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The sequel to the Little Book of Big Labor Waste

When Jamie Briggs penned The Little Book of Big Labor Waste in the lead up to the last election he really nailed Julia Gillard for her sinful waste.

He drew our attention to the fact that “the proceeds of the carbon tax are being used to pay for expensive dinners” when “a dozen climate change bureaucrats left taxpayers with a $1,700 dinner bill after a night out at a posh Italian restaurant in Melbourne.”

Comparatively, those guys were lightweights. Attorney-General George Brandis racked up an $1100 dinner bill on taxpayers during a visit to London and he only had three guests. When Christopher Pyne took his wife on a $30,000 European tour, it included taxpayers being billed $1352 for Mr Pyne to “day let” a room at a swish London hotel before he and his wife, Carolyn, flew back to Australia later that day, and more than $2000 for VIP services at Heathrow Airport. That also pales into insignificance compared to Joe Hockey’s $50,000 gastronomic extravaganza for about 60 financial ministers and central bank governors in Washington just before he delivered the last budget.

Jamie seemed particularly upset with “climate change bureaucrats”, going on to say “Julia Gillard’s Clean Energy Regulator, better known as the carbon cop, has spent $467,570 to improve its ‘customer image’. Instead of spending half a million dollars on PR, Labor should scrap the carbon tax and end this type of wasteful spending.”

So I wonder how he feels about NBNco who, after “6 months of hard work with meetings and interviews with 400 staff”, paid $700,000 to a marketing company who came up with the brilliant idea to change their name to NBN and to take on the motto “nbn: bring it on”.

NBN Co executive general manager of brand and insights Kent Heffernan said “The new brand positioning is modern, inspiring and aspirational – it shows how the nbn network will help harness the full potential of everyone in Australia.”

Those profligate carbon cops were also criticised for spending “$1.03 million researching the effectiveness of Julia Gillard’s taxpayer funded carbon tax advertising campaign. This follows revelations that Labor has installed a secret spin team charged with selling the carbon tax at a cost of $1 million a year.”

Speaking of secret spin teams, Tony Abbott established a covert political hit squad called the Coalition Advisory Service which supplies Government backbenchers with media information and ammunition to aim at the Labor Opposition. It has offices in Parliament House and is run by Simon Berger, the former Woolworths executive who left the company after organising the auction of a “chaff-bag jacket” at a September 2012 Young Liberal fundraising dinner addressed by Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones.

Under CAS, Mr Berger has a staff of at least six but a potential allocation of 10. They are paid from $75,000 to $175,000 a year and have been issued laptops and mobile telephones worth a total of close to $22,000. It operates under the Government Whip who, as he’s not a minister, does not have his spending examined at Estimates grillings.

Jamie was also incensed by Labor spending money on advertising.

“Labor has billed taxpayers for full page advertisements in the Herald Sun and the Age trumpeting its health funding back-flip in Victoria while patients around the country see beds close and elective surgery cancelled. This is nothing more than an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ money and an insult to patients and hospital staff suffering because of Labor’s botched handling of hospital funding.”

Ignoring the comparisons about “botched hospital funding”, it seems the Coalition have overcome their objections to using our money to sell their policies.

Despite new rules for government advertising being implemented five weeks earlier which require campaigns to be examined first by an independent, three-person committee, the government launched a campaign to sell its Intergenerational Report without referring it for approval. Their excuse was they had decided to do it before the rules came into place.

A public service-focused website, The Mandarin, estimated this month that eight contracts related to the campaign, which covered market research, publicity, branding and web design, totalled about $2.7 million. Treasury said it would publish its expenses when the campaign ended.

And then there is Christopher Pyne’s taxpayer-funded advertising blitz to sell his proposed higher education changes even though the Senate have rejected them. Late last year, the government forked out $395,000 to research company Orima Research to conduct more focus groups on university reforms on top of an earlier $163,000 contract. In typical Pyne fashion, he has declined to provide an estimate of the cost of the latest advertising campaign.

Many of Jamie’s complaints refer to media monitoring.

“Labor has spent $110,000 in six months on media monitoring for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, while at the same time cutting vital funds from frontline border protection services.”

