentary precinct at no cost”.
Mr Laurie outlines the planned new fees in a letter sent on behalf of Parliament's Committee of the Legislative Assembly, which has responsibility for the parliamentary buildings on the corner of George and Alice streets in Brisbane.
It comes in the wake of the decision to relocate the Labor Party out of the Parliamentary Annexe offices previously occupied by the opposition and into a building off-site.
The move also follows Speaker Fiona Simpson's decision to ban independent and commercial television cameras from the floor of Parliament for nine sitting days, after footage of a protest in the public gallery was broadcast in breach of guidelines.
Under the proposal, television networks with space in the Parliamentary Annexe would be charged a combined total of $25,620 a year, based on a rate of $300 per square metre “inclusive of energy and cleaning costs”.
Mr Laurie says there is no plan to charge for usage of the “traditional media room” in Parliament House. (This is the room where reporters for print, radio and online media organisations, including brisbanetimes.com.au, are based.)
“This room will continue to be available to the media for use without cost,” he writes in a letter issued this afternoon.
“However, the additional 'media tea room' will not be included in this courtesy.”
The small adjoining “tea room” would attract a fee of $7650 a year.
The total for both buildings is $33,270 a year.
Media organisations reporting from the halls of power have previously not had to pay to occupy the space, but the move to start charging comes amid the Newman government's push to restore a budget surplus.
Mr Laurie says previous reviews have identified that there was pressure on accommodation in Parliament House and the Parliamentary Annexe and the CLA is aiming to make “the most efficient use of existing accommodation”.
“Furthermore, the Parliamentary Service and Legislative Assembly like all public sector agencies is under funding pressures,” he says in the letter.
“Unfortunately, accommodation and funding pressures require difficult decisions to be made, such as the recent decision to relocate the Office of the Leader of the Opposition off-site in order to provide accommodation for the new Parliamentary Committee System (accommodation related) and the need to reduce the permanent staff establishment in the precinct (funding related).”
Mr Laurie says the pressures raises “the question as to whether media organisations should be provided with valuable accommodation and services in the precinct at no cost”.
He says the CLA had agreed media organisations currently provided with dedicated accommodation and all media organisations provided with other services should pay.
Rarely used fixed line telephone services will also attract a fee.
Mr Laurie has asked the Parliamentary Media Gallery to respond to the proposal by August 17.
The fee would apply from September 1 in quarterly instalments.