Posted: 4:06 pm on 2nd October 2013

books.previewSenator George Brandis has come under fire in recent days for his use of his ‘publications entitlement’.

In particular, The Australian newspaper ran a piece detailing the $13 000 of taxpayer money Senator Brandis spent on his library over the last four years, and listed all the books he had bought.

Were these purchases a misuse of the entitlement?

According to the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 1990, parliamentarians have around $5000 a year to spend on:

Publications (including electronic publications) for purposes related to Parliamentary, electorate or official business, but not commercial business.

The entitlement used to be known as the ‘newspapers and periodicals entitlement’. In 2008, the Australian National Audit Office raised concerns about the use of this entitlement, writing:

Some purchases related to books in areas such as children’s and adult works of fiction, travel guides, history and political biographies…are at risk of being outside the scopeĀ  of the entitlement.

This quote has gotten some recent attention, but the entitlement was changed in October 2009, so now the only criteria is that the purchases must relate to ‘Parliamentary, electorate or official business’.

Senator Brandis has defended his purchases, saying the public wanted parliamentarians to be well-informed, and “If I read more books than the average MP, I think that’s a good thing.”

This rather dodges the question though.

Although the Senator is also Minister for the Arts, it seems unlikely, for example, that Tom Hewlett and Duncan Macmillan’s $78 biography of Scottish painter F. C. B. Cadell is truly related to the official business of an Australian politician.

WasteWatch also enjoyed the $33 that the Senator spent in June 2012 on his colleague Bob Katter’s An Incredible Race of People. Perhaps Mr Katter was short a few bob. His $190 000 annual salary must not have covered lunch that day, and he needed some spare change for the Parliamentary canteen.

Senator Brandis also spent $20 in April 2012 buying a second copy of Norman Stone’s The Atlantic and Its Enemies, a book he previously listed in his publications allowance report in July 2010. WasteWatch hopes it was as good a read the second time round.

Finally, the purchases list outs Senator Brandis as a Nietszche fan. WasteWatch wonder whether the Senator believes, like Nietszche, that God is dead, and whether this might cause problems in a Coalition cabinet that has more Catholics than women.

At least the Senator had plenty to read on the way to Michael Smith’s wedding.

William Shrubb, WasteWatch Intern

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