Jun 12, 2007

Labor attacks PM over Kirribilli House event – PM

Transcript of PM – Labor attacks PM over Kirribilli House event

PM – Tuesday, 12 June , 2007 18:10:00

Reporter: Gillian Bradford

MARK COLVIN: First, the polling roller coaster and the way it’s affecting the major parties in Federal Parliament.

Time and time again in the past, John Howard has insisted he won’t be a commentator, particularly on opinion polls.

Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister reacted to a long-term poll slump by warning his party-room that they could face "annihilation".

Today, after a couple of voter samples said he was clawing his way back, Mr Howard says it’s Labor which has the hard task winning the next election.

He told his party room that for Kevin Rudd to capture 17 seats would be a "formidable arithmetic challenge".

In Question Time, though, Labor was on the attack, concentrating on the Prime Minister’s use of Kirribilli House as a venue for a Liberal Party fundraiser.

From Canberra Gillian Bradford reports.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The fact the Prime Minister chooses to live at Kirribilli and not at the Lodge has provoked plenty of criticism over the decade he’s been in office.

Labor estimates its cost taxpayers millions of dollars extra to maintain two residences instead of one. And every year in Senate estimates it draws attention to the running costs of both houses.

Today the Manager of Opposition Business Anthony Albanese had another shot.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: I again refer to the Liberal Party function at Kirribilli House, which included fine wine, oysters and prawns, overlooking the magnificent Sydney Harbour.

Can the Prime Minister guarantee today that the total bill of $5,100 charged to the Liberal Party from the $8,250 charged per head, covers the costs of all catering, alcohol, food, security, insurance, cleaning, and the hire of the venue?

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Prime Minister did host a function at Kirribilli during the Liberal Federal Council meeting just over a week ago. But he’s not apologising for it and says taxpayers weren’t footing any part of the bill – unless of course you count the count the costs of staffing Kirribilli as the official residence.

JOHN HOWARD: The food and beverage served at the function was purchased separately for the function. Existing stock was not used. There was an audio-visual cost for the function. They were billed directly to the Liberal Party.

Mr Speaker, the situation is that all of the additional costs…

MR SPEAKER: Order! The member for Fowler is warned.

JOHN HOWARD: Obviously Mr Speaker, any additional staff required are included in the cost, and that is a figure of $829.57. Clearly the existing staff, Mr Speaker, would have been on duty and paid anyway, so that’s got part of it, Mr Speaker.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: There were more questions from Labor, and their point was to try to prove this is an arrogant government who in Julia Gillard’s words uses the official residences like it owns it.

Ms Gillard believes the John Howard of the past would have been far more scrupulous and keen to avoid even the perception he was using Kirribilli for a party fundraiser.

The Government though thinks Labor is using such attacks to distract from more substantial issues.

The Prime Minister told his party room today winning the coming election would be a formidable task for Labor, especially with the economy running so smoothly. A theme the Treasurer happily expanded on in Question Time.

PETER COSTELLO: And this is not the time to be experimenting with the L-plate drivers of the Australian Labor Party. This is a time when you need experience. This is not a time to go back to union control in the labour market, because all of that could unsettle this economy.

Now more than ever in a highly calibrated economy you need strong economic management … it’s the economic management of the Coalition.

GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Oppositon Leader Kevin Rudd was at a funeral today, so it was Julia Gillard leading Labor in Question Time. She thinks industrial relations is the issue that will keep Labor ahead in the polls.

The Government though now has the sense that Labor’s connection with the unions could prove a weakness.

JOHN HOWARD: We all know that on the scale of 10, when it comes to hatred of AWAs, the Member for Lawlor is sort of about 10 and a half, or 11, and every time there’s a tiny little bit of light, Mr Speaker, there’s a tiny opening of the door on some maybe possible little bit teeny weeny preservation of AWAs, she comes in and says no, lock, stock and barrel, they’re going, Mr Speaker.

MARK COLVIN: Prime Minister John Howard, ending Gillian Bradford’s report.