Monday meeting to sort out ACTEW pay row

CHIEF Minister Katy Gallagher and Treasurer Andrew Barr will meet with the ACTEW board on Monday, to discuss the controversial $855,000  salary of Mark Sullivan, the ACT Government-owned corporation’s managing director.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. Photo by Silas

“This is an issue that we are trying to get to the bottom of,” Ms Gallagher said today, recalling the ACTEW board had incorrectly advised the Government in writing that the pay packet was only about $620,000.

Even so, the salary “sat at the high end” of what the Government had been advised was an industry standard range, she said.

“As of the 8th of March we now understand that salary to be considerably higher and we have convened a special general meeting with the ACTEW board to discuss this matter further.”

Under sustained questioning from the Opposition today, Ms Gallagher confirmed that as ACTEW’s two shareholders, she and Mr Barr believed that Mr Sullivan’s salary was “very clearly a matter for the board”.

“I don’t think its unreasonable to believe that one of the most important jobs that a board can do is to settle the employment arrangements of its chief executive officer,” she said.

The Chief Minister also pointed out that as Treasurer, she herself had introduced legislation to make the water chief’s salary transparent.

“I personally have some difficulty with politicians determining employees’ salaries. That’s not something we do in any other area of Government business.”

The amount that ACTEW spends on corporate hospitality would also be on the agenda for the special general meeting, Ms Gallagher said, in response to a question from Opposition deputy Alistair Coe.

She said the Government had sought advice from ACTEW on its corporate hospitality spending as part of a review, as well as “an assurance it is in line with industry benchmarks and industry practice”.

Ms Gallagher also said the Government had received “a number of reports” in relation to its review of ACTEW’s governance, including a comparison of Mr Sullivan’s pay with top executives in other utility companies and other Canberra organisations, but that it would take about a week to work through them.

Asked whether it was appropriate that the two Government shareholders in ACTEW had no say in Mr Sullivan’s salary, she agreed it was an issue that “deserves some public discussion and indeed, some Assembly discussion”.

Ms Gallagher denied the suggestion by Zed Seselja that the Government had given up the right to approve the ACTEW executive’s pay package when it altered the corporation’s constitution in 2004-05.

She said that since before 2004, Government representatives, as shareholders of ACTEW, had been clear in their position “that the board manages [the salary] and it is in line with industry standards”.

“Those are the criteria that pre-dated 2004; they are the criteria that exist now,” she said.


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