In August this year, Nine News political editor Chris Uhlmann tweeted a picture outside a toilet in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet telling users to “please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity”.
The tweet sent politicians and conservative media pundits into meltdown. Scott Morrison quickly took to 2GB that afternoon to assure listeners that he would “sort out” the “over the top” sign.
Now, internal emails obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald under freedom of information laws reveal that a number of senior bureaucrats were forced to work overtime to stem the toilet trouble.
These people included PM&C deputy secretary (economic) Dr David Gruen (one of our country’s leading economists and G20 sherpa), as well as deputy secretary (industry and jobs) Simon Duggan.
Crikey took a closer look at the hours Australia’s top political minds pulled to work out how much public money was spent on this public relations fiasco.
Uhlmann sent out his tweet at 2.48pm on August 28. It was quickly picked up by 2GB radio host Ben Fordham on his afternoon drive show. So let’s start the clock at 3pm.
The Herald didn’t say which public servants were CC’d in the first email sent around the office while Fordham blasted the toilet sign on air, but provided a shopping list of the deputy secretaries, first assistant secretaries and a chief of staff who were allegedly drawn into correspondence at some point that afternoon. Their salaries range between $200,000 and $450,000, according to the department’s award rates.
Most probably ended the day at 6pm. But emails reveal that Gruen, Duggan, first assistant secretary Brenton Goldsworthy and chief economic adviser Jason McDonald were discussing the issue between 9pm and 10pm.
Taking all this into account, Crikey estimates the government spent roughly $3000 on these bureaucrat’s salaries while they were responding to the toilet door.
Talk about an expensive photo.