Labor's leadership woes led to large payouts

Political advisers dumped after Labor's two leadership shocks in 2013 walked away with a combined $4.8 million in severance pay, according to new information provided by the Department of Finance.

One unnamed adviser left Julia Gillard's office with a golden handshake of $129,563.49.

There were three other individual payouts of more than $90,000, and a number in the $80,000 range.

The data shows definitively for the first time the high cost to taxpayers of even minor political manouevrings in government.

Severance payouts to Chris Bowen's ministerial advisers following his resignation in March sparked by an abortive leadership ballot totalled $350,000. And that was for a leadership showdown that failed to materialise, after Simon Crean fell on his sword, in a bid to smoke out Kevin Rudd and end the stalemate.

Mr Bowen had been Ms Gillard's minister for tertiary education, science and small business despite being also the focal point of the push to restore Kevin Rudd to the Lodge.

But the $350,000 severance bill from Mr Bowen's office for the March "no-show" was dwarfed by the cost of the real thing when Mr Rudd finally succeeded in knocking off Ms Gillard in late June.

Payouts to Gillard staffers following that seismic event reached $1.34 million, exclusively from her private office.

The staff separation cost of the March 2013 crisis in which Mr Rudd refused to challenge was $1,318,833.52 for 34 staff.

That was the bill for the staff of key Rudd backers in the cabinet – Mr 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 challenge in which Ms Gillard was defeated as prime minister and replaced with Mr Rudd, was $3,411,480.61 for 82 staff - 27 of whom went from Ms Gillard's prime ministerial suite upon the return of Mr Rudd.

That political implosion saw a slew of cabinet ministers refuse to serve under Mr Rudd resulting a significant reshuffle and a consequent additional turnover of staff.

Outgoing education minister Peter Garrett quit, leading nine of his personal advisers into the harshness of the post political labour market, their path eased however, by a combined payout of $365,593.67.

Wayne Swan's departure led to a bill for six of his advisers of $291,645,44.

The information follows a series of questions on notice from South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi in his capacity as member of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee.

In November he asked the Secretary of the Department of Finance, David Tune, how many staff were made redundant after the March 21 "aborted leadership challenge".

He also asked how many staff were made redundant following the resignations of Wayne Swan, Peter Garrett, Craig Emerson, Greg Combet, Stephen Conroy and Joe Ludwig.

The figures do not include the payouts to several other ministers who resigned and announced their retirement from politics during the tumultuous Gillard-Rudd period including senior cabinet ministers from the time – Stephen Smith, Chris Evans, Nicola Roxon, and Robert McClelland.

Media reports from the time of Mr Bowen's return to the cabinet, as Mr Rudd's treasurer, claimed some of his staff from his previous cabinet post had been re-employed despite having received $50,000-plus payouts in March.

However the then special minister of state, Mark Dreyfus, had said this was being managed within the rules.

"Where a staff member chooses to take a severance payment they cannot return to the MOPS Act employment within the severance pay period without refunding the balance of their payment," he said in July.

The story Labor's leadership woes led to large payouts first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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