The Brandis Canon

Over the past four years, taxpapyers have helped underwrite the cost of George Brandis’ wide ranging tastes in newspapers, periodicals and books to the tune of over $12, 000, with several thousands of dollars potentially spent on subjects previously questioned by the Australian National Audit Office as “at risk of being outside the scope of the entitlement”.

Included in the impressive survey of fine reading are lives of the Popes, Stalin, Trotsky and Christopher Hitchens; biographies of historians ranging from Manning Clark to Hugh Trevor Roper; histories of Byzantium, Berlin and the Spanish Civil War; biographies of FDR, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and Obama; essays and writings by Orwell and Nietzsche; a collection of Isaiah Berlin’s letters; and a survey of the life and works of a Scottish colourist. A select list is provided at the end.

Members of Parliament are entitled to an allowance for the “costs of purchasing publications (including electronic publications) of their choice for purposes related  to Parliamentary, electorate or official business, but not commercial business.”

(While it is called a publications allowance, the Finance guidelines appear to anticipate that the allowance will be spent on newspapers and periodicals (dealing as they do with subscriptions and arrangements with suppliers such as newsagents)).

In late 2008, the ANAO advised the Finance Department that it had concerns about the use of the publications allowance by Members in that:

“some purchases related to books in areas such as children’s and adult works of fiction, travel guides, history and political biographies or periodicals in areas that are at risk of being outside the scope of the entitlement.”

Finance’s response to these concerns was to advise that it would “limit the newspapers and other publications entitlement to parliamentary or electorate business” (emphasis added) and require Members and Senators to provide an itemised list of publications purchases for publication in subsequent entitlement returns. This has occurred since then, affording the opportunity to peruse a breakdown of Members’ reading tastes, including those of Senator Brandis.

According to returns submitted between July 2009 and December 2012, Brandis claimed $12, 808 for publications, including subscriptions to national and metropolitan daily newspapers, magazines such as the Business Review Weekly, The Spectator and Quadrant, as well as subscriptions to such specialist items as the Commonwealth Law Reports (which run to $250 for an index alone) and the purchase of books on a wide range of political, historical, and literary matters.

According to the review of Member’s entitlements tabled by the ANAO in 2009, the predecessor to the current publications allowance was introduced in 1990 “to assist [MPs] in pursuing particular Parliamentary interests and to remain informed of events in their electorates.”

Before 2004, according to the ANAO review, MPs were entitled to “the national newspapers, a weekly news magazine and the metropolitan daily papers for the capital city of the State/Territory in which they resided; and a supplementary publications allowance to purchase additional publications to those prescribed, up to the value of $300 per annum for metropolitan based Parliamentarians in New South Wales and Victoria, and $450 per annum for all other Senators and Members.”

The divergence in allowances between metropolitan and non-metropolitan members allowed for non-metropolitan electorates requiring access to specialist publications (such as, say, The Land in NSW) and/or have a larger number of locally based publications requiring purchase or subscriptions.

In February 2005, the Finance Department recommended that a capped allocation be given to MPs in preference to the “menu” of permitted publications, but recommended that the quantum of the allowance remain similar to that already in place. Instead, the then Special Minister of State, Eric Abetz, introduced a publications entitlement of $3000 for metropolitan MHRs and $4000 for non-metropolitan MHRs and Senators.

Subsequent increases, including those for CPI, means that in 2012-13, the publications entitlement stands at $3699 a year for metropolitan MHRs, while for Senators and non-metropolitan MHRs it is a maximum of $4948 per annum. [Note: An earlier version of this post had the latter allowance as $4898 ie $50 less].

