Media Release

Senate estimates committees labor’s waste and mismanagement

A week of Senate Estimates has exposed even more waste and mismanagement from this Labor Government adding to the Billions of Dollars that Labor has wasted on failed schemes, botched plans and blatant wanton spending of taxpayers’ money.

As Australia struggles to keep its head above water, Labor is drowning the Nation in debt.

Here are just some examples of Labor waste and mismanagement which was uncovered by the Coalition this week during Senate Estimates.

From $100,000 splurged on fake kitchens for a Carbon Tax advertising campaign that didn’t mention the Carbon Tax to $20,000 spent on coffee machines, $21,000 spent on a single dinner for bureaucrats and $50,000 Ambulance trips. $700,000 spent engaging 17 lawyers to work on the Slipper/Ashby Case, not to mention $30,000 for a portrait of the disgraced Speaker and over $1,000,000 spent on accommodation for the Ambassador to Rome.

This is just the tip of the iceberg!


Asylum seeker numbers & costs explode

More than 7,200 asylum seekers arrived by boat in the first three months of this financial year – five times as many as Wayne Swan estimated when framing his Budget. The budget estimate of $1.1 billion was based on an average of 450 arrivals per month but actual arrivals are running at an average of 2,400 per month.

While departmental officials refused to be drawn on the cost of the Budget blow-out we do know that in 2011/12 every boat that arrived cost taxpayers $12.8 million, or more than $172,700 for every person on board.


Pink batts frauds repeated for solar panels

The Clean Energy Regulator is investigating more than 60 cases of alleged fraud relating to the Small-scale Technology Certificates (STC) program.

Under the program people who install solar panels to generate power for their hot water systems and heat pumps are able to claim Government discounts for each megawatt hour of electricity produced.

The investigations relate to fraudulent claims that solar panels have been installed when, in fact, they have not been installed.

The 60 cases under investigation look like being just the tip of the iceberg, with the Regulator admitting that most STC frauds relate to multiple households.

These frauds bear all the hallmarks of the infamous ‘pink batts’ affair, where installers fraudulently claimed rebates for installations that were never made.


Indigenous Boarding Schools Not Built

Five years on, Indigenous communities are still waiting for two out of the three promised Indigenous boarding facilities promised by Labor in the 2007 election.

While Wadeye has been completed, construction at the other two facilities – at East Arnhem and the Walpiri Triangle – has not even begun, and the Government has no idea when work will commence.


Former Speaker’s $30,000 portrait

Peter Slipper may be gone as Speaker but he’s still a burden to taxpayers.

Senate Estimates heard that a $30,000 portrait of the former Speaker will be commissioned to hang in Parliament’s Kings Hall.

Mr Slipper gets to choose the artist.  Given his liking for the trappings of office, taxpayers will be waiting breathlessly to see how he is robed when he is ‘immortalised’.


Coffee machines & the wine cabinet

Climate change must be thirsty work.

Presumably that’s why the Clean Energy Regulator has installed eight Nespresso coffee machines at a cost of $20,175, one for each of its eight staff kitchens.

And the Department of Climate has issued a tender to purchase a stainless steel wine cabinet as part of the $20.5 million fit-out costs for its plush new building in Canberra.

Unlike the coffee machines, the wine cabinet is solely for the use of those staff lucky enough to have access to the executive dining room.

That may be galling to non-executive staff, but not nearly as galling as it will be to taxpayers contemplating the effect of the carbon tax on their electricity bills.


G4S to run Manus Island processing centre

G4S, the company behind the security debacle that threw the London Olympics into chaos by failing to supply enough security guards, is set to run the Manus Island processing centre.

Manus Island is due to be operational and receive its first detainees within a matter of weeks.

Fingers crossed that the Government doesn’t have to call in the Army to ensure security as had to be done when G4S failed in London.


Costly Kitchens for a Costly Tax

Senate Estimates has heard that $79,700 was spent building three fake kitchens for the Government’s Carbon Tax advertising campaigns.

Using real kitchens would have cost $5,000 a day.

The cost of shooting the first round of Carbon Tax commercials was $350,000 and $340,000 for the second round.  That’s before buying any airtime.

Estimates also heard that the Government is planning another round of advertising to sell the Carbon Tax Labor promised not to introduce.  And in anticipation of that the creative advertising agency involved has had its contract increased by 50% to $3 million.


