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Wednesday, 17 February 1999
Page: 3002

Mr EDWARDS —I address a question to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister explain why he purchased a $10,300 lounge suite for his office when he is only prepared to give low income families $400 a year and pensioners $150 a year as compensation for the GST? How does the Prime Minister justify the fact that his $10,300 lounge suite is worth exactly the same amount as the total GST compensation for 68 pensioners or the total GST compensation for 25 poor families? Doesn't this indicate that you would rather buy yourself an expensive lounge suite than provide adequate compensation for an unfair tax to the nation's neediest?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In answer to the honourable member for Cowan, I would say two things. I do not think I am the first, nor would I be the last, Prime Minister of Australia to have authorised some perfectly defensible expenditure in relation to furniture in my office or any other things. I would counsel those who sit opposite not to start going down the path of helping yourself to taxpayers' support. I would counsel you, friend, warmly not to do it. I would counsel you not to.

In relation to the particularity of the question asked by the honourable member for Cowan, the refurbishment of the previous furniture was clearly deemed appropriate by the Joint House Department because I am advised that it commissioned a consultant's report in relation to the refurbishment of furniture that had been there for 10 years.

The alternative which was urged upon me by those in the design integrity group of the Joint House Department—and I think one or two of those people are unhappy with my decision, not because of the cost but because of the style of the furniture—and which I inform the House I rejected would have cost $24,000 or more. I rejected it in favour of a cheaper alternative. It was not only $14,000 cheaper but I am very proud to say that it was Australian made.