Jun 12, 2007

Transcript of doorstop – Liberal Party fundraiser at Kirribilli House

Transcript of doorstop – Opposition Leader’s Courtyard, Parliament House, Canberra

E & OE – PROOF ONLY

Subject: Liberal Party Fundraiser at Kirribilli House

12 JUNE 2007

ALBANESE: This is a government that is arrogant and it’s out of touch with working families. And the incident relating to the Liberal Party fundraiser held at Kirribilli House just highlights that.

The Prime Minister says that it wasn’t a fundraiser, and yet he’s paying back $5100 to the Liberal Party. If it’s not a fundraiser, why is the money being paid back? Of course, it’s extraordinarily inadequate.

As far as the Liberal Party is concerned, there’s no bill in Kirribilli.

What the Prime Minister said today in Parliament was that the costs of $5186.78 were being returned. That’s $2128 for food; $1476 for beverages; $829 for casual staff; and $752 for hire of glasses and cutlery, etc – a total of $5186.00. But the price of hiring Kirribilli House – zero! Zero dollars to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party now believes that Kirribilli House is its own private country club. This is a sign that the Prime Minister has been in government for too long; a government that believes that there is no bill in Kirribilli when it comes to Liberal Party fundraisers.

And they tried to hide the fact this was a Liberal Party fundraiser being held at Kirribilli House. In the first documents that went out touting for business observers to pay the $8250 to attend conference functions, it simply refers to the Prime Minister’s reception – without a venue. Then when business observers paid their $8250, they received a second notice that told them that the would be picked up from the Westin Hotel and taken to Kirribilli House for prawns, oysters and fine wine, overlooking the greatest harbour in the world, at zero cost for hiring the venue.

And that compares with what community groups are forced to fork out to hire rooms even here in Parliament House which, whilst a wonderful building, does not quite have the views of Kirribilli House.

We indicated today just one example, one example that we got from Senate Estimates whereby some $60,000 was paid for a function held by the Ministerial Conversation Series, hosted by the Australian Public Service Commission, where the Prime Minister addressed that gathering in the Great Hall here. The costs of that were a total of $60,000, of which the venue hire was some $49,000. So, it costs you $49,000 to hire the Great Hall for two hours but it costs you zero to hire Kirribilli House.

JOURNALIST: What market value would you put on hiring Kirribilli for a night?

ALBANESE: Well, I would’ve thought that anyone who tried to hire any venue in Sydney which overlooks Sydney Harbour, let alone what I think is the pre-eminent location in Australia, then it certainly would not be zero. It certainly would not be zero. And Australians who’ve had to fork out money to host weddings or 21st’s or receptions or even hire the local bowling club, know that it costs money. Marrickville Bowling Club is not quite as good as Kirribilli House but I tell you what, you can’t hire it for free, you have to pay a charge to do it.

And it’s extraordinary that this Government really is totally out of touch when it comes to these issues. And I think that working families will be particularly angered by the fact that the Prime Minister is once again, in a similar way to how he dismissed the climate change advertising campaign, where he said it’s not an advertising campaign until it’s actually appeared on the TV. In this case, it isn’t a Liberal Party fundraiser even though the Prime Minister is paying back the pitiful amount of $5100, in total, when the guests paid $8250 each. And what the invitation from the Liberal Party indicates, quite clearly, is that this was the major event, the major event around the Liberal Party conference, when it came to entertaining business observers.

JOURNALIST: But if they didn’t know, if the guests didn’t know until after they’d paid their money that it was going to be held at Kirribilli House, how can that be said to have been an enticement for them to pay up?

ALBANESE: Oh, look, this is no criticism of the guests whatsoever. This is a criticism of a government that believes that Kirribilli House is its own private country club. This is a criticism of the Government that believes there is no bill in Kirribilli when the Liberal Party wants to hire it for a fundraiser.

JOURNALIST: At its core, though, is this a problem of money or of principle? In other words, had a reasonable amount of money been paid to the taxpayers for the use of Kirribilli House, would you be happy, or is there no circumstance in which a Prime Minister should hold a Party function at Kirribilli House?

ALBANESE: No, this is an issue of principle. I have no problem whatsoever with the Liberal Party holding fundraisers at appropriate locations. That’s up to them. All political parties do it, that’s a part of political life. But Kirribilli House and The Lodge are the peoples’ houses and they shouldn’t be tainted by party-political fundraisers. And Kevin Rudd has certainly indicated that Labor would not do such activities.

You certainly don’t have the NSW Government holding party-political fundraisers at Government House. Indeed, they’ve opened up Government House for activities for charities. It’s entirely inappropriate. I think it really is rubbing salt into the wounds. This is a Prime Minister who thinks that he’s the only Australian that’s entitled to two public houses – one in The Lodge and the second at Kirribilli House. Labor believes that the Prime Minister’s residence should be at The Lodge.

But you have the added, the added issue now of this fundraiser being held but it just shows how arrogant it is that because the Government’s been caught, it’s thought it could get away with paying back $5100 at the same time as community groups are forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars to hire venues in Parliament House.

JOURNALIST: But the money’s not the issue, Mr Albanese. He just should not have held the function in the first place.

ALBANESE: Of course the Prime Minister should not have held the function at all at Kirribilli and the Prime Minister knows that because that’s why they tried to hide the fact that the function was being held there, and I’m sure, by word of mouth, people were told that that was the case. Certainly, the Opposition has found out and obviously we have access to the documents that were distributed to business observers at that conference.

This is a government that’s just out of touch with the needs of working families and the Prime Minister’s arrogance today, in dismissing these questions and continuing to try to argue that somehow this wasn’t a fundraiser, even though he’s paying back a pitiful amount of the money without any cost of hiring the venue or other costs associated with this event, such as insurance and other costs of cleaning up, that clearly haven’t been included either.

This really highlights the Government being out of touch with working families in Australia and the pressures that they’re under to get by in terms of paying their mortgage and paying their bills. Thanks very much.

ends