PM’s huge effort to land Cormann $383k job
Taxpayers are funding a "task force" of eight full-time staff to help run former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann's globetrotting campaign to secure a $383,000-a-year tax-free job running the OECD.
News.com.au revealed on Monday that Australia's bid to secure Mr Cormann a tax-free job running the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development is set to cost millions with a RAAF jet on standby to fly him all over Europe.
The luxury taxpayer-funded VIP private plane was also used to transport Mr Cormann from Australia to Europe due to the scarcity of international flights.
It can now be revealed that the cost of the campaign also involves 8.5 full-time staff now working out of a 24-7 task force in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
But until the successful candidate is chosen, the Morrison Government is refusing to disclose the exact costs, claiming that disclosure of campaign details, including costs, could erode Australia's competitive edge in this campaign.
After refusing to answer questions about the arrangements for 36 hours, the Department confirmed at 10:30pm on Tuesday night that the task force was working around the clock to secure the position of secretary-general.
A public servant seconded from the DFAT is also accompanying Mr Cormann on the VIP jet all over Europe and liaising with the task force in Australia.
"A small temporary campaign task force has been set up to support Mathias Cormann as Australia's candidate for the Secretary-General of the OECD. This team will return to other duties at the conclusion of the campaign in around March 2021,'' a DFAT spokesperson said.
"The task force consists of 8.5 dedicated staff, made up of a task force manager and campaign strategist, strategy and policy advisers, a visits manager, two graduates and a communications specialist. The duties of the task force include co-ordinating advocacy by the Prime Minister and Senior Ministers, visit and travel co-ordination, as well as the preparation of briefs and communications materials to support the campaign.
"The OECD is a world-leading international economic organisation. As we tackle COVID-19, work by organisations like the OECD will help us find recovery solutions - this candidacy is a high priority for the Government."
Mr Cormann is not being paid a salary by the Australian Government and ceased to be paid as a minister immediately upon his formal retirement recently. His long-serving former press secretary has joined the DFAT task force on a contract basis.
The former Senator is travelling to meet key decision-makers in OECD member countries. Since leaving Australia on November 8, Mr Cormann has held meetings with key decision-makers in Turkey, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
Mr Cormann is planning to meet decision-makers across other OECD countries to promote his candidacy over the coming weeks, including in Austria, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, France, Chile, and Colombia.
In France, Mr Cormann will be interviewed for the position of Secretary-General by OECD member state Ambassadors.
The Government has made available to Mr Cormann the use of a Special Purpose Aircraft to enable COVID-safe travel arguing it would not otherwise have been possible to undertake intense advocacy taking into account changing circumstances on the ground through commercial travel.
Senator Cormann previously earned $390,000 as Senate leader but actually had to pay income tax in Australia for his troubles.
Senator Cormann entered Parliament in 2007, after changes to the parliamentary superannuation scheme that previously allowed MPs to cash it out or take a pension as soon as they left politics.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously hailed Mr Cormann's credentials as providing a perfect fit for the top job.
"I can think of no finer candidate that Australia can put forward with his experience, with his skills," Mr Morrison said.
"Australians have an ability to work with everyone, to get on with everyone, to find the way through, to be practical, to bring people together and to support the many global organisations which the OECD would work particularly the G20."
During the Rudd Government, taxpayers spent an estimated $25 million to secure a seat on the UN Security Council.
At the time, the Liberal Party hailed the win as an 'expensive victory' for Australia.
Originally published as PM's huge effort to land Cormann $383k job