Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Answers to Questions

3:15 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

John Howard treats public property and public funds as his own private windfall. That is a real problem that we have got. Eleven years ago, Mr Howard decided to stick the Australian taxpayer with the bill for two official residences: Kirribilli House and the Lodge. Then he got to turning Kirribilli House into ‘party central’, which I named it some years ago. There is a wine consultant, a huge cellar and a $243,000 booze bill for the guzzlers at Kirribilli House. There have been massive refurbishments—renovation and refurbishing has run to more than $760,000 at Kirribilli House. And that is just the costs that we have been able to find out about.

Nobody actually thought he would turn Kirribilli House ‘party central’ into ‘Liberal Party central’, but that is what he has done now. Now we find that Kirribilli House is being used for Liberal Party fundraisers at more than $8,000 a head. This is not only outrageous, it is a totally improper exploitation of that grand Australian residence, which is part of the national estate. It is an improper use of Kirribilli House for party political fundraising.

The Prime Minister’s defence that the costs were met by the Liberal Party is a joke. We have seen year after year just how difficult it is to find out what the Howards spend on their parties down there at ‘party central’, Kirribilli House. The Christmas and New Year knees-ups that John Howard had down at Kirribilli House this year are only two examples. But of course there is no accountability for the public money that he spent there on those functions in a property that is owned by the Australian people. There was a wall of silence about who was invited to these two knees-ups. We do not know who was invited, we do not know who attended and we do not know the costs of the functions. We do not know what was spent and we do not know what was consumed because he will not tell us. Mr Howard will not tell us because he hates accountability. Given this track record, we can be sure that any costs that are disclosed by Mr Howard for re-election fund cocktail parties will be too little too late, if they are disclosed at all.

The abuse down there at Kirribilli House ‘party central’ is only one way that John Howard uses the public purse as his own pocket money. The biggest abuse—the biggest rort—is the government’s expenditure on taxpayer funded partisan political advertising. That is the biggest rort of all. Government advertising in this financial year and the next financial year alone will cost at least $550 million. These are just the ones we have been able to find out about through the Senate estimates process. The Howard government is now wasting taxpayers’ money on advertising at absolutely record speed. Between the last election and the upcoming election Mr Howard will have spent between $800 million and a billion dollars on advertising. That will take it to a total of $1.85 billion worth of taxpayer funded advertising campaigns since the election of the Howard government. This money is really burning a hole in Mr Howard’s pocket.

We have never seen an Australian government so blatant in revelling in grotesque abuses of the privileges of office as Mr Howard and his government. Of course, this is on top of the $500,000 for the proposed renovation of his dining room here in Parliament House—until we exposed him. (Time expired)


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