This bill is an attack on Australia’s national broadcasters, coming from
quarters of the Parliament opposed to the broadcasters’ roles as institutions
committed to the public interest. Support for this bill would undermine the
effectiveness of these institutions and would be a victory for ideologically
hostile elements of the Parliament who support tying up the broadcasters in
regulation to prevent them from functioning effectively. It presents itself as
a crude solution to a fictional problem when in fact it is simply designed to
create a new problem, and in doing so hobble the ability of the ABC and SBS to
hold political parties and politicians to account.
The argument that this bill is necessary to close a gender pay gap
within national broadcasters is laughable. If a national broadcaster has a
gender pay gap, it is curious why we would only wish to close it for those
earning more than $200,000 a year.
If we are to believe this bill is motivated by an interest in gender pay
equity, it is a remarkably poorly targeted way to do so: because most of the
staff of the national broadcasters earn under the ‘transparency’ threshold, the
vast majority of the people working for the ABC and SBS would therefore not have
their gender pay gap publicly disclosed or resolved. The fact that this bill
does nothing for those people shows the disingenuousness of that justification.
This bill provides no means to compare two on-air talents on a
like-for-like basis, when considering the extent of any gender pay gap. It is
noted that the assertion that a gender pay gap at the ABC or SBS may exist is
presented as a justification for why this extreme move should be pursued. There
is little evidence for the former, and there is no support for the latter. The
government’s Explanatory Memorandum for this bill notes the lack of gender pay
gap at the ABC, acknowledging there is no problem in need of this blunt
solution. It nonetheless suggests this bill may be justified as a means to
prevent a gender pay gap from developing.
But by acknowledging that there is no gender pay gap at the ABC, and
that the current policy parameters have not allowed one to develop, it
critically undermines the case that is being publicly made that change is
required to prevent a gap from developing into the future.
It is an important point to emphasise: that, in the government’s own
view, what is currently in place is working, and what is being proposed is not
intended to achieve anything other than what is already being achieved.
The argument that because an institution is in receipt of public
funding, it should be subject to the highest level of transparency, is an
equally spurious one. The SBS already publishes de-identified information about
executive salaries. The ABC has met a higher standard than that required by any
other organisation, taxpayer funded or otherwise.
It is not unreasonable to demand transparency on how tax money is being
spent. It is unreasonable however to demand total, absolute transparency when it
undermines an individual’s right to privacy and property.
We do not require national broadcasters to disclose employee’s home
addresses, expense receipts, travel arrangements or email correspondence. All
of these disclosures could be justified as ‘enhanced transparency’, but all of
them, like the one this bill proposes, would represent an extreme and
irresponsible violation of the right for an individual to maintain their
Employees of the ABC and SBS are by and large not public figures. Their
salaries are not relevant to the public interest any more than the salaries of
the staff who work dutifully in the Minister’s office are: both are paid by
public money, and both are earning relatively high salaries, but both are
deserving of some privacy. The Minister does not believe these staff should be
publicly highlighted in the name of ‘enhanced transparency’ because he rightly
believes that transparency is a principle that must be balanced against
privacy, and such a disclosure would disrupt that balance.
The Australian Greens do not oppose transparency when it serves the
public interest. However, it is important that the need for transparency is
balanced against the need for privacy. If there is a way to improve
transparency without undermining privacy, that should be the preferred
It is standard for Commonwealth government departments and agencies to
publish salaries and allowances of senior public servants within fixed salary
bands, so that individuals cannot be identified. Furthermore, it is entirely
possible to include in such a publication the number of persons employed in
each salary band according to gender.
The purpose of the bill is to solve an imaginary problem: that the level
of transparency of the national broadcasters is insufficient. This committee
has received no evidence that this is the case, nor has the government attempted
to demonstrate that this is the case. There has been no indication that the
public interest would be better served by this additional level of forced
If this bill was a genuine attempt to improve gender pay gaps, then it
would have some mechanism to do so. It does nothing other than put in place a
draconian measure to solve a problem that the government does not believe
exists, and that the government acknowledges has been prevented from coming
into existence by existing policy.
It is laughable that, in the name of transparency, this bill is being
pushed by this committee and this government with no reference to its real
motivation: making good on a side-deal made with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
party to secure its support for the media reform package that passed the Senate
The Australian Greens recommend the Senate does not pass this bill.
Senator Janet Rice
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Deputy Chair Senator
for South Australia
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page