Palaszczuk and Trad
Palaszczuk and Trad

Pay freeze? How about a pay cut like the rest of us?

NURSES working on the frontline treating infectious coronavirus sufferers should be paid danger money.

And public servants not on the frontline should take a cut in their salaries to pay for it. And I mean a pay cut, not a pay freeze.

As we witness the greatest decline in economic activity since 1933, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her union paymasters seem unconscious to the economic impacts.

The Premier is very good at lecturing us on the evils of sitting on a park bench or going for a swim or a drive, but she declines to find solutions for Queensland's economic meltdown.

We're told up to a third of all businesses that shut their doors are unlikely to reopen, and discretionary spending may slump by up to half for years to come.

Yet trouble-prone Treasurer Jackie Trad seems to be in hiding, and has not said a word about the greedy unions demanding a 10 per cent pay rise.

What is billed as a 2.5 per cent pay rise for 224,000 public servants is actually a 10 per cent rise if you consider it is a 2.5 per cent pay rise each year for four years.

As well, many state employees will also get a $1250 bonus for goodness knows what, even though they are working from home and their duties have shrunk.



The ETU is also gouging, having won a 9 per cent rise, courtesy of a 3 per cent annual rise over three years. I'm told Energy Queensland caved in because Palaszczuk wanted to avoid another union blue in election year.

Now I have intercepted a union missive in which ETU is claiming victory in a new roster arrangement where they get eight days off consecutively after working for six.

Workers in power and water utilities and traditional public servants should get a 20 per cent pay cut in my view. That would be fair.

James Scullin, the Ballarat grocer turned Labor prime minister, cut public service salaries by 20 per cent during the Depression.

Trad has approved the public servant rise but has distanced herself by leaving its implementation to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.

Palaszczuk says she had put the pay rise on hold but she may not be able to do so.

I imagine she secretly delights in the opportunity to flick the row to the commission.

Katrina Grace Kelly, the industrial relations spruiker who grew up in the Labor movement, said Queensland had "ducked its duty" to provide a level playing field for workers.

"It is actually the Queensland Government as employer that is derelict in its duty here," she wrote.

"It has offloaded its budgetary responsibilities for setting fixed labour costs on to another party. This is an unacceptable management cop-out and a sneaky trick to play on the taxpayer."



While most working families have seen their wages stagnate, the pay rises to public servants have continued unabated.

And the remuneration of state government fat cats has soared into the stratosphere.

No matter that many government departments perform poorly benchmarked against other states. No matter Queensland departments presided over plummeting education standards and computer bungles costing tens of millions of dollars.

A paper tabled in Parliament showed Queensland Health director-general John Wakefield's annual pay was boosted recently by $46,000 to $603,000.

Parliament heard Queensland Ambulance commissioner Russell Bowles got $393,000 (up from $368,000), despite ramping.

Queensland Treasury Corporation chief Philip Noble got $1.289 million. His increase of $62,926 is more than the average annual wage in Brisbane of $60,430.

Up until February this year (when she left the utility), SunWater CEO Nicole Hollows on $699,000 (up from $685,000) was probably the highest paid female in Queensland.

She has leapt over Powerlink chief exec Merryn York $697,000 ($669,000).

Her increase alone would be more than the annual salary of many Queenslanders.

David Stewart, the director-general of the Premier's Department, appears to be the ultimate fat cat, with a salary package eclipsing $750,000.

In private industry, chief executives are taking pay cuts of between 40-60 per cent.



As work dries up, solicitors and accountants are taking cuts.

Deloitte, the global accounting and professional services giant, will cut staff salaries by 20-25 per cent.

It hardly seems fair they alone should suffer while the fat cats continue to get the cream.

There are around two million public servants in the federal and state governments in this country. Departmental secretaries in the Federal Government receive around $850,000 a year.

The growth in public service numbers angers Emilie Dye from the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance.

"The fact that the Australian government requires two million employees to operate indicates that the regulatory code is too big and much too complicated," she said.

"Nothing justifies the record number of people tied up running the government.

"The Australian people did not sign up to provide a jobs program for struggling bureaucrats to the tune of $166 billion."

Kelly and others like to quote the Lebanese American maths scholar and former equities trader, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who does not have a high opinion of bureaucrats.

"Bureaucracy is a construction by which a person is conveniently separated from the consequences of his or her actions," he says in Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, (Penguin).

Taleb argues bureaucracies impair free markets.

"Skin in the game is necessary for fairness, commercial efficiency and risk management," he writes. "If we do not decentralise and distribute responsibility, it will happen by itself the hard way.

"A system that doesn't have a mechanism of skin in the game … will eventually blow up."

Des Houghton is a media consultant and a former editor of The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail





Originally published as Pay freeze? How about a pay cut like the rest of us?