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Robyn Archer's pay on par with Chief Minister

Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer.

Centenary of Canberra creative director Robyn Archer. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The artist behind Canberra's centenary celebrations is paid about as much as the territory's Chief Minister, prompting the ACT opposition to ask whether the fee is excessive.

The government awarded renowned singer and artistic director Robyn Archer a four-year services agreement worth about $1.2 million to commission and oversee events at the year-long festival.

Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson, who has criticised some of Archer's decisions this year, has now questioned whether the deal gives Canberrans value for money.

He said the amount appeared to be "in excess of what the community expects".

However, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher praised Archer's unique skills and heavy workload, saying the creative director had attended "hundreds of events, either as a guest speaker or active participant".

"There is no comparative role in Australia, and as such there is no 'market rate'," Ms Gallagher said. "The government is wholly satisfied that Ms Archer provides excellent value for money."

Archer began her work preparing the celebrations in September 2009.

In the first year of her contract, in addition to her then $290,000 annual professional fee, she was entitled to a residential allowance of up to $24,000, $4000 to cover phone and internet costs, and $20,000 in travel expenses.

Her contract also compensates her for "reasonable out-of-pocket and entertainment expenses, including tickets to events, gallery admissions and meals with artists and relevant people".

The government has since increased the fee and allowances in line with inflation, suggesting her fee is now about $310,000 a year.

However, that amount includes GST and, as Archer is a contractor, she receives no superannuation, leave entitlements or sick benefits.

The appointment of Archer, an artist of international repute, was hailed as a coup for Canberra, though some of the centenary's higher-profile events have been controversial.

In March, the $3 million "One Big Day" celebration by the lake attracted a huge crowd of about 150,000 people.

But it upset some who attended, who complained there was too little food or water available in the hot weather, and said the artworks and performances were too highbrow.

Last month, former chief minister Jon Stanhope criticised a hot-air balloon commissioned for the centenary – the Skywhale, a flying creature with many large breasts – saying it invited Canberra-bashing.

"I hate to say it, because I admire Robyn Archer, and I was responsible for her engagement, but I have to say I think it was quite self-indulgent of Robyn and those around her that actually pursued this particular project," Mr Stanhope said when the balloon sculpture was unveiled.

Mr Hanson said the size of Archer's fee was "'inconsistent with the government's cuts across the board in [this month's] budget of $142 million, in reduced services and increased fees and charges".

"'The question is, is it value for money? Just like the Skywhale, the government's priorities don't necessarily reflect the priorities of the community," he said.

He also questioned whether the fee was excessive given Archer continued to perform duties elsewhere in Australia in addition to her work on the centenary.

However, Archer told Fairfax Media she could not compare her job or fee with other positions, as there were "no similar roles".

“Other festivals around Australia run for three weeks or less," she said.

She estimated she spent 85 per cent of her working time on centenary business, and gave some indication of what that involved.

"The time commitment is well over a standard working week. Fourteen-hour days are the norm, no nights off, no weekends off ..." she said.

"From January 7 till June 10 this year - 179 days - there have been only four days free of centenary commitments. I have made 120 public appearances, written 80,000 words for speeches and addresses, and attended another 87 events."

Ms Gallagher said the creative director had "more than delivered on the requirements of her contract while fulfilling her other commitments".

"She has often used these other roles to promote the centenary around Australia," the Chief Minister said.

Ms Gallagher earns $263,000 a year and will receive a superannuation pay-out when she leaves the Assembly.

Other MLAs' annual pay ranges from Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr's $225,000 to a backbencher's salary of $125,200. MLAs are also provided with a car.

The ACT Remuneration Tribunal agreed recently to freeze MLAs' pay in response to requests from politicians from all parties.

Ms Gallagher had cited the troubled ACT economy when she asked for the freeze.

"In a tight fiscal environment, I believe MLAs can cope without a pay increase in 2013-14," she wrote in April.

29 comments

  • "The government awarded renowned singer and artistic director Robyn Archer a four-year services agreement worth about $1.2 million" - Being a renowned singer and artist isn't relevant to events organisation.

    "There is no comparative role in Australia, and as such there is no 'market rate'," "The government is wholly satisfied that Ms Archer provides excellent value for money." - Stop being lazy and google events organisers, there are plenty in Australia with a track record of big events.

    "$4000 to cover phone and internet costs, and $20,000 in travel expenses." - You can get unlimited phone and internet packages for far less than $4000 and isn't a wage greater than the chief ministers good enough to cover your own travel?

