It’s already been dubbed “marblegate” and “tablegate” – the latest scandal to hit Canberra’s political class today is how an Italian marble table in the cabinet room at Parliament House in Canberra was destroyed during a farewell party on the night Malcolm Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership.
The Senate’s Finance and Public Administration committee is sitting today and Labor’s Penny Wong was quizzing Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) bureaucrats about what happened on the night of the leadership coup, with stories emerging that parliamentary staff were denied access to the former PM’s office and cabinet ante room for three days after cleaners discovered it damaged the next morning.
Inside was a pink marble table, no longer in one piece. Senators spent part of the morning in a robust exchange about the result with committee chair Cory Bernardi describing it as “damaged”, Labor preferring “smashed” and the chairman accusing Wong of using “inflammatory language”.
Bernardi suggested the table had “suffered a malfunction” and quizzed the public servants about whether there was “any evidence of natural weakness in the stone”. Around half the table is missing and many of the pieces have not been found.
Wong and Bernardi also clashed over the event in the PM’s office, with the ALP senator calling it a “party”, the Liberal preferring “a farewell to loyal staff”.
Departmental officer John Ryan told the committee that cleaners had reported seeing marble pieces in other ministerial offices.
Senate president Stephen Parry suggested that the cleaners, who have been fighting the government for two years over pay negotiations, had breached privacy by reporting that they’d seen marble in other offices.
Rob Barnes from parliament’s maintenance division told the committee he’d heard anecdotal reports that it was damaged by someone dancing on the table, but had “no first hand knowledge” of what happened.
The mystery of the fate of the marble table remained unanswered and the committee moved on.
The table, bought for $600 for the opening of the new parliament house in 1988, is expected to cost around $1000 to replace.
The committee was told that when attorney general George Brandis moved offices after becoming senate leader, he took the $15,000 custom-built bookshelf from his old office with him at a cost of $1,822 to move it.
— Katy Gallagher (@SenKatyG) October 19, 2015
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