ABC quiet on revealing salaries of best-paid staff

The head of the ABC has refused to provide pay details of people in the organisation’s earning more than $235,000 a year, claiming public interest immunity.

Nov 08, 2022, updated Nov 08, 2022
ABC Managing Director David Anderson. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

ABC Managing Director David Anderson. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Managing director David Anderson faced extended questioning from Liberal senator Sarah Henderson over pay and personnel at a Senate estimates committee hearing on Tuesday.

Henderson said there were no grounds for the ABC to make a public interest immunity claim, and that a similar claim from Australia Post had been rejected.

She told the hearing that during her own time working at the ABC, she witnessed inefficiency and waste.

“I don’t have any cause to believe that things have improved very much, and there is a lot of concern within the ABC about the inequitable allocation of resources,” Henderson said.

She said that on one occasion, the Radio National Drive program had nine producers putting the show to air.

“I don’t think there are areas at the ABC that are overflowing with staff,” Anderson replied.

The public release of details that would lead to the identification of highly paid staff and reveal their pay was an unreasonable invasion of privacy that could expose workers to abuse, the ABC chief told the hearing.

He also said the information was commercially sensitive and would give the broadcaster’s competitors an unfair advantage, thus increasing the ABC’s overall costs.

Anderson said general information about how much the ABC’s 4235 staff get paid was already public, and the gender pay gap had reduced over the past 12 months to less than six per cent.

He said the committee held a private hearing to consider the public interest immunity claim, but failed to resolve the issue.

In a fiery hearing that was suspended after the senators attacked each other in raised voices, Anderson was also questioned about social media and outside-work policies.
Henderson said a recent speech by Four Corners journalist Louise Milligan at the Women Lawyers Association in the ACT had caused offence and distress.

Anderson said Milligan had permission to make the speech, which was delivered in a personal capacity, and the ABC had not received any complaints about it.

But Milligan tweeted a series of responses during the Senate hearing, in which she accused Henderson of making false claims, and challenged her to repeat them outside parliament.

Henderson said the tweets were an example of a star reporter “going rogue” and bringing the ABC into disrepute.

Anderson also defended the social media policy, which he said had been updated after a legal payout for a previous series of tweets by Milligan.

The ABC has been allocated an additional $20.9 million in yearly funding over the next four years to reverse the impact of previous budget freezes under the coalition.


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