Wage growth: PM's senior executives have received pay rises of up to 12 per cent a year
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Wage growth: PM's senior executives have received pay rises of up to 12 per cent a year

Senior executives in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's own department have received pay rises of up to 12 per cent a year, six times the level of average Australians as wage growth slumps to its lowest level in history.

The figures, released by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under freedom of Information laws, show the pay of senior executives jumped from $296,000 to $335,000 and from $316,490 to $349,841 between 2014-15 and 2015-16.

Average wages have grown by less than 2.3 per cent annually since then and have now bottomed out at 1.9 per cent, barely keeping pace with the cost of living as shopping items become more expensive for consumers.

The Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Martin Parkinson and Treasury Secretary John Fraser are now on salaries of $861,000 and $840,000 respectively. Dr Parkinson's deal is 70 per cent more than former secretary Peter Shergold received a decade ago.

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Senior executives in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department have received pay rises of up to 12 per cent a year.

Senior executives in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department have received pay rises of up to 12 per cent a year.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Following a pay freeze in 2010, a review brought the pay of public sector chiefs in line with private sector CEOs.

Among them, Human Services head Kathryn Campbell who has had her pay rise by 7.5 per cent at the same time as her staff negotiated a 2 per cent pay deal.

For the average worker, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show it is tough to get a pay rise in the public service – and it is even harder in the private sector.

The latter's 0.4 per cent growth for the three months to March was the weakest result since the global financial crisis, with only healthcare and education workers recording a rise much above inflation.

Last week, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said a 2 per cent annual increase in wages for staff at the University of Queensland "was in excess of community norms".

Last week, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said a 2 per cent annual increase in wages for staff at the University of Queensland "was in excess of community norms".Credit:Louie Douvis

Last week Education Minister Simon Birmingham said a 2 per cent annual increase in wages for staff at the University of Queensland "was in excess of community norms". He later clarified that he was also referring to the 17 per cent superannuation deal signed by the university.

Treasurer Scott Morrison hopes wages will get off the floor to 4 per cent by 2021, putting more revenue in government coffers to bring the budget back to surplus.

After the release of the national accounts last week showed gross domestic product rose by 1.8 per cent over the past year, he said workers could expect a pay rise when businesses started increasing their profits.

"There's no chicken-and-egg conundrum when it comes to wages and profitability in investment," he said.

"What has to come first is companies have to make money to be able to pay more in higher wages. That's what has to happen."

Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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