George Brandis’ flimsy expenses excuse a sad reflection on a wedding

Attorney-General George Brandis has repaid travel claims for attending the wedding of a radio announcer friend. Photo: Sasha WoolleyFederal politics: full coverageJoyce repays expenses as Labor cries foul

Two things occur from the revelations that the imperious George Brandis has been using public dollars to fund his private political and social interests.

One serious, one simply sad.

The serious part is that as a self-appointed guardian of the public good, a role he assumed with a pomposity even his party colleagues snigger about, the new Attorney-General had an obligation to be above reproach himself.

His pursuit of the erstwhile speaker Peter Slipper for among other things using parliamentary travel entitlements to visit Canberra region wineries had a near evangelical tinge as he sought justice for the long-suffering taxpayer.

Yet it now turns out that he hadn’t hesitated to put on the public tab his own attendance at the lavish private wedding of a friend and former right-wing radio opinionado, Michael Smith.

It’s not enough that mug taxpayers weather the pious verities and libellous ravings of shock-jocks and their parliamentary clients, but now it turns out they have been unwittingly funding such fetid collaborations as well.

We know this because Brandis promptly agreed to repay the sum of $1683.06 on the strength of one thing and one thing only: that it was revealed by Fairfax Media.

Indeed, so flimsy was the original claim that, on the claimant’s own reflection, it was not worth defending against even the prima facie scrutiny attaching to its public discovery.

Brandis’ argument that taxpayers should fork out because his attendance was “primarily a professional rather than a social engagement” is so ludicrously broad as to justify public financing of every party political function he has ever attended.

Smith, of course, is known for his feverish pursuit of Julia Gillard over the AWU slush fund allegations from the mid 1990s when she was a Melbourne lawyer.

Quite why taxpayers should subsidise the building of closer relations between two devotees of the same cause remains unclear.

But it does bring us to the sad aspect of this.

Brandis is reported to have spoken at the wedding – surely a joyous occasion when love is in the air and worldly grievances are left for another day.

Not for the angry right it seems.

“Senator the Honourable George Brandis, QC, gave an impassioned speech about freedom of the press and the pusillanimity and flagrant mendacity of some media proprietors,” the groom says on his website.

Pass the tissues. A loving union sealed with a flourish of fresh bile.

Brandis is said to have “carved up the dance floor” at the wedding.

Perhaps it wasn’t the only thing left in tatters.

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