WATERCOOLER: Scandal over broken coffee table misses point

The marble-topped coffee table at Parliament House, Canberra.
The marble-topped coffee table at Parliament House, Canberra.

LABOR is looking for a scandal in the marble coffee table Federal Parliament, which was broken during a party held by Tony Abbott the night he was dumped as Prime Minister.

"I'm disappointed about the damage to the public property because all politicians need to be very conscious of their use of the public purse," Labor's 'Waste Watch' spokesman Pat Conroy has been quoted saying.

Perhaps the thing that's really disappointing is not that a coffee table was broken at what would have presumably been a fairly emotional event - apparently someone was standing on it or dancing on it - but that it was in Parliament House at all.

As Mr Conroy points out, the pink marble coffee table was public property in the sense it was paid for with taxpayer funds. However, unlike most other taxpayer-funded items, this coffee table was something most members of the public would never see or interact with and provides no public good.

These things are expensive.

Even a look through the second-hand marble-topped coffee tables on ebay shows they tend to come in at hundreds of dollars each. Reports of the cost of this one back in the mid-1980s (during Bob Hawke's reign) range anywhere from $500 to $1000.

Compare that to $50-$100 (in today's money) for a basic, regular, coffee table, and it seems like a bit of a waste of money.

If it were some artisan piece in a public space on loan, or even leased, to promote Australian craftspeople, that might be different, but it wasn't.

Okay, it's sod-all compared to the millions and billions spent on new roads, hospitals, or dodgy fighter jets.

However, given the rhetoric from the government over the past couple of years they might be better off saving their pennies for regular furniture rather than this fancy stuff that, at the end of the day, serves precisely the same purpose.

Do you agree? Do you think Labour is looking for a scandal in the broken marble coffee table?

And who agrees: pollies - let's not splurge our hard earned money on expensive marble coffee tables when a basic, regular coffee table will do?

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