Australia Post chairman John Stanhope will be called before the Senate to justify the $5.6 million salary for his chief executive Ahmed Fahour, who earns 10 times as much as the Prime Minister.
The million-dollar salaries were revealed by a Senate committee on Tuesday despite the government-owned corporation trying to keep them secret, arguing it would result in “unwarranted media attention”.
Mr Fahour, a former senior executive at National Australia Bank and Citigoup, received a $4.4 million salary and a $1.2 million bonus.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the salary was clearly out of step with community expectations and urged the Australia Post board to reconsider remunerations.
“All of us who are employed in the service of the community are rightly accountable to the Australian public,” he said.
“The Australian community deserves high levels of accountability and transparency from government enterprise.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised the salary on Wednesday, saying it was too high.
“As someone who spent most of his life in the business world before coming into politics, I think that’s a very big salary for that job,” he said.
Mr Fahour’s salary is significantly higher other top postal executives, with the chief executive of the Royal Mail taking home about $2.5 million.
The chief executive of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra, takes homes a little less than $500,000 a year.
Other politicians described the salary as “disgusting” and Labor’s Doug Cameron said he did not understand how any public servant could be paid that much money.
Liberal senator James Paterson said CEO salaries were in the public interest and should be disclosed.
“A lot of other organisations, the NBN, for example, publishes this information and listed companies in Australia are required by law to publish it, so I don’t see why a publicly owned entity like Australia Post should have less disclosure obligations than a private company,” he told the ABC.
“It is an extremely generous salary package and it makes him the highest-paid public servant effectively in Australia, even more than the NBN CEO, who received about $3.6 million last financial year.”
Salaries ‘not in line with government expectations’: Fifield
Documents published on Tuesday – which do not name Australia Post staff – revealed another five executives received between $1.3 and $1.7 million a year, with one claiming a $380,000 retirement benefit.
Amid a furore over his wage last year Mr Fahour opted to forego his $2 million “bonus”, donating it to a charity run by his brother instead.
Australia Post expunged the details of executive remuneration from its annual report last year, which prompted the Senate committee to call for a list of payments.
Mr Stanhope told the ABC on Wednesday that there was no intended secrecy or lack of transparency when it came to executive pay.
“When we report remuneration, we’re required to follow government guidelines and we’ve reported it every year as required,” he said.
Mr Fifield said he recognised the Australia Post board was free to determine its own salaries, but said they were not in line with government expectations.
“We recognise that Australia Post operates in a competitive environment, however it is the government’s view that the board of Australia Post should be conscious of community expectations,” he said.
Mr Stanhope is likely to appear at Senate Estimates on February 28.