Rogue MP Craig Kelly has backtracked on a colourful Parliament House stunt protesting the government racking up a record level of debt in Tuesday’s budget, now promising to pay the printing costs for “trillions” of dollars in fake money after previously planning to bill it to the taxpayer.
“I’m happy to pay for it to make the point,” Mr Kelly told The New Daily, moments after giving a tongue-in-cheek press conference next to a waist-high stack of fake ‘one trillion dollar’ bills he had made at a local printing firm.
Mr Kelly, who recently quit the Liberal Party after a dispute over his barracking for unproven COVID treatments, had the large prop shipped to Parliament House to protest the government approaching one trillion dollars in debt.
PRESS CONFERENCE – CRAIG KELLY MP – 9.30am Tues 11th May, Mural Hall, 2nd Floor Parliament House
Wouldn't you love to have this much money ?
Well you do !!
This represents close to $1 TRILLION of Federal & State Government net DEBT that YOU & future generations need to pay off pic.twitter.com/ztKH5Wv9SD
— Craig Kelly MP (@CraigKellyMP) May 10, 2021
“Getting the budget back into balance isn’t an austerity measure,” the Member for Hughes told a press conference on Tuesday morning, hours before his former colleague Josh Frydenberg will hand down his third budget.
“The first job is to get the budget back into balance. Then the long-term goal is to try and reduce this debt, so we’re not leaving a burden for future generations.”
Mr Kelly called treasurer Frydenberg ” a good friend”.
“I hope he takes this in good faith, because he has to make very hard decisions on behalf of the nation,” he added.
“This is entirely to educate the Australian public about what a trillion dollars looks like.”
Mr Kelly’s prop, he told TND, was a wooden crate covered in chipboard sheets, with stacks of realistic-looking green bills stuck to it. The money, near-identical in size to official currency, is the same colour scheme as the $100 note, and bears the signatures of the Secretary to the Treasury and the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
Unlike the $100 bill, however, Mr Kelly’s bills carried the face of famous bushranger Ned Kelly, and “1,000,000,000,000” in the top corner.
The back of the bill shows a diagram “visualising $1 trillion of government debt in $100 bills”, with diagrams showing it would require many dozens of pallets.
It also carries the branding “Craig Kelly, Federal Member for Hughes”, and a note saying it was “authorised by Craig Kelly”.
Mr Kelly’s photo op used many hundreds of ‘one trillion dollar’ bills, however, meaning his stunt would represent hundreds of trillions of dollars, far above Australia’s debt level and many times the amount of money circulating in the entire world.
Mr Kelly’s point was about government spending, but he revealed that the stunt itself had actually been funded by government spending. Asked how much it cost him to print out the fake notes, he said the bill was around $1000, which he planned to claim on the taxpayer-funded printing allowance which is extended to all federal politicians.
“These have my logo on the back. Better than a business card, I think, to educate the kids about how much a trillion dollars is,” Mr Kelly said.
“The printing of the notes was about $1000… these are authorised on the back, which will be used for educational purposes. It comes out of my budgetary printing and communications allowance.”
However, he soon backtracked, saying he had reconsidered the spending, and would be funding it out of his own pocket, not through his taxpayer allowance.
“I thought I should pay for that myself,” Mr Kelly told TND later.
He said he had received an invoice from the printer but had not submitted it through his parliamentary allowance payments. Mr Kelly pledged to pay the amount from his own funds.
“I don’t know whether my mate Josh, the treasurer, will be happy with me,” Mr Kelly joked, about his stunt.
TND has contacted the Reserve Bank, Treasury and the Royal Australian Mint for comment.