Australia Post asked to justify pay

09 Feb Australia Post asked to justify pay

Lucy Battersby and Tom McIlroy — The Age — 9 February, 2017

Australia Post chairman John Stanhope has been asked to justify the high salaries at Australia Post to a Senate estimates committee in two weeks’ time.

It comes two days after the Communications and Environment Committee released details about executive remuneration at the government-owned business, which showed Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour received a package worth $5.6 million in 2015-16.

Five other executives received salaries ranging from $1.3 million to $1.8 million. And departing chief operating officer Ewan Stafford received a $380,000 retirement benefit.

The committee was particularly angry that Australia Post had been trying to withhold this information from public scrutiny.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield told the Senate during question time on Thursday that committee chairman Senator James Paterson had requested Mr Stanhope appear at Senate estimates on February 28 to justify this pay packet.

Mr Stanhope is a former chief financial officer and director of Telstra. He was appointed chairman of Australia Post in November 2012 for a seven-year-term.

Senator Fifield noted that as a shareholder minister, he recognised that Australia Post operated in a competitive environment. But this did not justify the secrecy.

‘‘The Australian community deserves high levels of accountability and transparency from government business enterprises,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve asked the board to follow the practice of other government business enterprises, which disaggregate reporting of senior executive remuneration in annual reports.’’

Senator Fifield said the relevant legislation should be viewed ‘‘as the floor, not the ceiling’’ of disclosure requirements.

‘‘It is the government’s view that the board of Australia Post should be conscious of community expectationswhen determining remuneration of senior executives, and be prepared to give a public justification to the satisfaction of the Australian community.

‘‘I have spoken to the chair of Australia Post today to convey my view that he should [appear]. All of us who are employed in the service of the community are rightly accountable to the greater public.

‘‘The view of the community, the government, the Prime Minister and myself is that the current level of executive remuneration is out of step with community expectations.’’

Both the Communications Minister and Finance Minister wrote to Mr Stanhope earlier this week ‘‘requesting that the board give more rigorous consideration to remuneration packages offered to senior executives’’, and that it take executive pay into account ‘‘when seeking to reduce operational costs’’.

Mr Fahour was asked on October 18 to provide details about executive remuneration at Australia Post. The company agreed to provide some information, but only ‘‘in camera’’ – a secret hearing. Company secretary Erin Kelly told the committee that ‘‘public disclosure of executive remuneration would involve the unreasonable disclosure of personal information’’.

She said disclosure could lead to unwarranted media attention and brand damage, and that consideration ‘‘must be given to issues around personal safety and security that may arise’’.

Senator Paterson replied: ‘‘It is the committee which must decide whether [confidentiality] is appropriate, not Australia Post.’’


 

This article originally appeared in The Age.

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