How much do public service bosses earn? Soon you might know

How much do public service bosses earn? Soon you might know

An independent review has brushed aside concerns about reporting the salaries of top public service executives, recommending that reporting executive remuneration of government agencies in annual reports be made compulsory.

It has also revealed that last month Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet Martin Parkinson and Finance Secretary Rosemary Huxtable have again requested government entities report their executive remuneration on their websites.

Medibank Private chair Elizabeth Alexander wrote the report with David Thodey, calling for executive remuneration to be made public across the public service.

Medibank Private chair Elizabeth Alexander wrote the report with David Thodey, calling for executive remuneration to be made public across the public service.Credit:Arsineh Houspian

Despite the request now being made three times, "a number of entities have still not complied with this request," the report said.

CSIRO chairman David Thodey and Medibank Private chair Elizabeth Alexander have handed down their final report on the Public Governance and Accountability Act, making 52 recommendations on transforming how performance and accountability is measured across the public service.


After the draft report said executive remuneration should be reported in government agencies' annual reports in the same way as companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, some departments made submissions citing concerns with the proposal.

"Some entities have concerns about publishing information at an identifiable level, citing privacy and other issues, including cultural sensitivities, but these are not shared widely," the report said.


Reporting executive remuneration of individuals, including bonuses and allowances, as well as the number and average remuneration of other senior executives and highly paid staff in annual reports would be compulsory if the report's recommendations were adopted. The report also recommended it become the only form of reporting executive remuneration, replacing reports made voluntarily on government entity websites.

"There is no reason to report Commonwealth executive remuneration arrangements in multiple formats and locations. This hardly helps transparency and accountability," the report said.

Increasing transparency of top level pay in the public service and government business enterprises has been on the agenda since the controversy surrounding the pay packet of former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann wrote to government owned businesses in February last year asking that they reveal executive remuneration in the same way as listed companies, which they did at the time.


In May last year a similar request was made by Mr Parkinson to departmental secretaries, asking that both the departments and agencies within their portfolios do the same. Only half complied with the request, the report said.

A joint request to disclose the information was then made in September last year by Mr Parkinson and Ms Huxtable.

The report said a third request had still been ignored by some entities.

The recommendation had previously been resisted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the basis that it could mean senior public servants ask for more money and costs would go up across the public service.

The Fair Work Ombudsman and Treasury raised privacy concerns and SBS said it could lead to recurring embarrassment for staff who had their salaries published. The Central Land Council said reporting executive pay would cause significant hardship to Indigenous executives for cultural reasons.

A spokeswoman for Finance and Public Service minister Mathias Corman said the government welcomed the report and its recommendations.

"It also welcomes the emphasis in the review recommendations on improved transparency, reporting and public management practice," the spokeswoman said.

"Having just received the final report, the Government will consider the report and its 52 recommendations through its normal processes. That consideration will be informed by the views of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, which has made a significant contribution to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act since its inception."

Sally Whyte is a reporter for The Canberra Times covering the public service.

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