Celebs, execs paid big bucks to motivate public servants
THE federal government is spending tens of thousands dollars hiring celebrities such as singer Casey Donovan, surfer Layne Beachley and Shark Tank judge Naomi Simson to give talks to staff.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that in 2018 alone Home Affairs splashed more than $63,000 of taxpayers money on just five speakers.
But experts have slammed the spending as a waste of money given there is no research to show motivational speakers improve workplace morale.
Among the speakers engaged was former Australian Idol contestant Donovan who cost $11,250 and was hired to give a motivational talk to staff for National Reconciliation Week.
Home Affairs also spent $13,200 on celebrity scientist Dr Karl Kruszelnicki to give a speech for "innovation month".
Others hired included motivational coach Dave Lourdes who cost Home Affairs $11,896.54 for a conference he ran where he spoke to executive assistant staff about "self-awareness and personal development".
Mr Lourdes is director of coaching company Evolving Human Potential and describes himself as Australia's "No.1 Personal Potential Provocateur".
According to his LinkedIn, Mr Lourdes' seminars teach staff to "Outsmart, Outperform and Outgrow" their competition with "psycho-demographic techniques that move hard-to-reach audiences" and "transform dysfunctional teams".
The speakers are hired through talent agencies which also receive a cut of the government payments.
Also spending big on speakers was the Australian Taxation Office which has outlayed more than $49,000 since 2016 hiring four speakers to give inspirational talks.
Those engaged include TEDX speaker and biomedical engineer Dr Jordan Nguyen who cost $11,072 for a talk he gave this year on "digital disruption".
Surfer Layne Beachley cost $12,861 for a speech she gave on International Women's Day this year.
In 2017 the ATO spent $11,446.90 hiring former non-executive director of Telstra Steve Vamos to give a talk about "leading change through a digital era".
Shark Tank's Naomi Simson was also enlisted through agency Saxton Speakers Agency for the ATO's internal leadership conference in 2016 to talk about "the customer and employee experience".
According to the ATO, Simson's contract had a total value of $13,902.90.
In response to questions from The Daily Telegraph Simson defended the spend.
"Executive learning is materially important for all Australian organisations, whether they are privately held or government institutions," Simson said.
"I for one want the government to be at the leading edge - learning and growing from the experience and expertise of others.
"The day organisations, including government bodies, choose to forgo investing in employees' professional development for fear of financial scrutiny, will be a sad day for Australia."
The Department of Department of Industry, Innovation and Science also spent $12,000 hiring defence lawyer Deng Thiak Adut through agency Celebrity Speakers to give a keynote speech at a departmental leadership conference in July.
The University of Sydney's Professor of Employment Marian Baird said while some speakers might be "terrific" the spending was too much given scrutiny on other areas of public expenditure.
"The talks have a "feel good" factor, but I think there would be criticism if employees knew how much speakers were getting per hour," Professor Baird said.
"It comes back to whether there is a clear link on the expenditure and whether it actually has an effect on employee morale and performance."
A Home Affairs spokeswoman said: "The Department is committed to developing its staff by giving them the opportunity to hear from successful and engaging speakers operating outside of Government."
An ATO spokesman also defended its spend.
"When selecting external speakers we choose people who have knowledge or experiences which are relevant to our staff and the work we do," he said. The ATO said the speakers present to large audiences in person and through livestreaming. Their talks were also recorded where possible and made available on video for staff.