Cut promotion expenses to pay parliament renovation, says FPÖ

The Freedom Party (FPÖ) has called on the federal government ministries to spend less on advertisements in order to help finance the nearing renovation of the parliament.

The parliament – located in Vienna’s Innere Stadt district – must undergo extensive refurbishments in the coming years due to the derelict state of some areas of the building. People have been banned from entering a few areas for safety reasons, while some members of the parliament (MPs) saw the funny side of the situation when water started dripping from the ceiling and onto some Green MPs during a parliamentary session.

The opposition FPÖ suggested in a letter to Social Democratic (SPÖ) President of the Parliament Barbara Prammer to enforce the ministers’ offices to cut marketing costs. The right-wing faction claimed today (Weds) taxpayers’ money could be saved if the coalition formed by the SPÖ and the People’s Party (ÖVP) were ordered to spend less on newspaper ads and similar activities.

The government’s promotion spending policy has been at the centre of a heated debate for some time. The coalition promised earlier this year to set up a new law making all information considering such expenditure available to citizens. However, the bylaw requested by the opposition is still in the pipeline.

The FPÖ, the Greens and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) have criticised the SPÖ-ÖVP administration for their allegedly close ties with some media of the country. Especially the education ministry of Social Democrat Claudia Schmied and the traffic and infrastructure ministry of the SPÖ’s Doris Bures are accused of preferring tabloid papers like Österreich, Kronen Zeitung and Heute when it comes to placing ads.

ÖVP Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich has been criticised by the Federal Audit Office (RH) for launching a campaign making aware of a subsidising scheme for photovoltaic installations. The RH criticised the decision to run the campaign in July 2009 since interest in the cash bonus for the eco-friendly technology was very high anyway. Political rivals of Berlakovich labelled the initiative as nothing but a promotion stunt to his own benefit since the ad series was dominated by a large photograph depicting the minister.

Political decision-makers are under pressure to agree over crucial details considering the renovation of the parliament since the some areas of the building cannot be used for four years if they remain in their current state due to fire protection and health and safety reasons. Prammer wanted the RH to “accompany” the process to keep costs low and transparent. Experts have said that the five-party parliament must brace itself for costs of at least 295 million Euros.

The factions have been at odds over whether all refurbishment activities should be carried out at once – which would enforce them to hold meetings elsewhere for some months – or in separate steps over a longer period of time. Vienna’s University of Economics and Business (WU) could become the venue for the parliament’s sessions during the renovation. Vienna International Centre (VIC) and the city’s Hofburg Palace were mentioned in the discussion as well.

A planned six-member committee supervising the refurbishment will feature one RH official, while representatives of Austria’s political parties will be part of a 10-person advisory council.

The parliament’s effective area could be increased by up to 8,000 square metres. The building’s available space currently amounts to 45,000 square metres. Vast parts of the monumental building are inaccessible for people with physical disabilities. Improvements in this regard are understood to be considered.