More Budget fiddles

In another financial fiddle, 97 quarantine staff have been shifted from ‘airports’ to ‘cargo’ to help the Government meet its Budget targets.

And the reason?  If the staff work in ‘airports’ they are a cost to Government.  If they work in ‘cargo’ costs are recovered from the industry.

Once again the Government is trying to lower its costs by handing the bill to industry.


Pink batts scheme’s costly legacy

Labor’s disastrous Home Insulation Program has so far cost taxpayers $2.15 billion in installation and clean-up costs over four years.

The scheme, which was first announced in February 2009, was wound up less than a year later having been plagued by fraud and safety problems.

After being linked to four deaths and at least 200 house fires the Government was forced to pay for 250,000 inspections of installations already carried out.

The latest revelations show that the original scheme left behind 2494 bad debts totalling $34.5 million, while the subsequent Insulation Industry Assistance Package – designed to help legitimate businesses recover form the Government’s disastrous intervention – has left a further 58 debts totalling $5.45 million.


Europe to set Australia’s Carbon Tax rate

Climate Change bureaucrats have confirmed that Europe will effectively set the rate of Australia’s Carbon Tax.

At the same time, the secretary of the Department of Climate Change has refused to endorse the accuracy of Government/Treasury estimates that the carbon price will be $29 per tonne in 2015, saying only that it was “not implausible”.

Equally, the Department said that a price of $50 per tonne was “not completely inconceivable”.

The truth is that Australians could be paying anything for electricity under Labor’s carbon tax.

The Government has out-sourced Australia’s carbon tax to the Europeans.  The price will be set in Brussels, not Canberra, and there will be no consideration of the impact it will have on Australian families and businesses.


Captain Emad’s family still here

While Captain Emad (aka Abu Kalid) fled Australia on 5 June, the day after the ABC’s Four Corners revealed the notorious people smuggler was pushing supermarket trolleys in Canberra, his family is still here.

Captain Emad arrived in Australia as a refugee in 2010 and was given a protection visa.

His wife and three adult children and their dependants arrived by boat in 2009, were granted refugee status and settled in public housing in Canberra.

Now, five months after Captain Emad fled, it looks like his family may be going back too.   Compared with the three years it took to investigate Craig Thomson, that’s quick work!


How Many Lawyers does it take to …

The Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) admitted at Estimates that 17 of its own lawyers worked on the James Ashby / Peter Slipper case at various timers over the past six months, three of them full time.

In addition, two barristers were engaged, one of them paid at $4,800 per day.

The Commonwealth’s legal bill exceeded $700,000.  All of this for a case which the Commonwealth finally abandoned and settled for $50,000


Government raids Medibank Private

Coalition Senators at Senate Estimates have uncovered a Government plan to rip out a $300 million “special dividend” from Medibank Private to help achieve Wayne Swan’s fictional surplus.

Unlike the Government, Medibank Private actually delivered a surplus last year, although not enough to fund Labor’s $300 million cash grab.

Medibank Private needs its capital reserves.  They were developed on the back of the health insurance premiums paid by its members and milking them will add to pressure on premiums.


NDIS – Where’s the money coming from?

The Secretary of the Department of Finance confirmed at Estimates that there is no funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) beyond the forward estimates.

It turns out that the Government has provided only a quarter of the money needed for the first phase of the NDIS and nothing beyond that.

The NDIS is just one part of Labor’s $120 billion budget black hole resulting from promises made but not properly funded.


Dinner is served

The Federal Government may be $147.3 billion in debt but that didn't stop it spending $21,000 on just one dinner. 

The dinner at a Fremantle hotel was held during meetings of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

More than 170 delegates, advisers and bureaucrats from around the country attended the conference but it is not known how many of them attended the dinner. Even if they all turned up the cost would have been $135 per head.

The dinner was listed as a ‘business cost’, not ‘hospitality’ in departmental accounts. 


Airfare to Nauru – $7,692

Immigration officials have revealed that about $2 million has been spent flying 260 asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Nauru – an average airfare of more than $7,600 per asylum seeker. By contrast, QANTAS are advertising return Sydney to London flights for less than $1,800.It’s worth remembering that every boat that arrived in 2011/12 cost taxpayers $12.8 million, or more than $172,700 for every person on board.


Defence White Paper 86% unfunded

Defence officials have confirmed in Senate Estimates that the $200-$230 billion cost of buying the capabilities outlined in Labor’s 2009 Defence White Paper Force 2030 is almost completely unfunded. In addition, the White Paper promised 3.0% real growth in funding every year to 2017-18 and 2.2% real growth beyond that.  Those promises have now gone by the board.

