“Not only are these medals costly but they demonstrate the government’s intention to create a military style and culture within the Australian Border Force”: Labor’s waste watch spokesman Pat Conroy. Photo: Andrew Meares
The Department of Australian Immigration is spending more than $1.3 million on medals for its staff, outspending the Department of Defence and prompting new concerns about the militarisation of the portfolio.
Government tender documents show the department has signed a contract worth $1,320,000 over three years with Melbourne-based company Cash’s Awards and Promotion Solutions for medals.
The $440,000 a year contract was signed after an open tender process but appears more expensive than many of the comparable contracts available on the AusTender website.
For example, the department’s previous six-month medal contract – with the Royal Australian Mint – cost just $48,000.
Australian Immigration appears to be spending more than the Department of Defence, which spent about $300,000 on medals, spread over eight contracts, in 2015.
However, the quasi-independent Defence Materiel Organisation also awarded two major contracts for medals – worth about half a million dollars – shortly before it was absorbed back into the department six months ago.
The Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor General is the government body that typically spends the most on medals and awards – about $2.2 million in 2015 – but that is not surprising given it is responsible for the Australian Honours and Awards system.
The Australian Federal Police appears to have spent only $23,000 in 2015, while the Department of Industry, Innovation and science spent $136,000.
Labor’s waste watch spokesman Pat Conroy said immigration’s bill was part of the “quest to militarise” the portfolio.
“The problem is that not only are these medals costly but they demonstrate the government’s intention to create a military style and culture within the Australian Border Force,” he said.
“When you put this in the context of the Operation Fortitude fiasco we start to see a picture emerge of the way this department is being led.”
The cost of the medals comes on top of the millions of dollars spent on the rebranding related to the creation of Australian Border Force, the department’s paramilitary frontline agency.But the department said the medals did not relate to the rebranding.
It said its awards “framework” was established before the creation of ABF and is comparable to other Commonwealth agencies.
“It aims to build and recognise a robust culture of leadership, integrity, excellence, innovation, diversity and inclusiveness; and a culture that recognises commitment and achievement,” a spokesperson said.
Internal departmental awards are awarded across eight categories: Bravery, Conspicuous Conduct, Leadership, Excellence, Innovation, Work Health and Safety, Diversity, and Operations.
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