2GB Sydney Live with Ben Fordham
13 October 2017
E & OE
The ABC and SBS have been given a deadline to
declare the salaries of their highest earners, or face laws forcing them to do
so. The Federal Government has asked the ABC and SBS to
voluntarily release the names and salaries of all employees earning
over $200,000; and they’re to do so by the end of next month. If they don’t,
the Government will put legislation in parliament to force the
broadcasters to disclose the figures. On the line the Communications
Minster, Senator Mitch Fifield. Senator, good afternoon.
Thank you for taking the time to have a chat
with us. Look I’ve got mixed feelings on this: I desperately want to
know where my taxpayer’s dollars are being spent, but on the other side of
things, I can understand why people don’t want their salaries released.
Well Ben this is all about transparency and
accountability. The public know what members of parliament,
ministers, judges, senior public servants and military officers
receive. So there’s absolutely no reason why there shouldn’t be the same level
of transparency for senior people at the ABC and SBS.
Why should there be a greater focus on those
earning a big quid?
is something that is in keeping with the temper of the times.
The community expect there to be transparency. They want to know where their
taxpayer dollars are going and if
you hold high positions of public trust, which senior figures of the ABC and
SBS hold, then that should be something that’s on the public record. And the public, the community, can make their
own judgements as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.
The total wage bill for the ABC is
$437 million a year and we’re told that 33 staff members are paid more than a
quarter of a million dollars. So I’m guessing you’re not interested in each and
every staff member at the ABC revealing what they earn, but it’s those really
high income earners that you want revealed.
That’s right. There’s about six or seven per
cent of the staff at the ABC who earn more than about $145,000. Our proposition
is that anyone whose package in total is $200,000 or above – that should
be declared. We should know who they are and what it is they get. That's not
unreasonable. I mean we have the sort of unusual situation
Ben, where we learn more in the ABC’s Annual Report about how much
rainwater is collected at ABC sites than we do about what people are paid.
Do you think that the argument that politicians
have their salaries revealed therefore, TV hosts and radio hosts should
have theirs revealed? Do you think that’s an argument that’s going to wash
with people at the ABC? I’m guessing you’re not too
fussed about whether or not they’re going to cop it
sweet. They’ve already come out and said: ‘forget about it, we’re not
going to be disclosing the salaries of our stars.
Well I’ve written to the Chair of the ABC
and the Chair of SBS and said that it’s a matter of Government policy
that these things be revealed. Now, ABC and SBS have legislated
independence so they don’t have to do what is Government policy. But, if
they decline to be transparent, to reveal this information, then we will
introduce legislation into the parliament so that this will happen.
Minister Mitch Fifield, the Minister for
Communications joining us on the line. I’ve got a list here Mitch, of ABC
salaries that were leaked back in 2013. We could just go through the list
here and work out whether they’re worth it or not?
[Laughs] Well it would be interesting to see if
we both agree.
Tony Jones, host of Q&A, on
Well, Tony is a seasoned and experienced
Journalist Quentin Dempster: $291,000.
I didn’t know Quentin was still on the books at
the ABC. Who knows? He may still have a gig there.
My mate and radio rival, Richard Glover,
at the ABC: $290,000. Richard, he’s worth that isn’t he? He’s worth more than
that isn’t he?
Look, he is a class act. He’s one of the
real talents at the ABC.
Yeah, he deserves a pay rise. Juanita Phillips:
$316,000. Leigh Sales: $280,000. Well, Leigh Sales probably should be
getting more shouldn’t she?
That was one of the interesting things
when the BBC did what we’re hoping to do. It was revealed that in fact, a lot
of the female staff and presenters and journalists at the BBC were not paid
well, according to their male counterparts. So we shall see.
Annabel Crabb, the ABC
online chief political writer: $217,000. Well, she drags in a lot
of attention at the ABC, with all those podcasts that she does and
the TV shows. Look I know it’s a lot of money, but you’re right. This will
create a bit of competition internally at the ABC, like it did at the BBC.
Because when everyone’s showing each other what they earn, Minister, you
know they’re going to be a few people with noses out-of-joint.
We will see if there’s some creative tension.
But this ultimately is about recognising that Australian taxpayers give the ABC
more than a billion dollars a year. And I think Australian taxpayers are
entitled to know what that money is going towards.
What does Michelle Guthrie, the boss, get?
Look she’s of the order of about $900,000 a
year. Her pay is set independently by the Remuneration Tribunal. Her pay is
known. It’s not unreasonable for that of other senior ABC and SBS staff to be
known as well.
Okay, now I’m attending the Radio Awards in
Melbourne this weekend, known as the ACRAs. I believe you’re going to
be there as well. You have been known to get up on stage and sing at previous
functions that I have hosted. Are you planning on doing anything like that at
the Radio Awards this weekend?
We'll see how the spirit moves. I take my
responsibility as Minister for
the Arts very seriously and happy to give practical demonstrations on occasion.
What is that spirit that you drink?
[Laughs] The spirit of the room I was talking
Good on you Mitch Fifield thanks for your time.
See you then, cheers.
See you tomorrow night. The Communications
Minister, Mitch Fifield.