Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia


30 MAY 2023


Minister Tony Burke’s Department of Employment and Workplace Relations worked frantically to legitimise highly suspect figures for the cost of an industrial relations consultant that was quoted in the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the Albanese Government’s radical industrial relations legislation which was passed by the Senate late last year.

In Senate Estimates hearings today, a Departmental official admitted the original figure of $175 an hour for a consultant quoted in the RIS was arrived at after a Departmental employee Googled “how much should I charge as a consultant in Australia” and used the first search result is run by Mr Benjamin J Harvey who is described as:

A cross between business strategist, modern day spiritual healer, and self-development expert, Benjamin J Harvey is as comfortable working with Shamans to Strategists, Psychics to Sales Reps, Healers to Home Makers, Buddhists to Businessmen and Meditators to Mediators.

Instead of admitting the error, recalculating the cost of a bargaining consultant, and fixing the RIS, Minister Burke’s Department today admitted that on 22 November 2022 it instead picked three jobs from the Hays Salary Checker website whose hourly rate added up to $175 an hour and stuck with the original figure used in the RIS.

A series of messages between senior Departmental officials on November 22 last year, the day Senator Cash first uncovered the dodgy figure in Estimates hearings, show that Minister Burke’s office was informed that the Department was working on justifying the dodgy number by using more credible websites. These messages were released under FOI.

“The original mistake in the RIS was bad enough. The cover-up by Minister Burke’s Department is a lot more serious.” Senator Cash said.

“What we’ve heard in Estimates today and seen via FOI is that the Department tried to cover-up their use of an extremely dodgy figure,’’ Senator Cash said.

“Instead of just admitting their mistake Minister Burke’s Department tried to retrofit the figure,’’ she said.

“The Department should have just admitted their error and done another calculation – even if it ended up different to the original RIS figure,’’ Senator Cash said.

“Despite the Albanese Government’s lectures on transparency and accountability, we have seen a Government Department trying to justify the use of a dodgy figure. Minister Burke has questions to answer about his personal involvement in this disgraceful episode.” Senator Cash said.