The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is running a unit that has been tasked with supporting Mathias Cormann in his bid to obtain the top OECD job.
The former finance minister has faced criticism this week after it was revealed he has been travelling around Europe in a taxpayer-funded private plane since November 8 as part of his campaign to be appointed secretary-general.
News.com.au has revealed that a DFAT task force of 8.5 full-time staff has been appointed to help Cormann get the job, including a public servant who is accompanying Cormann on his travels.
A DFAT spokesperson told News.com.au that the unit consists of a task force manager and campaign strategist, strategy and policy advisers, a visits manager, two graduates and a communications specialist, with staff to return to their roles when the campaign wraps up in March 2021.
“The duties of the task force include coordinating advocacy by the prime minister and senior ministers, visit and travel coordination, as well as the preparation of briefs and communications materials to support the campaign,” they said.
Cormann’s former press secretary has also been contracted to join the task force.
Read more: Cormann Australia’s pick for top OECD job
Greens leader Adam Bandt has this week written to OECD members to warn them of Cormann’s history in regards to climate change, including his efforts to “block action at every turn” during his time in government.
“[Cormann’s] appointment to lead this significant global institution would be a blow to tackling climate change and I would urge your country to support an alternative candidate who is committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement,” Bandt wrote.
Former Liberal leader John Hewson has also criticised Cormann’s candidacy, stating that “he should be disqualified because of his climate denialism”.
Can’t see justification for Mathias Cormann’s use of VIP aircraft to garner support for his tilt at OECD job for which he should be disqualified because of his climate denialism both belief and action
— John Hewson (@JohnRHewson) November 24, 2020
In an interview with 2GB on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Cormann has been using a government-funded RAAF jet because COVID-19 is “running rampant” in Europe.
“There really wasn’t the practical option to use commercial flights in the time we had available because of COVID. I mean, if Mathias was flying around on commercial planes, he would have got COVID. The risk of that was extremely high,” he said.
“And so this is about safety, it’s about health, but it’s also about campaigning for a position that Alexander Downer was telling me the other night — our longest serving foreign minister — that Australia has never secured such a position before.”
When asked whether it was appropriate for Cormann to be transported in a RAAF jet for the campaign, health shadow minister Chris Bowen on Tuesday told reporters that Cormann should be supported, but the government should also be “making every effort to get every Australian citizen overseas home safely and as soon as possible”.
He said Labor has backed Cormann’s nomination because the Liberals previously “squibbed” Kevin Rudd’s candidacy for secretary general of the United Nations.
“We’ve shown a greater maturity and willingness to put the national interests first than the government has,” he said.