A Conservative political consultant, and a former adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, have been hired to run a team of consultants in the Government’s “political consulting” programme, the ABC has learned.
The new group, which will include some of the same individuals, has been set up in a bid to speed up the Government-funded research and development program.
The group will work closely with Government departments and agencies to help them understand how their programs and policies could be improved, according to the consultants.
A spokesman for the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Andrew Robb, confirmed the new group was being set up but declined to comment further.
Mr Robb has previously said the Government would not be funding “political consultants” but said this was an important aspect of the program.
Mr Christensen has said the consultants would help with the Government “counselling” process.
“We’ll be consulting the Government on how best to support them in getting the best possible results and advice from the best political consultants in Australia,” Mr Christensen said in March.
Mr Robb said in April that the Government was not “investing in political consultants” and that he would look at hiring political consultants.
He said the new consultants would be “a mix of senior political consultants and other consultants”.
The Government is spending $4 billion a year on the political consulting program.
It is part of its $2.5 billion “Make in Australia” campaign aimed at getting businesses to invest in Australia’s infrastructure.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he would be launching an inquiry into the Government funding program.
“I will be asking the Minister to release the documents to determine how the Government spends taxpayer money on political consultants,” Mr Shorten told the ABC.
“The only reason we know about this program is because it’s being run by Conservative political consultants.”
Mr Christensen defended the Government program and said it was a critical part of the Government, saying it was essential to “get a better picture of how our policies and programs work in practice”.
“It’s about getting a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work and how we can make the most of this great nation,” he said.
Mr Bradbury said the “political consultant” group would be working closely with the departments and departments of the Prime Minister, including Labor.
“It’ll be an opportunity for the Government to really take the time to talk to the public and to engage with the community, and to understand how people are actually doing in their communities,” he told the radio station.