The communications minister, Mitch Fifield, has told the ABC and SBS it has until the end of November to release the salary details of any on-air talent making more than $200,000 a year.
Fifield has long campaigned for more transparency at the public broadcasters and those on high salaries that are ultimately paid by the Australian taxpayer. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation – no fan of the ABC at the best of times – has repeatedly called for on-air talent’s pay packets to be made public, too.
In a letter obtained by Melbourne’s The Herald Sun, Fifield wrote to the ABC’s chairman Justin Milne saying the public deserved more transparency. The salaries of its board and managing director, Michelle Guthrie ($900,000pa), are already made public.
In the letter, Fifield wrote: “Taxpayers are entitled to expect a high level of transparency about how their taxes are being expended on their behalf.”
In July, the ABC revealed revealed its annual wages bill for all staff was $437 million, with its top on-air talent taking home salaries of more than $225,000 per year. The top 20 per cent of employees take home $124 million.
It has repeatedly refused to reveal exactly what individual on-air presenters receive in taxpayer money citing the Privacy Act.
The broadcaster also revealed that it had 33 staff overall who were paid more than $250,000 per year. Ten executives who report to Guthrie are on packages over $400,000.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Byrne, host of ABC’s The Book Club, will step aside from her long-running role after The Book Club’s Christmas Special which goes to air on 19 December, 2017.
Byrne said in a statement: :What a joy these past 11 years have been. And what a privilege to share my love of books with a wide, loyal audience on the national broadcaster. You don’t get better jobs – or better co-conspirators than Jason and Marieke, who’ve been with me from the start. We’ve had huge fun, tangled with some brilliant minds (and books), and read like threshing machines.
“For me it’s now time for a break, both to explore what might come next and remember what it’s like to read for pleasure alone. I’m proud we’ve run so long and strong. International authors were often astonished – and envious – that a show like ours existed, let alone endured. Thanks to the ABC which backed us, to the publishing industry which embraced us – and deepest thanks to the readers who travelled with us. I’ve loved the journey more than I can say.”