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Jobs for the boys accusations hit federal Liberal Party

The Liberal Party continues to be the subject of scrutiny over jobs for the boys this week, with new revelations about how a former chief of staff to senator Marise Payne scored the top role at the Australian Security Policy Institute (ASPI).

ASPI’s new executive director, Justin Bassi, was the chief of staff for Payne when Payne was foreign minister, and his name was on a shortlist for the appointment along with another candidate preferred by ASPI’s council.

Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request by The Guardian show Bassi’s appointment to the top job at ASPI — announced on the same day as the Federal Budget — was backed by the then-Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

Bassi replaced Peter Jennings, who had been ASPI’s executive director for a decade following a lengthy career in the public service specializing in the provision of defense and national security advice.

The documents also show that finalizing the appointment of the new chief of the strategic policy think tank took at least five months and came at a time when a large number of coalition appointments were being made in anticipation of the announcement of the federal election date.

A 29 March 2022 media release from Dutton announcing Bassi’s appointment spruiks Payne’s former chief of staff’s qualifications.

“Mr Bassi was selected from a strong field of candidates, based on his significant national security experience and wide networks.” Dutton received.

“Mr Bassi most recently served as chief of staff to Foreign Minister Senator the Hon Marise Payne, as the national security adviser to the Hon Malcolm Turnbull AC when he was Prime Minister and former Senator, the Hon George Brandis QC when he was Attorney-General . He also served as a senior officer at the Office of National Intelligence.”

APSI’s funding comes from a range of sources, but it is mostly funded by Australian government departments or agencies.

Core funding is provided by the Department of Defence; in the 2020-21 financial year Defense provided ASPI with $4 million. The core funding from Defense represents 37% of the $10.7 million in funding ASPI received during that reporting period.

Other federal government agencies provided ASPI with $2.6 million of funding, with ASPI also receiving almost $2 million from overseas government agencies. State and territory government agencies provided $445,000 during that same financial year.

Private sector and defense industry funding to the think tank comes at just over $1 million.


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