Senator Murray Watt (Image: AAP/Darren England)

In the space of just a few months, a company set up by a former Crosby Textor pollster has gone from being the new kid on the block to receiving more than $1 million in limited tender government contracts, even landing a position on the government’s coveted go-to panel for urgent work.

Jim Reed, a long-time researcher with Crosby Textor, now known as C|T, was revealed in June to be the recipient of a $541,000 limited tender contract from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) to conduct social policy market research.

Now, his company, Resolve Strategic, has been handed another $502,000 limited tender contract by the Department of Treasury, again for market research. 

There are no details on the government’s tender registry about what kind of market research he has been hired to do, or why it wasn’t put out to open tender. Treasury didn’t respond to questions from Crikey about the contract before deadline.

“We’re seeing over and over again mates of the government being rewarded with big contracts,” Labor Senator Murray Watt told Crikey.

“Their work is highly secretive and there is a genuine question as to why the Treasury Department is conducting market research in the first place. These are departments that are supposed to be dealing with facts, not public opinion.”

Reed set up Resolve last year after working as a senior director of corporate spin outfit Newgate Communications and a researcher and strategist for Crosby Textor. Resolve claims to use “high quality research” to formulate campaign strategy and communications.

“This is about thinking of everything as a campaign, whether that’s one to win votes, to buy your products … or to endorse your social licence,” he has told Mumbrella

Reed is not the only C|T alumnus to have a prominent role in the government’s current messaging. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s principal private secretary, Yaron Finkelstein, is the former chief executive of C|T, where he worked with Reed for several years. 

Reed’s previous contract with the government was arranged through the National COVID-19 Commission (NCC), Morrison’s high-powered business advisory group that now operates within PM&C.

The contract was the subject of scrutiny at a Senate committee hearing in June, where Watt quizzed NCC deputy chief executive Malcolm Thompson about why it had selected Reed’s company.

Thompson said Resolve had been selected because it was on a panel that the government accessed when it required an urgent contract. 

Labor Senator Katy Gallagher, chair of the COVID-19 select committee, has said “important questions” about the NCC’s contracts with Liberal Party connections needed to be answered.

It follows revelations the NCC had handed another $42,000 communications contract to Commtract, a firm headed by two former Liberal Party staffers, Luke Achterstraat and Peter McConnell.

Reed did not return Crikey’s calls. The COVID-19 commission is yet to answer several questions on notice from the Senate hearing, including other questions about the Reed contract.