The number of public relations, communications, media staff and contractors employed by government departments has grown by at least 112% in the past six years.
Gerry Brownlee says in a media release that there were 238 people employed in these areas six years ago. That had grown to 448 last year and then to 505 by July this year.
“The government spent $30,498,344 on spin doctor salaries for public relations, communications, and media staff in 2006/7 – in the 2007/8 year that rose by 27% to $38,860,253.”
Among the increases in the amount paid in salaries Brownlee noted was the Department of Conservation which laid field staff off this year but increased its spend on PR salaries from $560,000 in 2006/7 to $1,100,000 in the 07-08 year – a 96% increase.
The Ministry for the Environment had an 88% increase, from $580,140 to $1,092,484; and Inland Revenue salaries doubled from $913,909 $1,828,476 in the same period.
One of the few good things to come out of the Electoral Finance Act was a very clear warning to government departments that they can’t be doing anything that could be construed as singing the praises of the Labour-led government so what on earth are all these people doing?
I doubt if it’s telling us what we have a right to know because journalists reckon there is an inverse relationship between the number of PR people in an organisation and the ability to get clear, honest and open communication from it.