Instead, Labor has syphoned off more than $25 billion from Defence, using the money to prop up the Budget’s bottom line.


The lights are on but no-one’s at home

The Pontville Detention Centre near Hobart, where the lights blaze brightly every night, is being maintained on a contingency basis even though the last detainee left on 6 March and Minister Bowen announced it had been decommissioned.

With more than 7,200 asylum seekers arriving by boat in the first three months of this financial year, and every other detention centre bursting at the seams, looks like Labor may need to recommission Pontville before too long.


World’s most expensive ambulance trips?

Meanwhile, questioning at Senate Estimates revealed that the Government paid the Tasmanian Ambulance Service $543,000 for what turned out to be eleven trips to Pontville – a cost of $49,363 per trip.


Albanese ‘adjusts’ departmental answers

When Agencies appearing at Estimates are unable to answer Senators’ factual questions in detail, the questions are ‘taken on Notice’ and agencies are required to respond within 30 days.

At the May Estimates hearings the Department of Transport & Infrastructure took 185 questions on notice.

Not only were most of the answers returned more than three months after the 30 day deadline, it has now been revealed that the responsible Minister, Anthony Albanese, ‘adjusted’ 91 of the 185 supposedly ‘factual’ answers supplied by the Department.


NBN signs up 5 households per day

More than 3½ years after NBNCo was established it has managed to sign up just 6,400 households to its fibre network. 

That’s less than five households per day since NBNCo was established on 9 April 2009 (1286 days ago).

Across all three NBNCo networks – fibre, wireless and satellite – 24,000 households are connected.  But at least 9000 of these transferred from the Howard Government’s Australian Broadband Guarantee program

Still, the customer service should be good. NBNCo has around one employee for every 15 paying customers.


Cost of HSU investigation

Fair Work Australia (FWA) has so far spent more than $1.8 million on outside legal and accounting advice for its investigation into the rorting of HSU funds

  • $1.3 million on external legal advice
  • $100,000 on external accounting advice
  • $430,000 on KPMG’s review of the investigation

The $1.8 million does not include the cost to taxpayers of launching FWA’s court action against Labor MP, Craig Thomson.

The court action followed FWA’s findings that Mr Thomson had used HSU funds to pay for escort services and other improper purposes. 


Transparency & ‘open government’?

The Department of Industry spent $156,348.36 in just 25 days trying to prevent The Australian Financial Review from publishing details of Government subsidies to the auto industry.


Application for $20m grant still ‘missing’

The May Budget provided a $20 million grant for Melbourne’s World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building.

But as far as officialdom can tell, no-one ever applied for the grant – it was just, er, granted.

Not only that, but it seems no supporting documentation for the grant was provided either.

Those in the know suspect it was simply a $20 million pay off to Greens MP, Adam Bandt, whose seat includes the Exhibition Building and on whose vote the Government depends for its survival.


CSIRO mismanagement

After a year of denials CSIRO has finally fessed up to failing to follow proper workplace policies and procedures, including:

  • At least 14 cases of  providing incorrect information to Senate Estimates
  • Providing conflicting and inaccurate responses to questions on workplace bullying,
  • Failing to correct Hansard regarding many of these matters,
  • Failing to fulfil their obligations under the Fair Work Act to at least 38 of their employees.


Top bureaucrats fail to turn up to Estimates

The dates for this round of Senate Estimates hearings have been available since the end of last year (2011).

Therefore it is ‘disappointing’ that four of the nation’s top bureaucrats have not attended.

  • Dr Martin Parkinson, Treasury Secretary
  • Mr Michael D’Ascenzo, Commissioner of Taxation
  • Prof Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist
  • Mr Rob Nicholl, CEO of the Australian Office of Financial Management – the agency that manages the Government’s debt – who gave only 12 hours notice that he would not be available for questioning.


The real hit is on the taxpayer

Another Government agency has played the productivity card in a bid to defend its spending on top-of-the-line coffee machines.

The Department of Industry admitted to buying five $15,000 Melitta coffee machines, a total cost of $75,000.

This follows revelations that the Clean Energy Regulator purchased eight Nespresso coffee machines at a cost of $20,175, one for each of its eight staff kitchens.

