TV tradie Scott Cam has defended his $350,000 taxpayer-funded careers gig, saying it represents “the value of the brand” and is “none of your business”.
The Morrison government appointed The Block star as its trades ambassador in October 2019.
But it was revealed in Senate estimates last week that Cam’s only public appearance in the 18-month role so far had been at the media conference with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash to announce his appointment.
Since then, Cam has pocketed $145,000 of his contract.
On Tuesday, Cam kicked off a national tour to promote vocational education, at an event hosted by TAFE NSW Ryde.
But the launch was overshadowed by testy interview with Sky News earlier on Tuesday, where Cam said it was “always the case” that his official careers role would start in March.
“If you did your homework and knew what you were talking about, you’d know that all of the tours and appointments that we’re going to are school or TAFE-based, and over the summer all of those facilities are closed,” he said.
“I think that would be a waste of taxpayer money if I was standing at an empty school, wouldn’t you?
“We always planned to start this tour in February, February and March, that was always the case, so all you’ve got to do is ask the questions before making the statements.”
Asked if he thought his $350,000 taxpayer-funded salary was appropriate, Cam said “that is the value of the brand and the profile that the government saw fit to pay me”.
“My management and the government discussed the fee – that’s none of your business, that’s a commercial arrangement, and how that came about is between my management, myself and the government,” he said.
He later back-tracked, conceding taxpayers had an interest in the figure but not in how the role came to be.
Senator Cash said Cam’s national tour would help spread the word that a vocational education could lead to high-paying and fulfilling jobs.
“It’s clear that by learning a trade you have the potential to earn more, your skills will be in demand and you’ll help build our country to keep our economy strong,” she said.
“I’m thrilled that Mr Cam will be busy this year getting the message out to young people and parents at events around Australia about the huge range of options and choices a VET pathway offers.”
Deputy opposition leader Richard Marles later told Sky that
“defensive” was a fair word to use about Cam statements.
“Ultimately, what the government needs to be doing in relation to VET is to properly fund it,” he said.
Skills Department officials told Senate estimates that Cam had also appeared in three short videos, made four social media posts and put a profile on a government website.
The previous Labor government also paid Cam to open trade fairs.