So one might assume that the Coalition is against such waste, except that the facts show otherwise.

The Department of Defence spent $2.2 million on market research in 2013-14. It also recently signed an $825,000 contract for media monitoring between November 2014 and August 2015. The Department of Environment plans to spend $400,000 on monitoring between September 2014 and June 2015. The Department of Employment will also spend $315,000 on market research early this year to evaluate Work for the Dole. Elsewhere, the health, industry, education, employment, defence and foreign affairs departments shelled out more than $1.43 million on media monitoring between July and October 2014.

The government’s latest media monitoring deal came into force on New Year’s Day – a $170,000, six-month contract to monitor news for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection – a 55% increase on what Jamie was lambasting Labor for spending. Oops.

While Jamie tells us that “Labor’s focus on spin over substance is coming at a huge cost to the taxpayer”, under the Coalition, the health, human services, industry, education, employment, veterans affairs and foreign affairs and trade departments employ 217 spin doctors, event organisers, graphic designers and public relations experts.

The total of those seven major departments only just exceeds the mini-army of 197 permanent, part-time or “ongoing” PR staff employed by Defence.

Throughout the ‘document’, Briggs adopts a tone more reminiscent of a vindictive petulant child than a prospective government minister.

“Kevin Rudd spent $1.2 million on overseas travel in his first twelve months as Foreign Minister, after being dumped as Prime Minister. It was obvious Julia Gillard preferred Kevin Rudd out of the country, but it came at a huge cost to taxpayers.”

In the first six months of 2014, Julie Bishop claimed $522,642.53 for travel related expenses. Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly after all the trips to weddings and sporting events were exposed, the Abbott government is now refusing to release documents detailing the cost and purpose of overseas travel by Coalition ministers, claiming they could “cause damage to Australia’s international relations” if made public.

Briggs also took the opportunity to have a go at those pesky Independents.

“$1 million was wasted on holding a tax forum demanded by Independent Rob Oakeshott, another talkfest that delivered no results.”

Considering the government is spending $30 million on a national awareness campaign to stop domestic violence whilst slashing funding for frontline services, they are hardly in a position to talk about ineffectual talkfests.

Another complaint was that “The Department of Parliamentary Services has spent about $2.4 million on “staff related and training” purposes – up $475,000 on the previous year. The Department’s annual report reveals the classes include advice on “getting a good night’s sleep”.

Fairfax media recently revealed government agencies are spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars a year on training programs covering topics including “lean thinking” and “clear conversations” which are obviously more important than getting a good night’s sleep.

Somewhat surprisingly, Jamie bemoaned the “$1.8 million Fair Work Australia has so far spent on outside legal and accounting advice for its investigation into the rorting of HSU funds.”

Considering the Royal Commission into Trade Unions is costing $61 million, Briggs must be apopletic. This does not include the cost of the court cases against Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson.

Of the 60 examples of waste listed by Jamie Briggs, I think my favourite was No. 56.

“The Gillard Labor Government has been appointing a raft of former Labor Premiers and Ministers to boards over the last two years. These include former Premiers John Brumby, Anna Bligh, Mike Rann and Geoff Gallop. If there is one thing Julia Gillard has implemented successfully, it is an employment program for her Labor mates. Labor should be focused on creating jobs for Australia, not for ex-Labor Premiers and Ministers.”

Never fear Jamie. The Abbott/Credlin decree to sack all Labor appointees has taken care of that. Come on down, Downer and full steam ahead for Submarine Sophie!


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  1. roddy666

    LNP: greatest bunch of lying hypocrites to walk this planet, bar none.

  2. Möbius Ecko

    Please as many people as possible send this to Jamie Briggs. Has anyone got his email address?

    Distributing it to the media, though probably fruitless, might also get it widely disseminated.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of lying hypocrites….

    Remember when the government said “On average, household electricity bills are estimated to be $200 lower and household gas bills $70 lower than they would be with a carbon tax in 2014-15.”

    The report from the ACCC says unfortunately prices are now higher than they were prior to the introduction of the carbon price due to “other cost factors which have contributed to the increase in the price of electricity”.

    The minister has this report yet still sticks to the mantra that we are saving $550 a year each. Unfortunately, the ACCC provides no evidence that this ever eventuated.

