When NSW Treasurer Michael Costa last week announced a four-year plan aimed at
saving $2.5 billion in expenditure, he decided to target the big bucks by “eliminating
the parliamentary dining services subsidy” which is apparently meant to save
the state’s coffers $800,000 per annum.

But at $9.50 for fish and chips in the
bistro, you’re probably better off taking a walk outside the parliamentary
confines anyway. Parly’s catering boss, Joseph, told Crikey
that the price of a beer, now $1.65, will increase modestly to about $1.80, but
there’s still no sign of when it will all take effect because “you know how
slowly everything happens around here”.

Even so, one of NSW Parly’s veterans Paul
Mullins reminisces about the days he started working the beat – about 25 years
ago – when you could actually feel the subsidised catering service was a perk
that came with the territory. “Not only did we have subsidised food and
beverages, but we had our own butler, like 24-hour room service, and he’d take
our order for lunch,” Mullins told Crikey.

“We lived like kings for a very long time,
but those days are long gone.” He said the latest announcement reminds him
just how long gone and far removed the present Parly dining facility is from what it once was.

And the president of the state parliament’s press gallery,
Alex Mitchell, suggested Costa’s latest move could have more sinister motives. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just an
attempt to run it down so it has to shut its doors and they could then
outsource the catering,” he told Crikey.

Peter Fray

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