Transcript of doorstop interview – Parliament House, Canberra
Thursday, 14 June 2007
E & OE – PROOF ONLY
Subject: Kirribilli House Function; Intimidation of the AEC
ALBANESE: I note this morning that Liberal MP Mal Washer has said there should be an investigation into whether there was any illegality about the Prime Minister’s function at Kirribilli House. That’s not surprising, but what’s extraordinary is the gagging of the Australian Electoral Commission overnight.
The Australian Electoral Commission officer Mr Bodel was quoted in the Australian today as saying “it does appear to be a gift in kind of a venue” and “there could well be a disclosure issue”, which would go to a fine being incurred if a declaration was not made to the Australian Electoral Commission. Extraordinarily, what followed then was a series of phone calls and intimidation of the Australian Electoral Commission, in which the Australian Electoral Commission was quote told to “shut up”.
The Australian Electoral Commission is the independent umpire which oversees our democracy. The Australian Electoral Commission on the first occasion in which they were asked as the independent umpire, if you like the video ref – when the decision went to the video ref, the video ref has said that there’s a prima facie case that Mr Howard should be penalised.
It’s not surprising because this is an extraordinarily arrogant Government. After 11 years yesterday in Parliament Mr Howard actually said that it was he himself who was responsible for people being hosted at Kirribilli, rather than the Australian taxpayer. After 11 years the Howard Government thinks it owns Kirribilli House and the Prime Minster needs to remember that it’s actually the Australian people that own Kirribilli House.
It’s very clear from the invitation that was given to the business observers that there were three events only that you couldn’t buy yourself into, as one off events. Those events charged $150 for Lunch with Peter Costello, Tony Abbott, Ian MacFarlane etc. Of all those events that adds up to just $1,300. For the remaining of $ 6,950 what you got was morning tea with Chiefs of Staff, afternoon tea with Senators and the Kirribilli House function. Now with due respect to the Senators and to the Chiefs of Staff it’s pretty clear that the big attraction for almost $ 7,000 of the $ 8,000 fee for business observers was the reception at Kirribilli House, the most magnificent venue overlooking the greatest harbour in the world, with prawns, oysters and fine wines.
That was the big attraction, yet the Prime Minister yesterday in Parliament said that business observers wouldn’t pay a fee. Why? Because if business observers paid a fee back to the Liberal Party that would mean that it was a fundraiser. He’s got himself caught in a trap whereby he is now arguing that the $5,000 that was paid back was only paid back because delegates to the Liberal Federal Council as well as business observers attended the function.
The Prime Minister has caught himself out. This is a scandal of the highest order and now we have the Australian Electoral Commission being intimidated. It is the watchdog of our democracy. This is outrageous and the Prime Minister must allow the Australian Electoral Commission to act independently.
REPORTER: What’s your response to the Prime Minister when he told Question Time that the arrangement was (inaudible) that this was not a fundraising event, provided the costs of the function were not (inaudible) and that this was in order?
ALBANESE: It’s pretty clear that it was a fundraising event. The business observer registration form says that that is the case. It is very clear on that form that it was a fundraising event. It makes it very clear also that you can’t get fine wine, oysters and prawns overlooking Sydney Harbour for under $10 a head for food and $6 for drinks – it is absurd.
Any Australian family out there looking for a venue to host their sons or daughters 21st, or having a wedding coming up wouldn’t mind having Kirribilli House for the bargain basement cost of just $ 5,000. It’s quite clear that, just as in the Climate Change advertising affair, this Prime Minister is prepared to say anything and do anything to serve his own political interest.