Western Australia’s $150,000 Canberra Hub is open for business. It’s not an embassy — but what is it?

Western Australia’s $150,000 Canberra Hub is open for business. It’s not an embassy — but what is it?
  • PublishedMarch 28, 2024

The WA government has opened an office in Canberra designed to promote the state’s interests — which Premier Roger Cook says are “unique” to the rest of the country.

Just don’t call it an embassy.

In Canberra to officially open what is called the “WA Hub”, Mr Cook said it would “provide more support for Western Australian advocacy organisations”.

“It’s not an embassy, it’s a hub,” he said.

What’s a hub?

The hub itself is essentially an office that can be used as a meeting space or to “print documents”.

The government envisages it being used by groups including the WA Local Government Association, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME)  and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), although it is open to all WA government representatives, advocacy and non-profit organisations.

People stadning around an office chatting in groups, some with wine glasses in hand.
The opening of WA’s Canberra Hub was well-attended, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.(ABC News)

It will support “a new way of working”, the government says, designed to “reinvigorate how the WA Government engages with Commonwealth agencies”.

Hang on, what it’s for?

Exactly what it will be used for and how often remains unclear.

It’s not about the GST, since “Western Australia is at last getting its fair share”, the Premier said.

He did jokingly allude to it being a useful spot to store luggage though.

A beaming WA Premier Roger Cook next to a wall logo reading "WA Canberaa Hub".
WA Premier Roger Cook says the Hub is about promoting WA to the federal government. (ABC News)

“Just today I’ve been walking around the halls of parliament, dragging my suitcase behind me, so this is a place where people can come and base themselves,” Mr Cook said.

“We want to make sure that we take every opportunity to promote the state and its unique perspective here in Canberra.

“I think Western Australia’s got a unique perspective in terms of all aspects of Australian society, whether it’s the distances you have to travel, whether it’s the role that the resources industry plays, whether it’s simply the energy transition.”

What’s the cost to WA taxpayers?

The WA government’s stumping up the funds for what Mr Cook calls a “modest facility” —  $150,000 to set it up, $100,000 in rent annually, and the salary of a full-time receptionist to staff it.

Those who may get to use the new office are singing its praises.

A meeting room with large table, chairs and a large wall mounted screen.
The WA Government’s Canberra Hub provides office space and meeting rooms.(ABC News)

“It is important for WA’s voice to be heard loud and clear and for our interests to be further represented at a national level, and establishing a hub in the heart of our nation’s capital is a step in the right direction,” CME chief executive Rebecca Tompkinson said.

She said she thought the hub was important to give WA “greater visibility in Canberra to influence the public policy and funding decisions being made that significantly impact the state”.

What does Canberra think?

The federal government seems a bit lukewarm on the whole hub idea.

“We would always welcome a WA embassy in Canberra but I think, if, when you recognise that Prime Minister Albanese has treated Perth like almost a second home in the last 15 months or so, that embassy would probably not be necessary,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers told a CCI function in Perth last year when the idea was first floated.

Labor WA MP Patrick Gorman was slightly more enthusiastic about it at the opening, calling it “exciting for West Australians like myself”.

And the Liberals?

The WA Liberals think it’s a joke.

Leader Libby Mettam said on X, formerly Twitter, that it “raised serious red flags” about the premier’s ability to do his job, given that there are 14 WA Labor MPs in Canberra already representing the state.

Libby Mettam with a serious expression as she discusses her party's front bench reshuffle.
WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam is not a fan of the Canberra Hub.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

“WA taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for a ‘bat cave’ in Canberra,” she posted.

Has this been tried before?


Soon after taking office in 2006, then-premier Alan Carpenter pledged to open an office in Canberra “so that issues of importance to Western Australia and to the national agenda are pursued here on a daily basis.”

“It’s very difficult from more than 3,000 kilometres away to keep the profile of WA issues on the national agenda,” he said at the time.

The Labor government at the time had no issues with calling it an embassy, with MP Kim Chance referring in state parliament to “the Canberra office — the Western Australian embassy, if one likes”.

WA Premier Alan Carpenter talks at press conference
WA Premier Alan Carpenter’s Canberra “embassy” aimed to pursue issues of importance to WA.(ABC)

The embassy aimed to provide “an office base for ministers and officials visiting Canberra, and, where appropriate, offering advice and assistance to Western Australian businesses and industry organisations that are visiting Canberra,” Mr Chance told parliament.

Sound familiar?

The cost, however, was considerably more, estimated at $500,000 a year and including two full-time staffers.

However, it’s not clear what happened to that apparently short-lived iteration of the WA embassy, ahem — hub.


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