Blinky Bill: a Lifter or a Leaner?
It’s almost worthy of a place in the beloved children’s classic*:
The bush was alive with excitement, for Blinky Bill and three of his friends were bound for a far-away land. A place where gum-trees didn’t grow and kangaroos didn’t hop; a place so distant even Mrs Magpie couldn’t fly there. They would fly through the sky in a giant metal bird (its wings marked with red kangaroos) and when they arrived they would feast on all the eucalypt leaves they could manage. Oh, the adventures they would have in the far-away land of Singapore, all thanks to the people of Australia and their taxes.
(* with apologies to Dorothy Wall)
But this is not a children’s story – it’s the reality of the Foreign Affairs Minister and her decision to gift four koalas to the Singapore Zoo, which Government documents reveal will cost the Australian taxpayer $133,100 for a 10 month stay.
Announcing the gift last month, Ms Bishop said the koalas would reside in a “world-class, purpose built koala facility” with ‘exclusive partner’ Qantas to transport the koalas to their home, as well as delivering a fortnightly supply of fresh eucalyptus. However, the Government has now been forced to admit that Qantas are an ‘exclusive partner’ in name only, with taxpayers’ footing the entire bill for the transport, maintenance and health care of the unique delegation.
Labor’s Waste spokesperson, Pat Conroy, questioned the Abbott Government’s penchant for the cute and cuddly animals.
“Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop are experts in koala-led diplomacy,” Mr Conroy said.
“This comes on top of Mr Abbott wasting $24,000 so Vladimar Putin could cuddle a koala at the G20.”
“And now weâve got four koalas a monthly food and lodgings bill of $3,327.50 each.”
“This is more than the Government provides for pensioners or jobseekers. They’re happy to obliterate foreign aid, but spend big on koalas.”
“I don’t begrudge building good relations with our neighbours, but when youâve got a Prime Minister who carries on about lifters and leaners and a Foreign Minister who lets the aid budget be decimated, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for koalas should not be a priority.”
“In fact, the only thing guaranteed to be more ineffective in boosting our relationship with Singapore would have been to let Tony Abbott visit there.”