Some of Brandis’ purchases (with the date and cost of purchase following) over the period January 2009- December 2012 have included:

  • Freedom and the Arts 9 Jul 12 $44.96
  • FDR 3 Aug 12 $26.15
  • Left Turn: Political Essays for the New Left 3 Aug 12 $26.99
  • The Marmalade Files 3 Aug 12 $24.54
  • Eisenhower in War and Peace 8 Sep 12 $51.50
  • Quarterly Essay Issue 47: David Marr on Tony Abbott 8 Sep 12 $16.33
  • John F. Kennedy: An Unfinished Life 1917-1963 19 Oct 12 $24.51
  • Tudors: A History of England Volume 2 19 Oct 12 $26.99
  • Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain 2 19 Oct 12 $36.82
  • Tales From The Political Trenches 8 Nov 12 $24.54
  • F.C.B. Cadell: The Life and Works of a Scottish Colourist 1883-1937 2 Jun 12 $77.73
  • The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WW11 Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women Who Worked There 23 Jun 12 $20.42
  • An Incredible Race of People 23 Jun 12 $32.72
  • An Honourable Englishman: The Life of Hugh Trevor-Roper 23 Jun 12 $50.69
  • George F. Kennan: An American Life 23 Jun 12 $53.17
  • Joseph Lyons: The People’s Prime Minister 3 Mar 12 $40.87
  • After America: Get Ready for Armageddon 3 Mar 12 $32.68 (Alas not the John Birmingham speculative fiction, but the Mark Steyn speculative non-fiction)
  • Brief Lives 3 Mar 12 $16.33
  • Commonwealth Law Reports (Volume 244 Parts 1-4) 18 Apr 12 $529.74
  • The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A History of the Cold War 30 Apr 12 $20.42 (Either a great or a forgettable read for Brandis to buy again; he claimed the hardbook edition on his publication allowance in July 2010)
  • The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson 12 May 12 $43.33
  • William Pitt the Younger 27 May 11 $22.90
  • In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir 17 Sep 11 $32.73
  • Quarterly Essay 43, Bad News: Murdoch’s Australian and the Shaping of the Nation 17 Sep 11 $16.32
  • The Conservatives: A History 2 Dec 11 $69.55
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Cons Index V219-242 22 Dec 11 $85.00
  • Dismissal 7 Aug 11 $24.54 (I am assuming this is the Nicholas Hasluck novel)
  • Letters To My Daughter 7 Aug 11 $32.72
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Volume 243 Parts 1-4 25 Nov 11 $511.82
  • History Of Civilizations 30 Jun 11 $21.44
  • After The Victorians: The World Our Parents Knew 30 Jun 11 $21.44
  • An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark 30 Jun 11 $39.36
  • Berlin: The Downfall 1945 30 Jun 11 $20.01
  • Beyond Good and Evil 30 Jun 11 $13.56
  • Byzantium: The Apogee 30 Jun 11 $19.29
  • Byzantium: The Decline and Fall 30 Jun 11 $19.29
  • Byzantium: The Early Centuries 30 Jun 11 $19.29
  • Jerusalem: The Biography 30 Jun 11 $35.79
  • Mediations 30 Jun 11 $10.70
  • Memoirs: William Rees-Mogg 30 Jun 11 $46.53
  • MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949 30 Jun 11 $42.95
  • Michael Kirby: Paradoxes and Principles 30 Jun 11 $42.91
  • On Liberty and the Subjection of Women 30 Jun 11 $12.14
  • Orwell and Politics 30 Jun 11 $20.73
  • Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth 30 Jun 11 $20.01
  • Pitt the Elder: Man of War 30 Jun 11 $25.05
  • Rome: A Cultural History 30 Jun 11 $35.79
  • Stalin: A Biography 30 Jun 11 $21.46
  • Stalingrad 30 Jun 11 $20.01
  • The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 30 Jun 11 $25.05
  • The Churchills 30 Jun 11 $25.05
  • The Lost Peace: Leadership In A Time Of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 30 Jun 11 $39.37
  • The New Penguin Dictionary of Quotations 30 Jun 11 $53.69
  • The Penguin History of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850-2009 30 Jun 11 $21.44
  • The Popes: A History 30 Jun 11 $42.91
  • The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred 30 Jun 11 $19.29
  • The ‘Whig’ View of Australian History and Other Essays 30 Jun 11 $39.34
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One 30 Jun 11 $10.70
  • Trotsky: A Biography 30 Jun 11 $21.46
  • Twilight of Idols and Anti-Christ 30 Jun 11
  • 2010 Take Back America: A Battle Plan 1 Feb 11 $40.09
  • Best Australian Political Cartoons 2010 1 Feb 11 $24.51
  • Obama’s Wars 1 Feb 11 $32.72
  • Brewer’s Famous Quotations 8 Mar 11 $45.00
  • The German Genius 8 Mar 11 $40.90
  • A Dictionary of Modern English Usage 27 Mar 11 $39.24
  • Roget’s International Thesaurus, 7th Edition 27 Mar 11 $40.90
  • The Art of Great Speeches 27 Mar 11 $32.68
  • The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages 27 Mar 11 $28.60
  • Three Cornered Life: The Historian WK Hancock 5 Aug 10 $49.05
  • Edward Heath: The Authorized Biography 5 Aug 10 $53.18
  • Traitor to His Class 7 Sep 10 $32.69
  • Lazarus Rising 5 Nov 10 $49.08
  • One Minute to Midnight 5 Nov 10 $22.87
  • Party Thieves 5 Nov 10 $28.63
  • Scribble, Scribble, Scribble 5 Nov 10 $45.00
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Volume 241 Part 1 25 Nov 10 $498.18
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Consolidated Index Volumes 219-240 25 Nov 10 $253.00
  • The Atlantic and Its Enemies: A History of the Cold War 30 Jul 10 $53.18
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Volume 240 Part 1 26 May 10 $415.45
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir 18 Jun 10 $28.64
  • Inside Obama’s Brain 18 Jun 10 $28.64
  • Shitstorm: Inside Labor’s Darkest Days 27 Jun 10 $28.63
  • Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime 3 Mar 10 $49.05
  • Harold Macmillan 20 Jan 10 $57.26
  • Penguin History of Modern Russia 20 Jan 10 $24.51
  • So Greek 12 Feb 10 $28.64
  • Liberals and Power: The Road Ahead 6 May 10 $30.26
  • The Audacity to Win 11 May 10 $32.68
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Volume 239 Parts 1-4 21 Dec 09 $491.82
  • Commonwealth Law Reports Consolidated Index Volumes 219-237 22 Dec 09 $225.00
  • Book 21 Jul 09 $122.95
  • Books 31 Jul 09 $53.14
  • Books 14 Aug 09 $491.82
  • Australians V1 Origins to Eureka 21 Sep 09 $49.08
  • Storm of War 21 Sep 09 $49.05
  • Enlightening Letters 1946-1960 21 Sep 09 $77.73
  • Book of Isaiah 21 Sep 09 $61.33
  • Gray’s Anatomy: Selected Writings 1 Nov 09 $36.82
  • Book 18 May 09 $31.82
  • Book 21 May 09 $122.95
  • Book 5 Jun 09 $29.22
  • Book 8 Jun 09 $13.87

