Transcript – Launch of ‘The Taxpayers’ Guide to Liberal Waste’
Doorstop, Parliament House, Canberra:
PAT CONROY: Well, good morning everyone, I’m Pat Conroy and I’m Labor’s Waste Watch spokesperson and today I’m launching The Taxpayer’s Guide to Liberal Waste. This is a booklet that outlines some of the most egregious examples of Liberal waste we’ve seen over the last two and a half years of Government. We’ve heard about the big waste – about waste such as the $2.5 billion on Direct Action or the half a billion dollars to run a marriage equality plebiscite when Parliament can do its job – but this booklet highlights other examples of waste that are equally important, even if the dollar figures are slightly lower because these examples are under the control of the Ministers of the Liberal Turnbull Government. They range from, for example, the Government spending a quarter of a billion dollars on advertising over the last two years, to the fact that Julie Bishop has spent $400,000 on koala and other marsupial-related events. Just imagine it for a moment: $400,000 on koala and other marsupial-related events, which is just incredible. Liberal and National Ministers have presided over their Departments paying over $100,000 on late fees to their suppliers. If the Government can’t pay its bills on time, how can you expect anyone else to? These are all avoidable costs that this Government has inflicted on taxpayers and demonstrates their warped priorities. Today I am also launching a website – WasteWatch.org.au – where you will be able to pull out categories of waste and understand how much this Government has spent on advertising, spin, hospitality. It also has an excellent tip-off function, so if members of the public see egregious examples of waste they’d like me to investigate or need to alert people to, I urge them to log on and have a look at that. So that’s the launch today of the Waste Watch booklet. I’m very happy to answer any questions people might have.
JOURNALIST: Can you give us more details about the koala-related events?
CONROY: This is one of my particular favourites. This Government is obsessed with hugging koalas. We’ve had $400,000 which included Julie Bishop paying $133,000 to fly four koalas to Singapore Zoo. She’s also spent $150,000 travelling to Kangaroo Island with foreign diplomats where a key part of the itinerary was hugging koalas. She spent I think it was $130,000 taking diplomats to Western Australia where they hugged wombats for a change – so at least they changed up the marsupial. Tony Abbott’s no stranger to this; he spent $24,000 so Vladimir Putin could hug a koala at the G20. He was talking about shirtfronting Vladimir Putin but in the end he spent $24,000 on letting him hug a koala. People might think it’s a trivial example, but it is an example of this Government’s waste. $24,000 is more than an aged pension in this country and to spend it on letting a foreign dignitary hug a koala or flying koalas to Singapore is an example of this Government’s warped priorities.
JOURNALIST: She also had a penchant for taking pollies on winery tours, didn’t she?
CONROY: She absolutely did. Julie Bishop took foreign diplomats and a Liberal Federal MP – the Federal Member for Durack – on a $130,000 tour of Western Australia that included a $10,000 lunch at a very elite winery. She took them on a $30,000 pub lunch to Kangaroo Island in South Australia: that included taking seven staffers and two State Liberal MP’s. I’m amazed at the entourage J-Bish takes around this country – she had seven staff with her including her receptionist and office manager. Why they need to go on these trips at the expense of taxpayers is beyond me.
JOURNALIST: So how much is too much to spend on international diplomacy then?
CONROY: Well, international diplomacy has a role and soft power is very important. But you’ve got to get the balance right and sometimes this Government goes over the top because they don’t care about money. Let me give you another example. At the G20, they spent $31,000 having a barista on the premises for the G20. Just imagine that for a moment: $31,000 being spent on coffee. No one is denying the fact that diplomacy is an expensive business but why does Bishop need seven staff? Why does she actually need the staff to sit on a $350 a head dinner for diplomats? They’re the examples in this booklet of waste and mismanagement in this booklet. I’m not saying that Government spending in itself is bad but at all times we must remember that it’s taxpayers’ money – not politicians’ money – that is being spent.
JOURNALIST: Is Julie Bishop the biggest spender?
CONROY: Julie Bishop won my inaugural Wastie Award last year for the most egregious example, but there are some other examples. George Brandis spent $16,000 on a bookshelf for his book collection. He spent $1200 on a dinner for four people in London that included $400 on vintage wines. He spent $6,000 on a gondola ride through Venice so George Brandis is another favourite for the Wastie spends. Barnaby Joyce spent $11,000 on dinners for Indonesian diplomats and himself. So I’m not targeting Julie Bishop in this – there are many examples of many Ministers doing the wrong thing. I particularly enjoyed Peter Dutton spending $80,000 on media training for Border Force executives when clearly he’s the one who needs media training. This booklet has examples on most Ministers and most of them have done the wrong thing at one point in time over the past two and a half years. Thanks very much, guys.