The ABC has been ordered by Federal Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to reveal what it is paying its top on-air personalities, in what amounts to a win for One Nation.
The national broadcaster has been directed to “voluntarily” cough up the salaries of all staff being paid $200,000 or more by the end of next month. If it does not do so, Senator Fifield will push for a change to the n Broadcasting Corporation Act to force the disclosure.
The same has also been asked of SBS.
In letters to the broadcasters, Senator Fifield wrote that “taxpayers are entitled to expect a high level of transparency about how their taxes are being expended on their behalf”.
To that end, he wrote, it is “the Government’s policy” that both broadcasters undertake “regular and ongoing disclosure of individual salaries and allowances of staff and on-air talent where their total salaries and allowances are in excess of $200,000 per annum”.
The move marks a victory for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, which demanded the disclosure of top salaries at the ABC in return for its support of the government’s media reform package, which was passed in August.
In a statement released in August, One Nation claimed it had “been at the forefront calling for more transparency of wages at the ABC and we have received assurances from the government that they will be asking the ABC to start providing details of the wages and conditions of all staff, who’s [sic] wages and allowances are greater than $200,000”.
That is precisely what Senator Fifield is now calling for.
In supporting the media reform package, One Nation also demanded new legislation, or amendments to existing legislation, to ensure the ABC was “fair and balanced” in its reporting.
ABC boss Michelle Guthrie last week decried the changes One Nation was seeking. “Legislation designed to further a political vendetta by one party uncomfortable with being scrutinised by our investigative programs is not good policy-making,” she said in a speech delivered to the ABC Friends Public Conference dinner in Sydney last Friday.
Leaked internal ABC documents from 2013 showed Q&A host Tony Jones was paid an annual salary of $355,789, while 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales was paid $280,400.
Morning radio presenter Jon Faine and News 24 host Virginia Trioli are also likely to figure among the top earners.