The political assassinations of Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott have cost taxpayers a stunning $7.8 million in payouts to ministerial staff.
But the true cost is likely to top $10 million, because it does not include the cost of running taxpayer-funded offices for former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is eligible to employ three staff in retirement, a city office and domestic travel.
The mounting cost of Australia’s leadership coup culture has been laid bared in Department of Finance figures that reveal dumping Mr Turnbull in August cost taxpayers $4.8 million in staff payouts.
That figure includes $1.9 million for staff in his personal office alone – including long-term loyalist Sally Cray.
Payouts in Julie Bishop’s office – she quit as foreign minister in the leadership turmoil that also rolled Mr Turnbull – topped $500,000.
The costs dwarf the bill for the disposals of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd as prime ministers in 2010 and 2013, a revolving door of leadership coups that cost taxpayers $6 million.
The combined cost of the Rudd-Gillard spat was $4.8 million in severance pay.
One unnamed adviser left Ms Gillard’s office with a golden handshake of $129,563.49.
The separation payouts from the March 2013 crisis, in which Mr Rudd refused to challenge, totalled $1,318,833.52 for 34 staff.
That was the bill for payments to staff of key Rudd backers – Chris Bowen, Martin Ferguson, Simon Crean and Kim Carr – along with a parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and Pacific Island affairs, Richard Marles, the whip, Joel Fitzgibbon and two of his deputies.
The cost of payouts from the June 26, 2013, challenge in which Ms Gillard was defeated as prime minister and replaced with Mr Rudd, was $3,411,480.61 for 82 staff. That included 27 staff from Ms Gillard’s prime ministerial suite who left upon Mr Rudd’s return as PM.
That political implosion also led a slew of cabinet ministers to refuse to serve under Mr Rudd, resulting a significant reshuffle and consequent additional staff turnover.
The figures do not include payouts to other ministers who resigned and announced their retirement from politics during the tumultuous Gillard-Rudd period. They include senior cabinet ministers from the time – Stephen Smith, Chris Evans, Nicola Roxon and Robert McClelland.