  4. Matters Not

    While the spending may be of concern, the failure to ‘disclose’ is the most worrying. Indeed it’s indefensible. Certainly, FOI applications can be very annoying and are often used as ‘fishing expeditions’ by Oppositions and the MSM but this level of secrecy has plumbed new depths of contempt.

    The refusal to reveal ministerial expenses suggests that they have much to hide. And their ‘history’, even at the most senior levels, points to further rorting going deeper underground.

  5. Colin

    The reality is that Labor and Liberal both spend public money on what is really party political advertising, and they both whinge and complain when the other mob does it.

    Here in SA the State Labor government is advertising against the federal Coalition government’s cuts to health spending, Medicare etc. It’s quite pitiful to watch, as I know very well that if they’re ever voted out (unlikely given the current state of the Liberal Party in SA – the home of Jamie Briggs of course) they will complain when the Liberals do the same thing.

    Like a lot of political issues in Australia today, no-one can take the moral high ground on this issue.

  6. Kaye Lee

    I agree Colin. They tell US that the age of entitlement is over as they devolve all of THEIR expenses to us. When Pyne took his wife overseas (which is usually not paid for by us but Credlin gave him the ok) he also charged taxpayers $244 for a passport application made on April 15 and a further $108 to have it processed as a priority. Are we REALLY responsible for paying for his wife’s passport?

  7. Florence nee Fedup

    I am surprised his wife didn’t have a passport? Did they supply nannie to care for the kids.

    What about more than 100 so called communication specialists to go through social, blogging and other sites each day.

    Seems Peta still travels with Abbott, but is kept out of site.

    What about millions spent on advertising IGR. Same for the non existent health reforms.

    What good has Abbott achieved on his world tours, when things became tough.

  8. Florence nee Fedup

    Can never recall Gillard, even Rudd, flying from state to state seven day a week for no more than what amounts to stunt and photo op. Making announcements of little consequences. That may even cease after Bishop’s announcement of something to do with the Pacific Islands. Not one question asked, but attacked on role Federal Police.

    Have not seen Abbott emerge today, even for a stunt.

    Abbott still flying to such places, for private birthday parties.

  9. stephentardrew

    Excellent research Kaye an good point Colin.

    This is the sad refrain for the left.

    Our two major parties have morphed into a parody of themselves beholden to greed, avarice and the one percent.

    Progressives sit in stunned disbelief that Shortin’s approval rating is less than Abbot’s.

    If that doesn’t say something about Labor politics then what does.

    It amazes me that Kaye does all the hard yards and research that Labor should be doing yet never a peep or thank you for the hard work done by AIMN.

    A good indicator of progressive success is when both major parties turn their backs on the movement demonstrating head in the sand avoidance of the obvious facts.

    Makes you wonder what Labor has to hide when neither major party will accept a federal ICAC.

    When will Labor hold Briggs to account.

    You can be damn sure not until there is outside pressure from progressives.

  10. Kaye Lee

    “Just days after delivering last year’s deeply unpopular federal budget, Treasurer Joe Hockey billed taxpayers more than $20,000 for two VIP flights to spruik his economic plan to the Liberal Party faithful.

    But Mr Hockey’s office has said the 24 hours of travel – to address a lavish Liberal fundraiser in Melbourne and a Liberal National Party gathering in Brisbane – was fully in line with guidelines and entitlements.

    After a breakfast address in Melbourne, Mr Hockey and his staff took another VIP jet – a smaller Challenger 604 – from Melbourne to Brisbane. The jet was pre-positioned in Melbourne at a cost of $3300, the cost of the flight itself was $6270 and the plane returned to Canberra empty at a cost of $5610.

    That means the cost of getting Mr Hockey and five of his colleagues from Melbourne to Brisbane was $15,180. The total for the two stops was $20,130, in addition to usual operating costs.

    Mr Hockey’s office did not provide an explanation as to why he was unable to fly commercially from Melbourne to Brisbane.”