In each case the bureaucrats claimed it was better for staff to get their caffeine hits in-house rather than walk across the road to the local (private sector) coffee shop.


The BER – a Textbook on Mismanagement

Questioning at Senate Estimates has revealed that 87 projects under the Building the Education Revolution ‘school halls’ program are still not completed.

The BER was originally announced in February 2009 as part of the Government’s response to the Global Financial crisis.  Eighteen months later (August 2010) a review recommended that projects not yet started be rolled back into existing state building programs.

The BER became a byword for waste and mismanagement.  It was widely rorted and condemned by many school communities for not delivering the projects they really needed, such as better school toilets.


Shambolic Centenary of ANZAC planning

The Coalition is committed to maintaining its bipartisan support for the Centenary of ANZAC commemorations but that won’t stop it from highlighting poor management.

The Government plans to spend $350,000 on 39 public ‘consultation forums’.

The first forum held in Sydney last week and $15,700.  Only six days notice was given so it’s not surprising only 15 people turned up.  Three of the 15 were paid departmental officials and another two were paid consultants.


Security Council bid lacked clear strategy

Under Coalition questioning in the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee it became clear that the Government’s bid for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council lacked a strategic approach.  Rather than targeting swing votes in the 193 member states, DFAT launched “a global campaign … in all regions of the world”.

Meanwhile, Senator Conroy, standing in for Foreign Minister Bob Carr who was overseas, shut down questions on the cost of the Government’s Security Council campaign.


Ambassadorial Caesar’s Palace

Taxpayers are paying more than $300,000 a year to rent a palatial apartment for the Australian Ambassador to Rome whilst the official residence undergoes repairs.

Taxpayers are being slugged $30,000 a month for the apartment in a 3 year deal which will ultimately cost taxpayers more than $1,000,000.


Labor’s Computers in Schools Fail

Just 10 out of more than 2,650 secondary schools have been connected to high speed fibre despite Labor promising to do so more than five years ago, so much for Labor’s so-called “digital revolution”.


Grants Frozen in Budget’s Dash for Cash

Questioning at Senate Estimates has revealed the extent to which the Government has put on hold grants which it had hitherto been keen to claim credit for

  • In the Industry portfolio, grants to Clean Technology Investment Programs have been frozen indefinitely, leaving 260 Aus-Industry staff in limbo
  • $2 billion worth of grants to regional Australia have been frozen, including the Regional Development Australia Fund that was promised in return for the support of the Independents for Labor to form Government
  • Funding for small business support programs has been frozen, including money promised to Business Enterprise centres
  • The Government has refused to guarantee the future of research and university infrastructure grants worth nearly $1 billion.  It has also refused to guarantee that uncommitted research grants won’t be clawed back, putting at risk hundreds of jobs.


The school funding reforms are now in the hands of a 29-member joint Prime Minister and Cabinet and Education Department taskforce, sidelining Education Minister, Peter Garrett

  • The new school funding model has not yet been finalised. So far only some policy settings have been prepared
  • Consequently, the Government has not yet begun formal negotiations with the States regarding the new model even though the current model expires next year
  • With only eight House of Reps sitting days left for the year, the Australian Education Act – which the PM called the most important Act of 2012 – has not yet been drafted.


Carbon Tax attacks Army

The Carbon Tax is expected to cost the Army $20.3 million in increased energy costs.


Labor Gets an ‘F” on Trade Training Centres

Five years since Labor promised a Trade Training Centre in every Australian high school it’s been revealed that 92% of schools are still waiting. Half way through Labor’s much vaunted 10 year project, they’ve spent half the money allocated and completed just 8%.


Researchers Pay the Price for Labor’s Mismanagement

Hundreds of projects and thousands of jobs are potentially at risk after Labor’s refusal to guarantee the future of research and university infrastructure grants worth nearly a billion dollars.

Faced with a $120 billion black hole, Labor is slashing and burning in an attempt to scrape together a budget surplus.


In brief

  • The Future Fund, which has around 80 full-time staff, spent $78,284 on taxis in the ten months to April 2012.
  • The Department of Broadband has been sending ‘meticulously researched’ articles extolling the benefits of the NBN to 22 ‘NBN champions’ suggesting they try to get them published them under their own names. 
  • Australia Post spent $280,000 on airfares and accommodation for the CEO and ten staff to attend the London Olympics.
  • Delaying the completion of the Pacific Highway duplication from 2016 to 2020 would add at least $800 million to the cost of the project.