The lifestyles of the rich and Liberal

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Finance Department report shows former Liberal senator Helen Coonan spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer’s money last year fitting out her personal office. Peter Wicks reports.

With the world's economies seemingly in free fall, maybe it is time we tightened our belts a bit.

It's probably about time we learned to live within our budgets, and not spend money on unnecessary items.

It's not just politicians either; households are starting to cut back on certain things. This has been apparent in retail figures for quite a while now, with discretionary items sitting on the shop shelf gathering dust.

Pity the poor salesperson who has to try to sell stock that is unsaleable in this economic climate. Stores can mark items down to virtually nothing and still see them just sit there going nowhere. Items like the one pictured below are clearly worth less than nothing, and despite being virtually given away, are yet to find a sucker to buy it. Hardly worth the cost of the garbage bag it’ll end up in.

With this in mind, there is one political party that has assured us it will “stop the boats” and “end the waste”. That is the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott repeats those slogans like they are his personal mantra, and they probably are.

I don't want to delve into his promise to “Stop the Boats", except to point out the obvious.

If the boats stop, what do we need Nauru for? There would be nobody to send there, surely, without the boats continuing.

Also, if there are no boats, what is it that our Navy is going to be turning around or towing back to Indonesia? Planes? Cars?

I also want to know, what will happen to the legendary boatphone?

It seems to me, Tony Abbott doesn't have a lot of confidence in his own policy, which appears to be rather contradictory.

Anyway, as to the waste that the Liberal Party plans to end, as I mentioned before, with the world’s financial status unstable to say the least, waste is something we’d best avoid.

The Liberals have argued that the money spent on schools by the Labor government as part of its stimulus, and Building the Education Revolution, BER, was waste. Who can argue with that? Things like school halls, libraries, and classrooms, are clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars. It is far better to spend the money on the valuable educational needs of schools, like John Howard did. In John Howard's and the Liberals 13 years in power they spent wisely, buying flagpoles for schools. A hard act to follow...

In order to obtain an idea of waste, maybe we should look to our past prime ministers. To do this, I will take a look at what they spend as their entitlements. This comes from taxpayer dollars and should give us an idea of which of our 2 major parties understand waste, and which of these 2 parties chooses to waste taxpayer dollars.

Below is a summary of the cost of entitlements spent on the five previous PM's in the six months between 1st July and 31st December 2011.

I know what you’re thinking: you probably don't need to look at them. If the Liberal PM's didn't spend more, I wouldn't mention it, right?

You may well be right and, yes, the two Liberal ex PM's did manage to vastly outspend the three Labor ex PM's, however that's not really what I wanted to talk about.

I don't think spending money on our former Prime Minister's is all bad, in fact I think they deserve it. I wanted to talk about a real waste issue.

To get a real sense of what is waste, and what isn't, it's probably best to look at somebody with a financial background. Seeing as though the Liberal Party like to accuse the Labor Party of wastage, it's probably best to look at one of their former ministers.

Who better than Helen Coonan?

Helen Coonan was a Federal MP for 15 years. She has been Minister for Revenue, and Assistant Treasurer, Inspector General of Taxation and, finally, Minister for Communications, Information Technology, and The Arts. She calls herself an economist, although her degree is in law.

Helen Coonan, is also a member of HR Nicholls Society, a member of the board of Crown Casino's, and a regular on any talk show that will have her.

With her background, she should know a thing or two about waste. One would also assume that as a Liberal Party member, and as a talk show regular criticising Labor for their supposed waste, that she would be careful with her spending.

You would be wrong.

During the same six month period as our former PM's, you may be interested to know that most of our former MP's spent somewhere between $500 and $6,000 in entitlements — but not Coonan.

No, during this six month period, Coonan (who retired from the senate on the 22nd of August 2011) in a concerted bid to show how not to waste taxpayer money, spent over $250,000. That's over a quarter of a million dollars, your dollars, our dollars, taxpayer dollars.

That is more than the three Labor Prime Minister's – Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, and Paul Keating – combined.

What may shock you even more is the figure spent by Coonan is actually a whoppingly obscene $474,245.53.

Click here to see Helen Coonan Entitlements Report in full

I hope that you work in a nice office, because Coonan obviously does. In fact, she spent a frankly ridiculous, $414,205.25 on an office fit out.

Next time you see her self-satisfied smirk on Q&A, bear that in mind. Next time you hear her criticise, well, anyone really, remember this is the person who is so full of her own self-importance, she thinks she is worth more than five prime ministers.

If this is how the Liberal Party deal with waste, we best brace ourselves for hard times.

Princess Helen next to an imagined representation of her new office.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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