'Secret' report on Education Department's spin team

A $95,000 report into the Education Department's public relations spin machine has so far been kept secret because a third party has objected to its release under a freedom-of-information application. 

It has also been revealed the department spent $75,000 on top of this earlier this year for one contracted spin doctor from Reputation Pty Ltd to do two-and-a-half months' work.

In an answer to a question on notice, the department says this was the accumulation of the media manager's daily rate of "just" $900 to work full-time and to be available outside business hours seven days a week.  

Senator Penny Wong, the opposition's leader in the Senate, said Education Minister Christopher Pyne "has something to hide" because his department had not yet released the taxpayer-funded report. 

"While sacking public servants and ripping billions of dollars out of schools Mr Pyne has spent up big on a secret review of his department’s spin doctoring," Senator Wong said. 

"Labor will continue to pursue this matter."


A spokesman for Mr Pyne said the government was not going to be lectured by Senator Wong, who "set the bar for profligate spending of taxpayers' funding".

"Senator Wong as Finance Minister authorised the spending of $21 million in the two months before calling an election, or over $400,000 a day, running television commercials advertising a school funding model that hadn't even been nationally agreed by all states and territories," the spokesman said. 

The Education Department called in Reputation Pty Ltd under the $95,000 fixed-price contract at the start of this year to deal with machinery-of-government changes and to write the review on its communications operations.

Details of the $95,000 figure, which involved several weeks' work to audit the process of the department's spin unit, were reported earlier this year.

An answer to a question on notice now says an unnamed "third party" has objected to the release of the report, which was written after three consultants reviewed the department's practices between January 7 and February 21. 

The same answer said the review included 30 in-depth qualitative interviews with a range of internal and external stakeholders and an audit of the communication team's resources and staffing. 

Another contract, for $75,000, was soon signed for the principal of Reputation Pty Ltd to run the department’s communication branch and to start implementing the review's findings.

An Education Department spokesman said the report by Reputation was the subject of an active freedom-of-information request.

"The applicant has not been advised of the outcome of this request," the spokesman said. 

"It would be inappropriate for the department to comment or provide details of the process at this stage."

Details of expenditure across the bureaucracy is being put under huge scrutiny by all sides of politics as the federal government moves ahead with cutting 16,500 Commonwealth public servants nationally.  


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