Scott Morrison exercises tight media control in Department of Social Services

Liberal leadership contender Scott Morrison has almost completely stripped his departmental bureaucrats of the power to answer questions from journalists.

Scott Morrison is tightly managing his portfolio's media image.
Scott Morrison is tightly managing his portfolio's media image. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The same tightly controlled media management style he displayed while overseeing immigration issues during operation sovereign borders has been brought to the social services portfolio.

The Department of Social Services' 50-person communications team, costing taxpayers several million dollars a year, responded directly to just two of the 390 requests it received from media in the first six months of the year.

The rest were flicked on to Mr Morrison's office or to the staff of his parliamentary secretary, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

Opposition early childhood spokeswoman Kate Ellis said the fact Mr Morrison took 99 per cent of media enquiries out of the hands of his public servants showed he was "obsessed with control and secrecy – no matter the portfolio".


"Unfortunately for Australian families, gagging his department is having a real impact on their understanding of the childcare changes, as they are being stopped from releasing even basic detail," Ms Ellis said.

"Scott Morrison can't hide beyond a veil of operational reasons when it comes to families, and he shouldn't be gagging his department from answering basic questions about the social services portfolio."

Earlier this week Ms Ellis said there was a lack of detail coming out of the department and Mr Morrison's office following News Corp reports that hundreds of thousands of families would be hit by a looming cut to the multiple childcare benefit in 2017.

Mr Morrison responded in the same report by saying false suggestions families would be worse off under the Jobs for Families package created needless anxiety for parents.

On Thursday Mr Morrison said the DSS communications and media branch researched answers and provided support for answering questions from the media.

"As minister I am responsible for the social services portfolio and department and therefore I provide public comment on portfolio issues," Mr Morrison said.

He said the DSS communications team also had a range of jobs outside of dealing directly with journalists.

This included, but was not limited to; market research, communication and media strategy development and implementation, advertising campaign development and implementation, events management, information product development, printing, distribution and storage, communications related procurement and panel management and content development for the department's internet and intranet sites.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made Mr Morrison social services minister in December 2014.