Faulty coffee mugs made to celebrate US president Barack Obama's Australia visit were destroyed in a “mafia-style execution”, a hearing at Parliament House has heard.
A report by ABC revealed that the Department of Parliamentary Services had 200 commemorative coffee mugs made to sell in the Parliament gift shop ahead of Obama's planned visit in 2010, which was later postponed.
However, someone (no one has yet been named) wrote down the president’s first name with two Rs on the order form, and that’s when things got weird.
In an estimates hearing, Bronwyn Graham from the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) explained to Labor Senator John Faulkner that the mugs were crushed and buried in an on-site concrete pour. “The mugs were destroyed into fragments,” Graham said, adding, “They were then disposed of onsite into a planned concrete pour.”
“They ended up in a concrete pour? That's got a touch of the Mafioso about it doesn't it Senator Hogg?” Senator Faulkner asked of the president of the Senate, Senator John Hogg.
“I wouldn't say that,” Senator Hogg responded. Graham added that the concrete pour now rests at Parliament. “Senator [Faulkner], the sensitivity associated with the mistake that was made with the president's name – the last thing we wanted was for the fragments to be found on a garbage tip somewhere,” Graham said.
Senator Faulkner then asked if it is common practice for the DPS to have mugs produced for visitors. “This particular idea was a new idea. A junior staff member came up with the idea,” she said.
But what of the ordering mishap? “I would say that the ordering – a breakdown in communication occurred – and the officer thought he had approval to go ahead and order the mugs, but he did not. I think it’s fair to say given the error that was made, that no proofing was done,” Graham answered.
Senator Faulkner said the “mafia-style execution” of the mugs into a concrete pour was “creative”. A total of 198 mugs were destroyed, but not before an AAP journalist could purchase two – both of which are now, presumably, coveted collector’s items.
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