Bill Shorten’s speechwriter on $600k contract for two years

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Public Services Minister Bill Shorten hired a personal speechwriter for two years on a $300,000-a-year contract, a Senate hearing revealed.

The committee heard that an “experienced” and “versatile” communications professional had been awarded a one-year contract worth $300,000 by government agency Services Australia to write speeches for Mr Shorten, a contract later extended to two years.

Services Australia deputy chief executive Susie Smith would not confirm the cost of the arrangement. She said the agency had not prepared any speeches for the minister “in the last 12 months”.

Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds asked why Mr Shorten, who has access to senior department staff in preparing his speeches, needed a speechwriter.

“Do you know why this additional $600,000 contract was necessary?” asked Senator Reynolds.

“I can’t answer that,” Mrs. Smith replied.

Liberal Senator Maria Kovacic said it “appeared” as if Mr Shorten had personally requested the speechwriter, even though the agency’s communications department employs 201 staff, including speechwriters.

She said it was “unbelievable” after Ms Smith confirmed that the typical salary of a speechwriter who is considered among the “best of the best” is about $140,000 a year.

“To your knowledge, has the Department ever suggested to a Minister that he should enter into a $300,000-a-year contract for a speechwriter to assist him?” asked Senator Kovacic.

“Not that I know of,” said Mrs. Smith.

“We are clearly in the wrong business,” Senator Reynolds later exclaimed.

James Stevens, opposition spokesman on state waste reduction, sharply criticised Mr Shorten for hiring Julieanne Stewart.

He said the department’s website showed that Mr Shorten had made 28 speeches since taking office in 2022.

“If Ms. Stewart wrote every single one of these speeches, it would be over $22,000 per speech,” Steven said.

“Australians struggling to pay their ever-increasing mortgages, rent, utility bills and groceries would be appalled that their government is spending taxpayers’ money in this way.”

A spokesman from Mr Shorten’s office was contacted for comment.

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