Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can’t afford a carriage …

The British Royal family is universally acknowledged as being amongst the world’s richest people. Yet the Australian Government paid $1.8 million for the 2006 Royal visit for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and $250,000 for a royal coach glorifying Britain, but not Australia.

The royal coach has been described as a stunningly wrought piece of propaganda. Stories of conquest and the divine right of kings are etched on its panels in the powerful language of heraldry. Apparently it contains more gold than any carriage built since 1762 and the doorhandles are made of New Zealand gold encrusted with sapphires and diamonds. The leopards that decorated the standard of Richard the Lionheart occupy one compartment, others house the flowers of Britain: England’s Tudor Rose, the Irish Shamrock, the Welsh Leek and the Scottish Thistle. There is no Wattle present, though, nor any reference to Australia in any part of the vehicle.

The following article from ARMLET, February 2007 exposes the true cost of subsidizing the British Royal family to the Australian taxpayer.

A blow-out in the cost of the Royal Visit led to a departmental budgetary shortfall of $1.4 million, Prime Minister and Cabinet Department Assistant Secretary, Frank Leverett, told the Senate Estimates Committee.

“Royal visits are always a high expenditure item”, said Mr Leverett.

“1.4 million was the shortfall in the program and that was the shortfall of the entire administrative funding for the Department”, he said.

The Government also paid $250,000 to a Sydney man to help him build a carriage said to be an 80th birthday gift for Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen was 80 on 3 June 2006, but the carriage was still in Sydney”.

The builder, avowed monarchist Jim Frecklington, constructed a similar coach for the Bicentennial, which the Government also funded. This time, funding was obtained after he sent a letter to the Prime Minister in March 2006. The Government refused to release this letter.

Questions were also raised about due diligence in relation to the disbursement of funds: no-one from the Government had met with Mr Frecklington, sighted the coach nor confirmed if the coach had other sponsors.

“So, if you had sent a letter saying that I was making a coach for Her Majesty the Queen, I could have scored $250,000 too. I jest, but surely there is some due diligence on this?” enquired Senator John Faulkner at the Estimates hearings.

Faulkner: “Well, what was it?”

Leverett: “There was a very detailed glossy brochure produced by Mr Frecklington”.

As at 29 May 2009 the Royal coach had been completed but is still waiting on the Queen's approval before it can leave Australia to go to London. Why on earth did the Australian taxpayer’s fund this?