The speakers included singer Casey Donovan, winner of the reality TV series I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!, who was paid $11,000 to appear at a National Reconciliation Week event. Actor Magda Szubanski was paid $16,500 to speak at an event promoting the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia.
Actor Samuel Johnson received $17,000 to speak about his sister Connie on International Women’s Day. Ms Johnson was an advocate for cancer research and awareness who died from the disease last year.
Celebrity scientist Karl Kruszelnicki spoke at the department’s Innovation Month event, in return for more than $13,000.
Olympic kayaker-turned-motivational speaker Dan Collins was paid $5,500 to speak at a “leadership in action” event. On his website, Mr Collins describes himself as “a management consultant who’s obsessed with taking that which is average and turning it into a winning culture”.
Professional MC David Lourdes was paid almost $12,000 to speak about “self awareness and personal development” at an executive assistant conference. Mr Lourdes is the founder of Evolving Human Potential Pty Ltd, and seeks to inspire organisations to “develop a ‘go-for-it’ mindset to gain ultimate success”.
Speaking at the department’s executive leadership conferences, corporate comedian Malcolm Dix received almost $10,000 and motivational speaker Nadine Champion was paid more than $9000.
Home Affairs documents also show the department forked out more than $111,000 on promotional merchandise in the 2017-18 financial year. It refused to give details on the merchandise when requested.
The Community and Public Sector Union says the department was heading for a budget deficit of at least $300 million by the end of this financial year, necessitating major cuts to frontline operations across the country. It blamed senior management for the financial woes.
As reported last week, leaked emails showed the Border Force was responding to the budget pressures by slashing casual staff by up to two-thirds in some airports in the lead up to the busy Christmas period, prompting fears of long passenger queues and weakened security.
Labor’s immigration and border protection spokesman Shayne Neumann said the spending “beggars belief”.
“Peter Dutton is allowing his department to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on motivational speakers and promotional materials but, at the same time, stopping ABF vessels from patrolling Australia’s borders to save money on fuel and cutting frontline staff at airports over Christmas,” he said.
In a statement, the department said the creation of Home Affairs in December 2017 involved a merger of immigration, border protection and four other departments, and its costs were “comparative with those of other large Commonwealth agencies”.
The department has previously said that as of November 1, Home Affairs and the Border Force began implementing “significant budget control measures to ensure we operate within established internal budgets”.
Nicole Hasham is environment and energy correspondent for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.