ABC, SBS refuse to re­veal staff salaries

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - STEPHEN BROOK

The ABC and SBS yes­ter­day re­fused to dis­close the in­di­vid­ual salaries of staff earn­ing more than $200,000, putting it on a col­li­sion course with the fed­eral govern­ment, which will at­tempt to force the dis­clo­sure via leg­is­la­tion.

ABC chair­man Justin Milne cited the “in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence” of the na­tional pub­lic broad­caster as well as pri­vacy is­sues in re­ject­ing the re­quest that the govern­ment made af­ter strik­ing a deal with One Na­tion to pass its me­dia re­forms.

“It is im­por­tant to pro­tect the pri­vacy and safety of our em­ploy­ees, par­tic­u­larly our on-air tal­ent, who oc­cupy a unique po­si­tion in the Aus­tralian me­dia land­scape,” Mr Milne said in a let­ter to the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter, Mitch Fi­field.

“The board does not be­lieve that the dis­clo­sure and re­port­ing sug­gested in your let­ter is war­ranted or in the best in­ter­ests of the Cor­po­ra­tion and its em­ploy­ees.”

The ABC chair­man said the board agreed tax­pay­ers were en­ti­tled to a high de­gree of trans­parency about how their taxes were spent.

“The ABC is sub­ject to a level of scru­tiny well be­yond that im­posed on any other me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion in Aus­tralia,” he noted.

“The re­quire­ments are oner­ous, ex­ceed best prac­tice in the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, and will prove counter-pro­duc­tive. They will also re­quire over­rid­ing the Pri­vacy Act.”

The ABC agreed to be more trans­par­ent on some as­pects of its salaries, to bring it in line with other pub­lic and pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions.

From Jan­uary the board will dis­close to­tal re­mu­ner­a­tion of its key man­age­ment per­son­nel, in­clud­ing the chair, non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, and the di­rec­tors of its TV, ra­dio and news di­vi­sions.

The ABC will also agree to pub­lish the num­ber of staff earn­ing more than $200,000, but not their names.

SBS has also writ­ten to the min­is­ter to re­ject his re­quest, but did not make its let­ter pub­lic.

“SBS is al­ready trans­par­ent and com­plies with ex­ist­ing re­quire­ments in its re­port­ing of ex­ec­u­tives’ re­mu­ner­a­tion over $200,000. SBS does not plan to adopt the pro­posed in­creased dis­clo­sure frame­work to re­veal per­sonal em­ployee de­tails,” a spokes­woman said.

Sen­a­tor Fi­field said the govern­ment would now in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion in an at­tempt to force the dis­clo­sures.

“Given the vast ma­jor­ity of fund­ing for the ABC and SBS comes from tax­pay­ers, the govern­ment de­cided that greater trans­parency of ex­pen­di­ture by the pub­lic broad­cast­ers was war­ranted,’’ he said.

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