    "In March, the $3 million "One Big Day" celebration by the lake attracted a huge crowd of about 150,000 people.
    But it upset some who attended, who complained there was too little food or water available in the hot weather, and said the artworks and performances were too highbrow." - Bingo, all that cash to hold and event that was highbrow and didn't cater for kids and families.......

    "'The question is, is it value for money? Just like the Skywhale, the government's priorities don't necessarily reflect the priorities of the community," - Spot On......

    "The time commitment is well over a standard working week. Fourteen-hour days are the norm, no nights off, no weekends off ..." she said. - Oh my heart bleeds for Robyn, earning all that money and having to get free admission to a whole heap of events that give her free wine and canapes. Life is soooo tough in those circles!

    Commenter
    ekib
    Date and time
    June 21, 2013, 2:58PM
    • What Canberra's centenary celebrations?

      Reminds me of that Dr Hook song " I was stoned and I missed it."

      Have I been asleep and missed them. When are they going to start?

      Oh, I forgot, yes there was that One Big Day in March (did not go to that one knowing that joining 150,000 + people would not be really a fun day out) and then there was that balloon thingwejig (missed that one) that does not belong to us anyway and has disappeared from Canberra skys.

      I don't believe that there are many of us here in Canberra who think we got our monies worth, and really could not be bothered with it. It seems that it caters to a select few, and not the masses.

      Commenter
      Tc
      Date and time
      June 21, 2013, 3:09PM
      • Well, ur contradicting yourself. You want a celebration for the masses (the birthday, with +150,000 people) but you didn't go because that's not what you'd enjoy. That makes no sense.

        There's no pleasing everybody and, judging by your comments, there's certainly no pleasing you...

        I've had a great year - the spiegel garden, the Village, the cricket, the footy. Gotta be happy with that.

        Commenter
        John Western
        Date and time
        June 21, 2013, 6:40PM
      • Well John

        I have lived here for over 35 years, and I have been to quite a few "outings" run by the local government. The same problems - sorry situations - nearly always arise. A lack of the most basic needs for the human condition. They nearly always under estimate what is required in the way of toilets, water, first aid, police, etc. Then throw in the louts, drunks etc and then you can really be assured of a great time.

        Commenter
        Tc
        Date and time
        June 22, 2013, 9:06AM
      • I would not have minded the fee if there were actually events on worth go to with the family.
        The One Big Day was not really a family affair and beyond that not much else has really been well promoted.

        Commenter
        James
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        June 22, 2013, 9:24AM
      • Hi people saying there are not enough family events. Sorry if you are currently involved but if you don't like the events being provided that is a little bit of a problem as if you don't take part in volunteering and helping out at community events then events will not be provided. Our organisation was approached, along with lots of other organisations, around 12 to 18 months ago to put forward proposals for the Canberra 100 events. I'm sorry if your community organisation was not approached but, surprise, surprise, my organisation will be putting on events that are attractive to my membership and a little for the public as well as we have been putting in the hard yards for years and years.
        As I said before, apologies if you have been involved in community groups organising events in Canberra for at least a few years and were not approached by the government. Otherwise I suggest you get involved organising events and may be included next time.

        Commenter
        Not enough family events
        Date and time
        June 22, 2013, 5:01PM
    • Labor mates.

      Commenter
      Economist
      Date and time
      June 21, 2013, 3:35PM
      • As long commented upon, for a year of celebration an extrovert is needed. I have seen very little extroversion this year but I have attended some very embarassing parties organised by introverts.

        Commenter
        Outraged of Palmerston
        Date and time
        June 21, 2013, 3:38PM
        • I don't know whether you are trolling or not but I will bite. What have you done to make sure that the 100 year celebration is a success? Or are you just one of those people who sit back and hope everything happens by itself? I'm not a professional event organiser, musician, sportsman,etc but I have been involved in helping to organise four events for the 100 years in Canberra event. It would be great if we could have more people who are skilled in these events but unfortunately most people just want to let things happen then complain when things are not what they want.
          Outraged you will find that volunteer organisations involved in the Canberra celebrations are screaming out for volunteers. For most positions you do not have to be skilled. Just willing to put in some hours so that the overworked unpaid volunteers do not burn out. For example what have I done; clear mail box twice a week and make sure mail gets to correct people, helped sort out public liability insurance, helped set up and pull down stage set up, set up chairs before concert, help at sporting event ensuring venues are clean, teams know which field to go to, tec.

          Commenter
          Oh yea
          Date and time
          June 22, 2013, 4:55PM
        • I was there. I am skilled. I remain Outraged.

          Commenter
          Outraged of Palmerston
          Date and time
          June 23, 2013, 4:19PM

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