    I have grown to hate the phrase “within guidelines”. It is increasingly obvious that all the “guidelines” require is for you to have your photo taken chatting to the locals. There is no discretion – just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should but that is the way the world seems to be turning. Tax rorting is fine, entitlement rorting is fine – it’s the Kathy Jackson defence. Nobody told me I couldn’t use the union credit card for my boob job, childcare and holidays.

  11. Clean livin

    Bloody politicians!

  12. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Small wonder people in the street are disgusted with politics and politicians. We need a new party that is centrist, and new politicians who are not power hungry idiots. Tony Windsor is the sort of leader we need along with brilliant support from Kaye Lee – whose articles are the main reason I keep sane!

  13. Phi

    Great article thanks Kaye – given the vast army of spinners and monitors feeding on our taxes, you can be sure they will be fully aware that independent media is the voice to be feared when the system that engages them becomes corrupted by self-interest and the consolidation of political power.

    I hate these mongrel LNP politicians with their filthy snouts in the public trough and I’m rapidly losing all residue of respect I might have had for this government and for our system of checks and balances – we are losing our democracy, and fast.

    @ Matters Not – Thanks for the email address – I sent Jamie a personal comment and link to AIMN

  14. diannaart

    Labor still holding to the least worst choice for leadership.


  15. Wally

    Your article really shows that we need to sack all of the politicians from both sides Kaye, they are all too busy with their snout in the trough to do anything that is beneficial for the majority of Australians. I think the philosophy of paying high salaries to politicians to attract the best people is flawed to say the least, when you look at Tony Abbott, you have to wonder if we would be better off with a leader who wants to do it for the betterment of our nation instead of doing it to feather his own nest. Lets face it no sane person or business in the real world would pay Tony Abbott anywhere near what he receives as our PM, he would struggle to get a job.

  16. Kaye Lee


    I am going to the Opera House on Sunday to hear Tony Windsor speak. The topic is “What’s wrong with politics? – Mistrust in governments is increasing, yet we rely on them to provide services and tackle global issues. Is democracy working?”

    We may get a chance to have a chat afterwards. I’d like to ask him if there is anyone in the current parliament that he trusts.

  17. Kaye Lee


    Ted Mack is another ex-politician who I greatly admire. He agrees with you about the pay. He said if paying peanuts attracts monkeys, paying more attracts gorillas.

    I have linked to his Henry Parkes Oration from 2013 many times. For anyone who has not read it, it is 12 pages long but very worth the read.

  18. RosemaryJ36

    I would love to be there when you talk to the good Tony. Before his death, Malcolm Fraser was part of a group discussing a new political party. There may well be a nucleus that would be separate from the extremes of IPA adherents and hard left unionists. Enjoy the talk at the Opera!

  19. eli nes

    when the coalition highlight labor waste a million people read, see or hear it, over and over and over.
    When labor retaliates they reach a few thousand.
    Shorten has been away when he came back today it is not the continuous poor unemployment figures he talks about or barnaby’s bring back the death penalty but some stupid reference to a book about the afp orders?? petty and inane! Worse it was laughed at by ch9.
    We have a jpke government full of secret shadowy policies and labor gets ridiculed.
    robb, andrews, joyce, pyne narrow private school belifs unchallenged by shorten, albo with the same beliefs, strong women wong and plibersek sidelined when shorten was away were these women attacking the coalition? showing up their inanities? No, they were taking a shot against their own party over conscience votes???
    Rear, Kaye, What a gem the tableland had.
    Cannot wait for your thoughts and report, after the meeting with one of the few men I have admired and completely trusted in politics, over the last 60 years. (perhaps I am somewhat infused with bias as inputs were not only acknowledged but thanked.)

  20. Colin

    diannaart, if you think Shorten is the “least worst choice” I’d hate to think who you think is worst!

    Kate Lee sounds a good candidate, but her postings suggest she is too honourable, not to mention intelligent, to go down that road.

  21. Matters Not

    Phi said:

    Matters Not – Thanks for the email address – I sent Jamie a personal comment and link to AIMN

    Also sent an email and received this response:

    Thank you for contacting me. This is an automatic acknowledgment that I have received your email.

    Your enquiry is currently receiving attention; if the matter requires follow up, I will be in contact at the earliest opportunity.

