Ben Fordham: Speaking of cash, the federal education department is in trouble. They’ve been caught wasting taxpayers’ money, and we’re not talking about a couple of dollars. In the first half of 2023, the federal education department spent more than $250,000 on some things that are hard to justify. For example, in six months, $170,000 was spent on events and catering – $170 grand. Five thousand dollars was spent on a single Welcome to Country at a meeting. Two thousand dollars went towards catering for light morning tea. It mustn’t have been all that light. Another bill sent to taxpayers came in at more than $1,200. That was for dinner at a “hatted” restaurant so they could discuss their work plan for the following year. Senator Sarah Henderson is the shadow minister for education and she’s on the line right now. Sarah, good morning to you.
Senator Henderson: A very good morning to you, Ben.
Ben Fordham: Mate, I love the sound of this light morning tea that cost $2,000.
Senator Henderson: Look, this is just obscene. As so many Australians struggle just to put food on the table, we’ve seen Labor’s cost-of-living crisis really play out across this country causing so much harm – this is absolutely outrageous. And, of course, it’s happening on Jason Clare’s watch – the education minister – he’s presiding over all of these costs. And this just shows his absolute contempt for those who are really suffering at the moment.
Ben Fordham: I thought during 2023, we were all pulling back on our spending?
Senator Henderson: Absolutely. But what is a real rort, and I have called this a “Restaurant Rort”, is the department of education, kicked-off by Jason Clare, they are holding meetings in high-end restaurants. Now that is just a joke. When you have a meeting, you go into a room, and you might get a cup of tea and biscuit. The fact they are going to restaurants like the Black Fire restaurant and Brunello in Canberra and Courgette, the one-hatted restaurant, is just absolutely appalling.
Thousands upon thousands of dollars. And mind you Ben, we have we’ve got more work in estimates to do, because we know they spent $1200 at Courgette, but the department has not admitted how much has been spent at some other restaurants, so there is more digging to do.
Australians should be absolutely outraged by this expenditure, it’s just disgusting.
Ben Fordham: And we have to pay $5,000 for a single Welcome to Country – so five grand to be welcomed to our own country?
Senator Henderson: There’s a number of Welcome to Countries and you really do wonder what they’re spending it on. And there’s some very, very high venue costs. Anne Aly, the childcare minister, she seems to be having a pretty good crack at this as well. But really what is this Albanese government doing? If you are the minister presiding over your department, as I mentioned, you do not hold meetings in fine dining restaurants. It’s absolutely disgraceful. It just goes to show how out- of-touch this government is.
Ben Fordham: I would have thought it was a `no-brainer’, particularly considering how tough people are doing it at the moment. While I’ve got you Sarah Henderson, as a former ABC journalist and news reader. I want to get your view on the ABC managing director David Anderson, who is rejecting claims of systematic reporting bias at the ABC.
Senator Henderson: Well, I think anyone who has watched estimates over a number of years would know that I vehemently disagree with that. I worked at the ABC, Ben as you know, over a long period of time about 20 years ago, and in that time, the ABC standards have really declined. They have a statutory responsibility to report impartially without fear or favour, and they are continuing to breach their statutory obligations. And frankly, it’s getting worse.
Ben Fordham: Are you watching the ABC doco’ Nemesis, into the years the coalition were in power?
Senator Henderson: I have to confess I’ve been travelling. I’ve been travelling to Perth and I’m now in Brisbane for a cost-of-living inquiry. A great inquiry of course looking into the shocking cost-of-living pressures on so many different parts of the country. So no, I have to confess, I haven’t seen it. I’ve had a few phone calls about it. But I am looking forward to having a look at it.
Ben Fordham: Good on you Sarah, thanks for jumping on the line.
Senator Henderson: Alright, thanks a lot, Ben.
Ben Fordham: Shadow minister for education, Sarah Henderson. Can you believe that? I mean, look, I know that things cost money to run. But wouldn’t you be saying? `A light morning tea, $1,200? We can’t do that. That doesn’t pass the pub test. No way. I’m not going to be associated with that.’ One hundred and seventy thousand on events and catering. Five grand for a Welcome to Country. One thousand two hundred dollars for a dinner at a hatted restaurant so we can discuss our work plan for the following year. And Bruce on the text line says, `I thought there was no such thing as a free feed’.