Dear, very dear, Australia Post board,
May I please have a job? I’m lovin’ ya work, particularly on executive pay, and reckon I could provide fabulous value to you and the nation for, say, a couple of mill. The public outcry about the $10.8 million this year to outgoing premier postie Ahmed Fahour is bloody outrageous. How could anyone be so churlish, so ignorant, to question the notion that public-sector executives absolutely must be paid at least as much as those in the private sector?
Ahmed is clearly worth more than almost every private sector chief executive. The punters simply don’t appreciate that, as you say, you keep executive salaries “in line with community expectations”. You clearly nailed that for ages, but you do seem to be slipping; the maximum of $2.75 million a year you’re giving Ahmed’s successor, Christine Holgate, looks positively parsimonious. At least you’re respecting the unimpeachable practice of paying women far less than men.
All those nitpickers whingeing about the stagnant real wages of most of the other 50,000 Australia Post employees are appalling, too. And, as for the carping about you trying to conceal Ahmed’s salary, well, that’s even more disappointing. As you tried so doggedly to convince that annoying, tacky Senate estimates committee (oh, the things public enterprises have to endure), salary details are, well, personal and sensitive and should be suppressed because individuals “may become targets for unwarranted media attention” which could lead, you fear, to brand damage. Nah.
After all, you were only using the cracking cover given to you a few years back by the Coalition through its crackling red-tape bonfire. But now Tony Abbott’s gone and the government has decided it might be a better idea to revert to publishing the figure. But surely they’re over the top by putting salaries in the hands of the Remuneration Tribunal. What a vote of confidence. What the hell do they think you are, a publicly owned enterprise or something?
Look, you might just need some communications trouble-shooting. I’m your man. Really. Bugger journalism; it’s no way to afford the right stuff in life. My CV is in the mail. If it’s not there by, say, Christmas, I’ll FedEx it – or get Ahmed to pop it in to you if he comes to see if you might be able to slip him a festive season bonus. Some of us understand he richly deserves it. Tell him the cheque’s in the mail. And, above all, remember that accountability, transparency and governance are for wimps.
Michael Short is The Age’s chief editorial writer and a columnist.