Australian MPs Investigate: Where Did $22,000 Worth Of Their Plates And Cutlery Go?

John FaulknerJohn Faulkner / Getty

Australia’s Members of Parliament have always had a keen bloodhound-like sense of smell when it comes to overspending scandals.

And it was no different during a Senate Estimates Committee hearing (a traditional source for uncovering spending outrages) at Parliament.

Carol Mills, head of the Parliamentary Services Department, was being grilled when she revealed that $22,000 had been spent on crockery and cutlery for the ministerial wing for the start of the new Parliament.

That buys a lot of crockery. You could buy 157 Royal Dalton sets, current on special at David Jones. Or 36 Wedgwood Infinity cutlery sets. Or a combination of both.

Apparently the prime minister’s office was managing to cope with the old cups, saucers, plates, spoons, knives and forks and didn’t need replacements.

The other 29 offices had to be bought complete new sets.

“Stuff was actually missing from the previous ministerial offices and had to be replaced,” Ms Mills told the Senators.

Surely the police should be called if $22,000 worth of cutlery and crockery went missing?

“I did not say ‘through theft’,” Mills said.

It’s not known if the plates and utensils had been misplaced, taken as souvenirs, moved by caterers or suffered some other fate.

It was traditional to replace crockery and cutlery before the start of a new parliament. The normal cost was $80,000.

Apparently there were so many bits missing from the ministerial offices that entire new collections had to be bought at a cost of $22,000.

Ms Mills contemplated a crockery audit to bring together odds and ends from across parliament house to create complete sets.

However, her staff told her there was so few pieces left that it was more cost effective and easier to replace the crockery.

What happens to the old crockery and cutlery sets, some of which may not
have been complete?

They go into storage in the basement. Putting together complete sets would be a large task. Many had different styles and had outdated state crests stamped on them.

Senator Faulkner: “Are you sure there is no conspiracy here?”

Ms Mills: “As you know, there are very rarely conspiracies, there are usually missiles.”

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