Why Did Julie Bishop waste so much money on Luxury Bean Bags?

luxury bean bags in office
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) recently announced the purchase of three luxury bean bags. The purchase was for the federal government’s InnovationXchange program. The program seeks to discover new ways to finance and assist developing nations.

The initiative was the idea of Julie Bishop. Ms Bishop is a career politician who was serving as foreign minister and deputy leader of the Liberal Party.

InnovationXchange Launched in March

InnovationXchange launched in March 2015 with $140 million in funding over the next four years. Malcolm Turnbull and Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne announced that the administration would give it a boost with a $1.1 billion innovation-agenda package.

The purpose of InnovationXchange is to alleviate poverty, develop infrastructure and grow jobs. Also to provide opportunities and lend support to economies in countries of the Indo-Pacific. “InnovationXchange is a new initiative to seek new ways of financing aid. In order to act as a new catalyst for new approaches to development assistance.  And to enhance Australia’s impact on sustainable economies in the Indo-Pacific region,” explained Bishop.

Of the original funding, $30 million went to the Global Innovation Fund. And $20 million went to the Data for Health initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies. Also, $20 million went to SEED Pacific, which left the program with a budget of $17.5 million per year over the next four years.

The five key principles of InnovationXchange are as follows:

  • Work openly and share its findings with others who support innovation.
  • Demonstrate leadership in creating new methods for working.
  • Collaborate with a wide range of partner organisations and initiatives.
  • Solve funding problems through an adaptive learning process.
  • Engage risk for the potential of higher rewards and more significant impact.

Julie Bishop Ideas Challenge

One of Julie Bishop’s first uses of the InnovationXchange initiative was to issue the Ideas Challenge. The challenge invited DFAT staff to share and discuss any ideas they may have. This was to help the department work more effectively and efficiently.

“Innovation is more important than ever, and governments must apply innovation as a principle to deliver more effective, efficient services to effect positive change,” said Bishop. “We have a wealth of talent within DFAT, and I am delighted to hear these innovative and creative ideas.”

It was around this time when InnovationXchange began to be referred to as Silicon Valley in Canberra. And it was Bishop’s idea to create a facility that is conducive to innovation and sharing within DFAT. Just like Silicon Valley, the Australian Government wanted some luxurious furnishings.

InnovationXchange has an open-plan office separate from the rest of the department. Bishop has hailed this as a “gorgeous little funky, hipster, type of place” that encourages collaboration and creativity.

As part of this effort, the office received three luxury bean bags at a price of about $1,700. When questioned about the purchase, a representative of DFAT explained why they chose bean bags. It is because a three-seat couch would’ve cost $2,300. The luxury bean bags were also selected because they are more practical and adaptable than other types of seating.

Other furnishings in the InnovationXchange office include a table-tennis table that converts into a conference table for workshops and meetings. Opponents of the initiative have criticised the expenses. However, the criticism is not for buying bean bags but because she chose to buy bean bags online that are $590 apiece.

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