    When responding to correspondence, I give priority to assisting Mayo residents with local matters and Federal Government issues. If you are a Mayo resident, please ensure you have sent me your residential address so I can prioritize your email.

    If you require urgent assistance, please contact my office on 8398 5566.

    If your enquiry is related to the portfolio of Infrastructure and Regional Development, you can contact my Ministerial Office directly via

    To stay in touch with my activities as your local representative, please visit my:

    · Facebook Page

    · Website

    All my best,


    Truth is that Jamie will never read my email UNLESS a very large number of emails along similar are are sent, both to his electoral office and his ministerial office. (His ministerial office email is above).

    Fact is that both of his offices are very busy places and the reading of emails is delegated to quite junior staffers. If there are significant email numbers along the same lines, the junior staffer will report same to a ‘superior’. If it gets to the Minister’s Private Secretary of Senior Ministerial Policy Advisor (or whatever name they use these days), that person may or may not advise the Minister, depending on his/her political judgement.

    Briggs is unlikely to read the article but on a good day his chief advisor might.

    Just as important to email the same article to the Opposition. (They need all the help available when it comes to significant ideas).

    So my advice is to do just that. Spread the word.

  22. RosemaryJ36

    Having now read Ted Mack’s Oration I propose that a group of people headed by Kaye Lee should convene a meeting with the object of establishing within a reasonable time frame (yesterday would be good) a Consitutional Reform Party. This could be done on a national basis through a webinar and should have tremendous appeal to the thousands of Australians totally disenchanted with the current mess. (And by way of comment, Ted’s reference to the speaker came before we had Bronwyn Bishop. I wonder how much more seriously he would now be critical of that role?) Local groups could nominate representatives to join the discussion and we really could have a revolution!

  23. diannaart


    The inference of my remark is simply that the Abbott & the entire LNP remain at the very bottom of the political heap.

  24. gothik2011

    Well Done Kaye Lee. Very thorough and REVEALING. Australia is being PLUNDERED by the LNP and all of their mates.

  25. kerri

    Thanks again for your diligent research Kaye Lee.
    They truly are the “Government for LOOKING like you are doing something”,

  26. Choppa

    “$1 million was wasted on holding a tax forum demanded by Independent Rob Oakeshott, another talkfest that delivered no results.”

    Considering the government is spending $30 million on a national awareness campaign to stop domestic violence whilst slashing funding for frontline services, they are hardly in a position to talk about ineffectual talkfests.

    This just works so well with John Lord’s article about domestic violence. All he wanted is for people to talk about it – yet here you are saying it’s a waste of money. I realise this place is full of sub amateur writers – but you can talk to each other before you make fools of yourselves!!

    So we shouldn’t talk about those who were sent to war and died needlessly…because people who talk about it are bogans according to those who are out of the country at the time of the conversation….we should stop talking about stopping terrorists and their plans because it costs us money, when domestic violence causes more deaths – but we cant spend too much on talking about domestic violence because we should be talking about more important things like tax.

    Desperate times eh – the budget is around the corner. Then you can moan about how the libs kept all the spending you wanted, but how dreadful it is that its putting us in debt.

    Diligent – i think not. As you were.

  27. Kaye Lee


    This post was to highlight the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party who childishly abused Labor for their waste and then proceeded to spend even more on the very same things.

    But to your point about domestic violence…..

    Accessible legal services (including specific services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) have lost $43 million. Funding for housing services, women’s shelters and emergency accommodation has been cut by at least $44 million. Many other bodies are facing funding uncertainty.

    But we have $30 million to give to advertising companies to make us “aware” that it’s not ok to beat up/kill your family?

  28. Kaye Lee

    Anti-family violence service providers have called on the Federal Government to reinstate $2.4 million of funding that is set to be cut from the sector at the end of June.

    The money is provided as grants for specialised family violence programs but the scheme was abolished in last year’s budget.

    No To Violence, the Victorian peak body for organisations that work with men to end their violent behaviour towards family members, is among those calling for funding cuts to be reversed.

  29. Divergent

    The Joe Hockey dinner surely can’t be true can it because Joe had only had his tummy stapled just a year earlier. There wouldn’t have been any room for the food would there? Now that’s a waste.

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