The Labor Party has announced it will save money by scrapping the Innovation Xchange, which it says “focussed on purchasing beanbags”.
The Innovation Xchange was a $140 million pet initiative of Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, a four-year project labelled “Silicon Valley in Canberra”. Its funding came from cuts in other areas of foreign affairs, including overseas aid, and its purpose was “developing new partnerships to ensure our aid program takes advantage of new approaches and technologies to deliver better outcomes for development impact”.
This is the department Crikey revealed was spending $590 each on three beanbags, instead of couches, and had a large conference table that doubles as a table tennis play area. Bishop described the space as a “gorgeous little funky, hipster, Googly, Facebooky-type place”.
DFAT officials told Estimates the beanbags were so expensive because they were Australian made, although Crikey‘s research struggled to find beanbags worth more than $300 each. The department’s head of InnovationXchange, Lisa Rauter, told Estimates:
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“They source their products from sustainable and social sort of impact sources so they work very strongly with indigenous communities who do their design work. Australian design work tends to be more expensive than cheaper overseas products, and it is also of commercial quality.”
The ALP claims scrapping the Innovation Xchange will save $.4 billion, which seems to mean the money wont go back into the foreign aid budget.