Friday 12 February 2010

Why do we pay public servants $450,000?

There has been a bit of an outcry over this:

NBN CEO Mike Quigley didn't even bother Googling Labor functionary Mike Kaiser before financially elevating him from Anna Bligh's chief of staff to $450,000 a year as NBN's PR man.

Having worked in the public sector, and been around public servants in the upper SES pay bands, I understand quite well the rationales for paying big bucks to certain public servants. The usual mantra is that we need to offer equivalent rates of pay to the private sector to attract talented individuals from the private sector.

That's all well and good in theory, but over the years, I didn't see a flood of private sector types into the agencies that I was working for. It was either a trickle, or nothing at all. What tended to happen is that if one department managed to get some highly paid positions created, the outcome was that lesser-paid public servants from other departments queued up for the jobs. The private sector people usually didn't get a look in, as they lacked the essential public sector experience!

If someone says that they needed to pay $450,000 for a government relations position in order to make it attractive to private sector types, my question is this - why did the job go to someone who has never worked in the private sector? Why was there not a shortlist of private sector candidates?

In a similar vein, I am sure the Red Cross used that same thinking when deciding to pay their Australian CEO almost half a million dollars per year. Did they get a person with CEO experience in the private sector? No. They got a washed up ex-Federal politician with little if any private sector experience.

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