Public servants awarded bonuses up to $18,000 despite cutbacks

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Despite severe cutbacks across the federal bureaucracy some public servants were given sweeteners of up to $18,000 in the past financial year. 

Bonuses have not been paid or have been phased out completely at a number of major departments including at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Finance and the Attorney-General's Department. 

But the Department of Communications, one of the hardest hit employers when it came to job cuts, still handed out half a million dollars in performance payments in 2013-14, according to its annual report.

A total of 70 of the department's approximately 242 executive level 1 and 2 staff – or almost 30 per cent of ELs – received a salary top-up. 

The average amounts were $5554 and $9042 for EL1s and EL2s respectively.


The highest figure at Communications for an EL2 was $18,207 and the most for an EL1 was $16,334.

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The department was in the process of reducing its workforce by 20 to 25 per cent. 

Earlier this year Allan Hawke, a former federal department head and chief of staff to then prime minister Paul Keating, said bonuses in the public service were unjustifiable.

Dr Hawke was at the time slamming the Future Fund Management Agency which had been giving out six-figure bonuses. 

"The Treasury doesn't pay bonuses, nor should any other public sector workplace," he said in June. 

Dr Hawke is a long-time critic of performance pay in the public service and abolished it in every agency he led.

"Those judgments [about performance] are just beauty contests. It encourages toadyism and sucking up to the boss.

"There was never any factual basis to how bonuses were calculated and performance was judged."