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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 641

Ministerial Expenditure


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:54): My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for the Arts, Senator Brandis. I refer to reports of the Attorney-General's lavish, taxpayer funded dinner at a topnotch restaurant in London's Corinthia Hotel. Can the minister confirm that he spent $1,100 of taxpayers' money on Laurent-Perrier French champagne, tuna tartare and sea bream clams, followed by a cheeky mousse to finish?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:55): When I visited the United Kingdom in March of last year I hosted an official dinner in honour of leaders of the United Kingdom's arts community. Among the guests at that dinner, of whom there were six people not four as has been erroneously reported, at an approximate cost of $180 per head not $300 per head as has been erroneously reported, was Sir Peter Bazalgette, the Chairman of Arts Council England and Sir Jonathan Mills, the Director of the Edinburgh Festival.

You should know, Senator Sterle, that it is very common for ministers of governments—Labor and coalition—to host official receptions. The restaurant at which the reception was hosted was chosen not by me but by DFAT. It was chosen because it was the in-house restaurant of a hotel at which I was accommodated. That venue was chosen not by me but by DFAT. Senator Sterle, I inquired recently whether or not the Corinthia Hotel is the hotel of choice of the Australian High Commission in London. I was told by the acting high commissioner that, for the last three or four years, all ministers who travelled to London had been accommodated at the Corinthia Hotel. Every minister who has travelled to London, whose travel arrangements have been made by the Australian High Commission, was accommodated at the Corinthia Hotel. That was not their decision; it was the decision of the high commission.


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the Prime Minister's pre-election promise to, 'stop the waste'. Given that the Attorney has billed the taxpayer for a London dinner costing over $1,000 and constructed yet another set of bookshelves at a cost of $15,000, I ask the Attorney: did you get the memo?

Senator Heffernan: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Air Services Australia, in your term, spent $30,000—

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order, Senator Heffernan, that is a debating point.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Heffernan, you have no point of order.





Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:58): For a minister to host an official reception for dignitaries of a foreign government at a venue not chosen by me but chosen by the high commission is hardly an unusual thing to do.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr and Senator Bilyk, you are holding up one of your colleagues from asking a supplementary question.



Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (14:59): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I note that the Corinthia Hotel is just a minute's walk from London's leading bohemian gentlemen's club, the Savage Club. As a famous Melbourne Savage, does the Attorney-General have reciprocal rights, and was a visit on his itinerary?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:59): I am not familiar with that.