Resistance from Tasmanian Liberal senators to base themselves in the North-West will cost taxpayers up to $900,000 in office costs this financial year, a Senate estimates hearing has revealed.
The Department of Finance will pay out $88,000 a year for the Devonport office vacated by former Senator Richard Colbeck after the last election and fork out up to $400,000 for new office fit-outs for Liberal Senators David Bushby and Jonathon Duniam.
This comes on top of a recent $323,000 fit-out of Senator Parry’s Hobart office.
The party executive had ordered Launceston-based Senator Stephen Parry to move into the Devonport office which he refused.
Senator Bushby is due to move from his Rosny office to Launceston soon, having found a location in the North.
Senator Duniam, who is based short-term in the Commonwealth Parliament has been looking in the Northern Midlands for an office.
On questioning over the office costs from South Australian Labor Senator Don Farrell, a department official said replacing the offices of losing members after an election was different between the House Of Representatives and the Senate.
She said generally a new lower house member would move into the office of a defeated member as the office existed in the same electorate.
Franklin Labor MHR Julie Collins said the office debacle would cost more than $1 million if the Devonport office remained vacant until the end of the lease in 2020.
“The cost of the empty office will end up coming close to $400,000,” she said.
“Malcolm Turnbull expects Tasmanians to pay more to go a doctor and accept less money for our schools, but can find a million dollars for a game of thrones between his petulant Tasmanian Senators.”
This follows Monday’s revelation that Senator Parry had hired former one-term Lyons Liberal MHR Eric Hutchinson to work as an adviser on a base salary of $127,000 a year.
Senator Parry said he had been in regular discussion with the Prime Minister’s office about staffing allocations, funding and resourcing since well before the federal election.
“Eric Hutchinson has been employed to provide parliamentary advice, represent the President of the Senate in Tasmania and elsewhere, and to support the President in educating students and community groups about the importance of civics.”