Consultancy firm boasted ‘unfettered access’ to Defence, national security agencies

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Consultancy firm boasted ‘unfettered access’ to Defence, national security agencies

By Nick McKenzie and David Crowe

An Australian consulting firm has secretly claimed having unfettered access to high-ranking defence and national security agencies gave it privileged insights about information such as the forward plans of federal government departments that could be used to win more work.

The claim was made in a confidential document prepared by consulting company Noetic – a firm that has won Defence and Home Affairs contracts worth tens of millions of dollars – as it sought to attract the interest of a purchaser in 2018.

Noetic included a list of relationships with “key clients” such as high-ranking national security agency officials.

Noetic included a list of relationships with “key clients” such as high-ranking national security agency officials.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

The Noetic file gives an insight into how some Australian consulting firms commercialise insights from contracting to state and federal governments and comes amid ongoing scandals involving PwC and Synergy 360.

Those controversies have also sparked debate about governments’ increasing dependence on private consultants.

The document lists Noetic’s key clients as Defence and the then newly established Department of Home Affairs, including Australian Border Force and all other agencies under the department.

It claims the Canberra-headquartered firm is “importantly trusted at the highest levels across a range of government departments and agencies”.

The document spruiks the firm’s reach into government.

The document spruiks the firm’s reach into government.

“This positions Noetic uniquely in the market by providing it with an understanding of the forward plans of these departments and agencies,” the document states, before explaining this would help it – or a future owner – win more work.

“As a consequence, Noetic is able to pre-emptively undertake workforce planning and capability/capacity building to ensure operational readiness so that when government departments/agencies seek external support, Noetic is well prepared to tender,” it says.


Noetic describes how any potential purchaser would also then obtain the “incredibly valuable … ability to understand and prepare in anticipation of tenders”.

“By having this ‘upstream’ knowledge of department/agency strategy and plans, [a potential purchaser] could optimise its market positioning to take advantage of large asset-based clients [such as Defence],” it says.

Noetic was contacted for comment but did not respond by deadline.

The company was founded in the early 2000s with the aim of challenging established players in the consulting arena, including the so-called big four: KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and Ernst & Young (now EY). On its website, Noetic describes itself as a “recognised tier two professional services firm”.

The leaked file goes much further, describing years spent cultivating “strong and trusted relationships with a broad range of senior personnel”.


“This has resulted in unfettered access to senior decision makers, good levels of business intelligence and the ability for Noetic to provide candid feedback/input when required,” it says.

The “commercial-in-confidence” Noetic file was prepared to attract a buyer among bigger consulting firms or major infrastructure and IT companies.

In one version of the document, Noetic described itself as “Client X”. Fintech firm FTS Group acquired a majority stake in Noetic in 2021.

The Noetic document was leaked to this masthead in a trove of emails sent by controversial Canberra businessman David Milo, the owner of consulting firm Synergy 360.


Synergy 360 is at the centre of controversy over its ties to former Coalition minister Stuart Robert.

In June, this masthead revealed how Milo leaked confidential Defence Department documents he had obtained while working at consulting giant Deloitte to his business partners at Synergy 360. It appears that after leaving Deloitte in 2017, Milo obtained access to the Noetic file.

In its secret pitch to potential purchasers, Noetic describes how its work with Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force meant it was “viewed as an implementation partner for the ABF in optimising its operational outcomes”.

Noetic claimed this could lead to years more of Home Affairs-funded work.

“At present the largest Noetic undertaking in the ABF is building the capability maturity of the
Australian Border Operations Centre (ABOC) to undertake its mission. The future business opportunity stemming from this work is around supporting the ongoing development of DHA over the next 3-5 years.”

The Noetic file also describes the firm’s work for the Defence Science and Technology Group, Australia’s second-largest national science agency, which is tasked with scientific research relating to national security matters.

“The future business opportunity arising from this work is to take the technologies that Defence and other organisations have identified as ‘game changers’ or capability enhancements from concept to
fruition,” the Noetic file states.

The document also describes how Noetic had been “contracted to conduct a strategic review of the ongoing relevance and efficacy of the Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement” for presentation to a ministerial forum and tabling in parliament.

The Lake Eyre Basin Intergovernmental Agreement was established in 2000 by the Commonwealth, Queensland and South Australian governments to ensure sustainable management of the Lake Eyre Basin.


Noetic claims this contract “provides an exceptionally strong foundation for further expansion into the water resources sector with potential for assisting with the Murray Darling Basin”.

The firm’s work with the Joint Experimentation Directorate “to support both the conduct and ongoing development of Joint Experimentation in Defence” was also earmarked as another “future business opportunity”.

To highlight its relationship with senior federal officials, Noetic included a list of its “relationships with our key clients”. The list includes high-ranking Defence and national security agency officials and departmental secretaries.

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