George Brandis's plans for a second taxpayer-funded library have, for the time being at least, been shelved.
The Attorney General, who described himself as “minister for books” in response to media reports about his vast personal library, which cost taxpayers $20,000, ordered a new custom-made bookcase to be built in his office but his request was rejected, a Senate committee has heard.
The bookcase installed in the former Senate suite occupied by Senator George Brandis in Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares
“Finance advised DPS [Department of Parliamentary Services] that it's not something that we would be paying,” a Finance Department bureaucrat told a Senate committee on Tuesday night, when asked about the Attorney General's requests.
Coined the Brandis Library by Labor staffers, Senator Brandis's $7000 taxpayer-funded bookcase, built to carry $13,000 worth of taxpayer-funded books and magazines, was too big to be moved into his new Parliament House office following the change of government.
The shelves, if laid end-to-end, would be longer than an Olympic-size swimming pool.
Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
The now empty Brandis Library shelves will remain in the office of Labor's Senate deputy leader Stephen Conroy.
Responding to the news of Senator Brandis' bookcase rejection, Labor Senator Joseph Ludwig said: “Our hearts break for the Attorney-General to hear his latest bookcase has been shelved.”
Senator Brandis's taxpayer-funded spending has come under scrutiny recently. He repaid $1700 he had claimed to attend former radio announcer Michael Smith's wedding. Then he had to defend spending almost $13,000 in the past four years on his personal library.
The collection included political cartoons, the fictional thriller The Marmalade Files and Christopher Hitchens' memoir Hitch-22.
Department of Finance rules say publicly funded books must relate to "parliamentary, electorate or official business".
Senator Brandis told The Australian at the time the story broke that the public expected their political representatives to be well-informed and "plainly some MPs take that responsibility more seriously than others".
Comment has been sought from Senator Brandis's office.