George Brandis has many leather-bound books. That much is already known about the Attorney-General, whose reading habits came to public attention recently with revelations he spent more than $20,000 of taxpayer funds on a personal library and custom bookcase that was too large to move to his new Parliament House office when the Coalition won government.
The bookcase now sits in the office of Labor senator Stephen Conroy.
But new information released by the Department of the Senate shows the full measure of devotion Senator Brandis has applied to his office library.
Timber selections, “design integrity issues” and the “scale of the books” were all canvassed in a “range of internal departmental and external discussions … held in respect of the procurement of the bookcase”.
So big was Senator Brandis' $7000 custom made bookcase – with more than 50 metres of shelving – that the senator was given a $211 step stool to help him reach the highest books.
The installation of the enormous bookcase, in May 2010, was carried out by an external contractor.
Bureaucrats then engaged in a series of emails to discuss and debate the exact specifications of the Brandis Library.
An “all veneer bookcase” was considered but deemed unsuitable for shelves with “high use”. A mixture of “Jarrah veneer and solid” was ultimately decided upon.
“The veneer colour Jarrah has been checked and is a close match to the colour of the solid timber bookcase in the senator's office,” states a purchase order submitted by the Department of the Senate.
The Attorney General's office has been contacted for comment.
Senator Brandis' taxpayer-funded spending has come under scrutiny recently. In September he repaid $1700 he had claimed to attend former radio announcer Michael Smith's wedding. It emerged soon afterwards that he spent almost $13,000 in the previous four years on his personal library.
The collection included political cartoons, the fictional thriller The Marmalade Files and Christopher Hitchens' memoir Hitch-22.
Department of Finance rules say publicly funded books must relate to "parliamentary, electorate or official business".
Senator Brandis told News Corp the public expected their political representatives to be well-informed and "plainly some MPs take that responsibility more seriously than others".
When Fairfax Media asked Senator Brandis about the shelves last year, a spokeswoman for the Attorney-General said the bookcase was now a "permanent asset of the Senate".
Labor senator Joe Ludwig said there was now “enough material about Senator Brandis' library to write a book about it”.
“These released invoices show just how unusual and expensive this personal folly of Senator Brandis truly was to the taxpayer.”
The story Documents reveal George Brandis' demands for taxpayer funded bookcase first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.