It is now eight years since the Howard Government first committed funds to expanding the Central Office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in anticipation of an increase in staff numbers, and seven years since it was decided instead that an entirely new building was required. Designed to ‘take its place amongst Australia’s national institutions in Canberra’, but dubbed ‘Lubyanka by the lake’ by some, ASIO’s new Central Office building, costing over half a billion dollars, is said to be the largest Commonwealth building project in Canberra since the construction of the new Parliament House.
It has had a somewhat troubled history, attracting a significant amount of debate and controversy and suffering major cost and time over-runs. In October 2012, ASIO advised that ‘assuming the construction program and building commissioning are completed, ASIO will take possession of the new building on 8 April 2013’. Similarly, until mid-April 2013 the ASIO website stated that ‘ASIO is preparing to take possession of the building in April 2013’ and that ‘staged relocation of staff is expected to commence in August 2013’. However, media reports in early April 2013 claimed that the new building will now not open for ‘at least another several months’ and as at 16 April 2013, ASIO’s website states that ‘ASIO is now expecting to take possession of the building in the latter half of 2013’—more than seven years since the new Central Office building was proposed.