Labor concerned over Liberal pollster use

Colin Brinsden and Rebecca Gredley
·2-min read

Labor has questioned why a $5 million grant has gone to a Liberal Party-linked firm as it builds a campaign about the government's use of taxpayer money.

The grant was awarded to the peak national body for small businesses to fund a Go Local First campaign.

Labor senator Murray Watt said Liberal Party pollster Crosby Textor had undertaken work for the campaign.

Senator Watt quizzed industry department officials about the grant during a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.

"Would it concern you if public funds are going to a Liberal Party pollster to conduct market research, which is then being fed back into government," he asked.

Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash rejected the characterisation, saying the research was being done for the peak industry body, not for government.

"You only have to look at how successful the campaign has been to date," Senator Cash said.

Department secretary David Fredericks insisted proper processes and guidelines were followed in awarding the grant.

But Senator Watt said it was the latest in a long list of examples where Liberal Party pollsters have been engaged by departments and organisations funded by the government.

Mr Fredericks said the grant to the Council of Small Business of Australia required it to act in an apolitical manner.

"COSBOA has full control over how they spend the funding," he said.

"I don't want the inference left, the nature of the grant by this department was illegitimate, it was done according to proper processes."

A separate estimates hearing has been told a consulting group received about $3 million to help give data analysis more "grunt".

Boston Consulting Group - the former employer of government minister Alan Tudge - received the contract to help Services Australia better understand disability employment services.

"What we needed was more grunt in the data analysis," senior bureaucrat Catherine Rule told senators.

Social Services secretary Kathryn Campbell said the work done would not be publicly released, as it would help form advice to government.