Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been forced to defend the federal government paying "The Block" star Scott Cam $345,000 for a 15-month contract as a "careers ambassador" encouraging young people to get into trades.
The dollar figure was revealed in Senate estimates, after the government initially refused to disclose it on the basis it was "commercial in confidence".
The prime minister told reporters "Scotty Cam is a successful tradie and he can make that message very clear".
Not a bad gig if you can get it.
Scott Morrison has been forced to defend the federal government paying "The Block" star Scott Cam $345,000 as a "national careers ambassador", after the dollar figure was revealed in Senate estimates.
In September, the employment department announced Scott Cam would become Australia's national careers ambassador, with a focus on encouraging young people to engage in a trade through vocational education and training.
At a press conference in early October, skills and employment minister Michaelia Cash said Cam's pay package to take up the role was “commercial in confidence”, but suggested the spend was worth it on the basis of "outcomes".
"We have entered into commercial terms with Mr Cam but ultimately this about shining a light on vocational education and training in Australia," Cash told reporters in Sydney at the time.
Well, commercial in confidence no more. At an estimates hearing on Thursday evening, Department of Employment and Skills officials confirmed Cam would be paid $345,000 for the 15-month government contract.
Breaking it down, Cam will be paid $260,000 in this financial year, and $85,000 in 2020-21.
Following the disclosure, Labor Senator Louise Pratt suggested the spend was unreasonable given cuts to the vocational sector.
"I guess I'm concerned that you've got someone like Scott Cam promoting vocational education at the same time as there are significant cuts to vocational education," she said.
A report this week from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research found funding for TAFE and training was cut by $326 million last year, with an 11% drop in federal funding of the sector as compared to 2017.
After the initial announcement in October, Labor went on a blitz against Cam's appointment, pointing to the decline in TAFE funding.
"Scott Cam’s a good bloke, but if the Liberals were serious about fixing the skills crisis they’ve created, they’d stop hiring celebrities and start funding TAFE and apprentices," the party's deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said in a tweet.
Michaelia Cash responded to Labor's concern by again suggesting Cam was a high-value investment for the federal government.
“The appointment of Scott Cam is obviously to highlight the value of vocational education and training as an opportunity to provide an incredibly rewarding career,” she said.
SBS reports it made a freedom of information (FOI) request to obtain the details of Cam's pay package, but – despite the disclosure in Senate estimates – it is still pending.
The PM thinks it's money well spent
Scott Morrison showed some solidarity to his fellow Scott following the criticisms
In a press conference on Friday, Morrison said he made “no apology for trying to get young people into trades”.
“We made no secret about the fact he wasn’t doing it as a volunteer," the prime minister said, according to The Australian.
"So look, this is about getting young people into trades. And he’s a high-profile person involved in the media industry, and you have to meet the market.”
In the initial press conference announcing Cam's appointment, Scott Morrison said the hire was an integral part of the strategy of getting more young Australians into a trade.
“For many years going to university has been the default expectation imposed on our young Australians, but it’s not the only path to rewarding and successful employment,” he said.
“It’s time we broadened our view and recognised the many other successful avenues available to young Australians and talked about the opportunities in fast growing industries like health and construction through technical and skills education.
“I want to see more Australians become plumbers, electricians and bakers than lawyers and consultants. I would like to see more of them going on to become their own boss.”