30 May 2014


Senate estimates hearings this week have exposed the twisted priorities at the heart of the Abbott Government’s first Budget.

Tony Abbott’s Budget is cutting billions from families, pensioners, schools and healthcare and hiking taxes and charges on low and middle income earners.

Yet evidence at Senate estimates shows Australians are paying for extra spending by the Prime Minister, including on political spin trying to sell a Budget built on lies.

Senate committees scrutinising Mr Abbott’s Budget of broken promises revealed that:

  • The Prime Minister spent more than $15,000 of taxpayer funds kitting out his media advisers with state of the art video equipment to spin the Government’s policies.
  • Mr Abbott posted blatantly political videos advocating a vote for the Liberal Party in elections in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania on a departmental website.
  • Taxpayers forked out $120,000 renting and then breaking the lease on a house which the Prime Minister refused to live in.
  • Spending on the Prime Minister’s official residences will rise at more than double the inflation rate next year, at the same time as the Government is cutting indexation of pensions for millions of elderly Australians.
  • The Prime Minister has appointed his own personal “hospitality officer” in his office, on top of 16 Departmental staff who work on ceremonial and hospitality functions and five staff at his official residences.
  • Junior Minister Jamie Briggs spent $75,000 engaging a film company to make a video spruiking the Government’s infrastructure policies – at the same time as he cut over $18 million in local roads funding for his home state of South Australia.
  • Despite Mr Abbott’s promise to be a Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Government is cutting more than $500 million from Indigenous programs, will not guarantee funding for scores of critical programs and refuses to reveal the scale of cuts to municipal services.

Senate estimates also exposed the Abbott Government’s secrecy and arrogance with committees hearing that:

  • The Attorney-General George Brandis refused to publish more than 5,500 submissions which reveal the depth of community opposition to the Government’s plan to scrap protections against racial abuse from the Racial Discrimination Act.
  • Senator Brandis failed to defend the decision to transfer millions of dollars in funding away from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
  • In the face of clear breaches of the Prime Minister’s standards for Ministerial staff, the Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson refused to reveal what action he took, as the responsible Minister, to prevent or address conflicts of interest which have seen two government staffers forced to resign.

Australians already knew that the Government had unleashed a vicious attack on low and middle income earners while pursuing Mr Abbott’s pet plan for a Paid Parental Leave scheme which will pay millionaires $50,000 for having a baby.

Now the public has learnt that the Government is compounding the hypocrisy by using taxpayer funds to bankroll its spin machine, boosting spending on the Prime Minister and refusing to be held accountable for its actions.

Labor will continue holding the Abbott Government to account when Senate estimates hearings resume next week.