The total cost of these items to the taxpayer was $6768.58.

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13 thoughts on “The Brandis Canon

  1. I’ve reblogged because this information needs to be disseminated. Along with Abbott’s propensity for charging the taxpayer for all and sundry, at best they are hypocrites and need to be exposed.

  2. George Brandis QC surely has an eclectic taste in reading material.
    What first struck me, after removing those political works which may be useful to his work as a senator, was the large number of works by Nietzsche. This is a philosopher which I would not normally associate with the Liberal senator. There was also a large number of history books on rather specialized subjects. In fact, this looks more like the recommended reading list of a student completing a university course in History or political science. Is George Brandis QC enrolled in a course?

  3. Whats’ the matter with his pratt, doesn’t he get paid enough to buy his own books! This is a disgrace. Do we also buy his vitamins to keep him going? There are many books in this list which are general reading, not applicable to his shadow portfolio at the time. Shame!

  4. My politics sit somewhere between the ALP left and the Greens, But $6000 is neglible by federal budget standards, even if we multiply it ny the number of politicians. Virtually all of those books strike me as material that could significantly benefit a leader’s ability to make wise decisions.

    The fact that Brandis strikes me as incurably UNWISE and a poor leader, doesn’t alter the principle that we should provide such incentives for our politicians to engage in such reading, I note with some respect that his readung llist illustrates a willingness to engage with views that challenge his own (i,e, the works from the left of the political spectrum. – l

    My only disappointment is the absence of indigenous authors enlightenung him on infigenous history and culture,

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