Department’s $550k cash splash as staff cut
THE powerful Home Affairs department splashed about $450,000 on functions and soirees, while splashing out another $100,000 on furniture including fancy sofas and chairs for executives.
The lavish spending is revealed after Australian Border Force had to cut down staff hours at airports over Christmas due to budget shortfalls.
While Labor's immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann blasted the spending as "unacceptable", Home Affairs defended the costs as reasonable and a tiny fraction of its budget.
Government documents reveal the Home Affairs Department, and entities under its umbrella, spent $452,922 on corporate functions in 2017-18.
The department itself splashed out $228,303 on events, including $61,000 wining and dining representatives of the World Customs Organization in Cairns and $35,000 for a four-day powwow with officials from the Oceania Customs Organisation in Melbourne.
Almost 150 functions were held in international destinations such as Washington DC, Fiji, Berlin and New Delhi and Hong Kong as part of stakeholder engagement.
These functions ranged between a few hundred dollars to more than $2500.
The Australian Federal Police spent another $111,263 on corporate functions, Austrac held $105,000 in corporate events while the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission charged more than $6519 for events.
Home Affairs also spent $98,000 on furniture in the 2017-18 financial year as it set up new offices in Canberra.
While the bulk of the spent was on workstations and storage units, some more lavish outlays included almost $9000 on two three-seat sofas and $3600 on two single-seat lounge chairs.
Executives were also given special chairs, with five of the items costing more than $2500.
Mr Neumann said it was "completely unacceptable" spending.
"(Home Affairs Minister) Peter Dutton needs to explain why he thinks it's appropriate for his department to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars on entertainment and office furniture," he said.
A Home Affairs Department spokesman said the expenses were 0.007 per cent of its total expenses and that stakeholder engagement was needed to deliver its "broad national security mandate".
"As is clearly evidenced … the expenses referenced are reasonable and requisite for the corporate functions of a government department," he said.
He said formation of the department required staff relocations.
"The new accommodation allows the department, from a physical security point of view, to handle classified information, which is of a different nature and on a more routine basis than was needed by the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection," the spokesman said.
Mr Dutton was contacted for comment.