Arts Minister George Brandis says he was astonished to learn his predecessor had spent more than $54,000 on parties for stakeholders.

When federal Arts Minister George Brandis throws a party, don’t expect much more than a bit of wine and some Twisties.

The fare contrasts with his predecessor, Labor’s Tony Burke, who spent more than $54,000 in three months.

The Ministry for Arts revealed taxpayers forked out $54,312 for “stakeholder engagement functions” in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Queensland and Adelaide in the months after Mr Burke became arts minister in March 2013.

Senator Brandis told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Wednesday that he was “more than astonished” by the revelation.

“There might have been a fin-de-siecle air at the time,” he told the estimates hearing in Canberra.

A bemused Liberal colleague, Ian Macdonald, asked the minister to explain the “end-of-times” term.

Since becoming minister in September, Senator Brandis had held one stakeholder party, for the board of Creative Partnerships Australia.

The wine – “a couple of hundred dollars I think” – was provided by his department.

And one his staff went up to the press gallery and got some chips and Twisties from a vending machine.

“It’s not exactly party central any more,” Senator Brandis said.

Senator Macdonald thanked the minister for his frugality. “But I’m glad you didn’t invite me to the party,” he said.

Previously the committee has heard taxpayers shelled out $7000 and $15,000 for custom-built bookshelves in the minister’s parliamentary offices.