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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4783

Senator ABETZ(3.54 p.m.) —It really is sad, isn't it, that when we have all these issues facing us as a nation today, such as unemployment, the huge debt, the budget deficit that was left to us by Labor, all that they can do is try to drag up an issue about senators' offices.

Senator Bob Collins —Do you remember Senator Baume and Kirribilli House and dog kennels at the Lodge?

Senator ABETZ —Senator Collins starts interjecting. Taking up the Keeping up appearances analogies a bit further, you really would make a good Onslow, wouldn't you, Senator Collins? As for Senator Mackay, she would undoubtedly be Daisy or Rose.

What are we talking about? We are talking about the fit-out of a ministerial office that required the carpet to be lifted on three occasions because the situation was not properly managed. I would have thought anybody in the national parliament would say that is something that is to be regretted. The department ought to ensure that it does not occur again and let us move on with the real business of this country. Those opposite have learnt nothing about what the aspirations of the Australian people are. They are not to find out how much Senator Newman spent on refurbishing her office.

Senator Bob Collins —Isn't it?

Senator ABETZ —Senator Collins interjects, `Isn't it?' Senator Murphy spent $75,000 on a fit-out as a backbencher. If we have a look at the annual rents, Duncan Kerr spends $76,000 on annual rent compared with my very modest $32,400. If we want to play this game of comparisons, we know who the big spenders are. We know who are the ones who have their snout in the public trough—those sitting opposite. They were the ones who spent up big on their travel allowances. Senator Sherry would have to be a classic example in relation to that.

The Labor Party is so devoid of issues to run with they are having a crisis of confidence within their own ranks. We have even had the embarrassing performance of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Faulkner) trying to call a quorum when a quorum was present. He cannot even get those basic numbers right leading the opposition, let alone, for some reason he would have us believe, getting the numbers right when it comes to the question of office fit-outs, rentals and matters of that nature.

Clearly, those on the opposite side have been the big spenders, the wasters of public money. In the past those sorts of things that occurred in Senator Newman's office went without question, were just accepted as part and parcel of government. We have come into government on a policy of getting rid of those sorts of things. We are going to make sure that the taxpayers' money is spent wisely and that those sorts of muck-ups that occur will not be accepted by this government. If there are people in the administration of government that make mistakes, instead of covering them up we will be saying to them, `Fix them up.'

Let the people of Australia be reminded of one thing: who brought up this issue? It was Labor Senator Kay Denman who raised the issue in question time yesterday. She brought it to the attention of the Australian people and it is backfiring on the Labor Party because the people of Australia now have on the public record the sort of extravagance and incompetence that the previous administration was prepared to put up with. We make no apology for saying that we will not put up with that sort of administration. We are going to clean up the act, and the people of Australia are going to thank us for it.