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Senior public servants to escape Prime Minister's pay freeze

The head of the Prime Minister's Department, Ian Watt (right), will be one of the minority of public servants to suffer a pay freeze.

The head of the Prime Minister's Department, Ian Watt (right), will be one of the minority of public servants to suffer a pay freeze. Photo: Andrew Meares

The vast majority of senior public servants will escape the Abbott's government's decision to freeze the pay of top bureaucrats.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said on Sunday that "MPs and senior public servants" would not receive salary rises, so as to help the government save money.

Defence Force chief General David Hurley's salary package will be almost $800,000 a year in July.

Defence Force chief General David Hurley's salary package will be almost $800,000 a year in July. Photo: Andrew Meares

He said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had written to the Remuneration Tribunal to request the freeze, and he expected the tribunal to agree "in due course".

However, the proposal will only affect several hundred office holders, some of whom recently received their largest-ever pay rise.

The bureaucracy's 2750 senior executives will be exempt from the freeze, as the tribunal has no authority to set their salaries.

Mr Hockey's spokeswoman said the freeze was limited to departmental secretaries, other agency heads, the five Defence Force chiefs, Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick and other statutory office holders.

The tribunal recently awarded what it described as "significant increases" in pay to top-ranking public servants and military officers, after independent reviews found they were drastically underpaid compared with executives with similar responsibilities in the private sector.

The typical departmental secretary's total salary package was $539,580 two years ago, but will reach $716,800 in July this year after a series of "catch-up" increases.

Similarly, the head of the Defence Force's remuneration package was $539,580 at the beginning of 2012 and will reach $798,720 in July.

  • The Canberra Times is seeking informed commentary on the public service. Email ps@canberratimes.com.au for details.

While the proposed pay freeze will have a negligible effect on the budget, the Treasurer indicated it was symbolically important.

"I think we have got to send a clear message to the electorate that, whatever we are asking the electorate to contribute to the budget repair task, we are going to contribute ourselves as well," Mr Hockey said.

He did not say how long the freeze on politicians and top public servants' pay would last.

Meanwhile, the tribunal's latest annual report suggests a freeze that exempts senior executives may exacerbate a problem that it has regularly warned the government about.

President John Conde said that, while the tribunal had ensured that statutory office holders' salaries generally rose slowly, government agencies had not similarly restrained the pay of SES officers.

"SES employees are frequently the direct reports of office holders and increases in SES pay relative to office holder pay over the years have resulted in the collapsing of pay differentials in many agencies," Mr Conde wrote.

The government is presently negotiating a new wage deal for about 165,000 public servants. It has warned them to expect a salary rise of as low as 1.5 per cent a year, and only then if they can find savings to pay for it.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article reported that Mr Hockey's office said the freeze would only affect 24 senior government and military officials. The Treasurer's office has since corrected its response, saying the freeze would "apply to everyone who has their remuneration determined by the Remuneration Tribunal".

81 comments so far

  • This is a joke right - they expect us to think this is a contribution to our budget. The story talks of the catch up pay rises for other senior public servants. These politicians will get there own catch up next year for sure.

    Commenter
    Davo
    Date and time
    May 11, 2014, 4:10PM
    • how generous are our politicians!, coming off almost 100% pay increases under Gillard, they agree to a pay freeze for 1 year. You can bet they will have "catchup" pay increases in a couple of years, saying they "deserved" it for doing it so hard. Of course no one else in the workforce will get these catchup pay increases.

      Commenter
      peter
      Date and time
      May 11, 2014, 6:31PM
    • Hey look on the bright side. Now we know how much these people are paid and why they back every government move to hit the underprivileged lesser mortals. Thanks Abbott and Hockey. Next step raising eligibility for parliamentary pensions to 70 years. This mob is so fair I am sure they'll do it because what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

      Commenter
      Sensible
      Date and time
      May 11, 2014, 6:42PM
    • As a Canberran working in the APS I think this whole remuneration tribunal process is pathetic. There is a lot of simmering resentment from ordinary APS soldiers towards Ministers and those in the upper echelons of the public service. Ministers and the upper echelons make decisions affecting those who do the *actual* work, yet they themselves are completely insulated from the problems they cause. They are never going to actually endorse genuine ongoing cuts to THEIR pay and conditions, yet ordinary staff have to demonstrate 'productivity gains'. The tokenistic attempt set out in this article is a pathetic once-off and just does not 'cut it' as a real productivity gain. Where are the changes to luxury entitlements, like the new car every couple of years, free parking, free air travel to Sydney or Melbourne every weekend? Lots of moulah to be saved there, but not a peep.

      Commenter
      Mardi
      Location
      Tuggeranong
      Date and time
      May 11, 2014, 7:35PM
    • If they had a decent bone in their body they would volunteer not to take pay rise for the time the tax is imposed without a catch up. Why do I now laugh at my own comment?

      Commenter
      HoppyPete
      Location
      Wenty
      Date and time
      May 11, 2014, 9:12PM
    • The real story here is that the overpaid and incfredibly generous public service conditions cannot be affected by budget cuts or attempted economies...there is only one action sack them and make those bureaucrats who gained incredible increases in grading and packages under the ALP pay the money back or be sacked...the majority of your bureaucrats readers appear to only be interested in the politicians and in their personal vendettas...not the country like the rests of the country!

      Commenter
      disgustedc
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 1:16AM
    • This fig leaf of a pay freeze is simply not up to the job of making decent the naked lies about no new taxes, that cost of living would fall under an Abbott Government, there would be no changes to pensions and no worker would be worse off.

      Commenter
      Lyn
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 2:10AM
    • @disgustedc. The concept of contracted politically aligned senior public servants was instituted by the Liberal Party, and numerically those generous conditions are shared by less than 1% of the PS, commonwealth and state.

      It would be funny if it weren't so sad that those who rail the loudest about PS working conditions clearly have no idea of what those conditions really are. Comes from believing the Murdoch press, I guess.

      Commenter
      Paul D
      Location
      Brissie
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 9:15AM
    • The "age of entitlement" continues....... for the entitled.

      YOUR age of entitlement has ended

      Commenter
      Phwatt
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 11:09AM
    • Why is it that I can be constantly surprised by public servant salaries...$800K for the head of defence?! whats going on here, are we in la la land, it's all so surreal...

      Commenter
      sunny
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 12:43PM

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