BE careful, the walls do have ears.
Baird government ministers and staffers are being forced to whisper after discovering the common walls at their new government offices are paper thin.
Coalition MPs relocated to the new smaller digs at 52 Martin Place in budget-saving measures that state treasury estimates will save taxpayers around $90 million over the next 12 years.
The cheaper, open-plan offices are much smaller compared with Government Macquarie Tower, where most ministers and their staff had enjoyed their own cubicles and harbour views.
Two separate ministerial staffers highlighted the “thin walls” and open-plan office arrangements as among the key “issues” with the new building, with some taking their calls into the corridors.
“It is not just noise — we can hear everything,” one staffer complained.
“Every word is audible.”
The Baird government has taken up five floors in the new building, with the offices of Premier Mike Baird and deputy leader Andrew Stoner on the same level.
In one case, a government boardroom shared a common wall with a minister’s office.
Other complaints included the “videophone” landlines, whereby internal callers could see each other during phone conversations, except for one secretary who allegedly taped a photo of a celebrity on to her phone to greet incoming calls.
“You can’t pick your nose now,” a staffer said.
However, another staffer claimed the function was “easily turned off”: “Who uses landlines anyway?”
In defending the relocation, the staffer said MPs should be embracing the new offices as they had been fitted out with new computers and furnishings. “We could never do anything in GMT because everyone was worried the media would write about it,” the staffer said.
The walls and phones are not the only gripe, with security hiccups resulting in staffers battling to gain access to the building with their swipe cards failing to work.
Last week, the government beefed up security in the building by re-enlisting its special constables to join the existing security guard contingent in the wake of the heightened terror fears — a move also designed to resolve the security issues.
The relocation, implemented by former premier Barry O’Farrell, followed earlier plans to move the government into Parliament House full time. That proposal was knocked back by cabinet amid concerns at the cost of the required fitout and lack of space.
This weekend marks six months before voters will head to the polls to vote in the next state government.