Executives of Australia Post and Medibank Private — the Commonwealth’s two largest business enterprises — dominate the list of top Commonwealth public sector earners, although the National Broadband Network looks set to join them once it is up and running.

The controversial salary of newly-appointed NBN CEO Mike Quigley — $1,950,000 with bonuses that could take it above $3m — is still below that of the biggest earner in the Commonwealth public sector, Australia Post CEO Graeme John who collected nearly $3m in 2007-08. Medibank CEO George Savvides is some distance behind John, collecting $1.15m in 2007-08, just ahead of Australia Post general manager James Marshall.

The senior management of both Australia Post and Medibank all collected high six-figure salaries. Only Future Fund Chairman David Murray and ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb earned similar amounts.

CSIRO’s management team is also well-paid. CEO Megan Clark’s predecessor Geoff Garrett was on approximately $550,000 and Clark, lured last year from BHP Billiton, probably negotiated an increase on that. Nineteen of her management team are on packages of over $300,000 a year, according to CSIRO’s annual report.

There’s a marked drop to the remuneration of even the most senior and complex regulatory positions within the Commonwealth, where the Remuneration Tribunal determines salaries and packages. While APRA’s John Laker is on just over $600,000, the heads of ACCC and ASIC receive $529,830, the same as the Commonwealth’s top lawyer, Solicitor-General Stephen Gageler SC. Given the likes of Laker, Graeme Samuel and Tony D’Aloisio could be earning multiples of their salaries in the private sector, it’s clear our economic regulatory framework continues to rely on the goodwill of some highly-skilled individuals willing to make personal sacrifices in the service of good regulation.

But it’s a further drop to the highest paid Public Service heads. Terry Moran, Ken Henry and the Defence Secretary (Ian Watt will shortly replace Nick Warner) all receive just under $490,000. High Court Chief Justice Robert French is the top judicial officer, on $433,570.

All of them are tens of thousands of dollars a year ahead of the best paid politicians. Kevin Rudd earns approximately $330,000 a year.

That’s only the Commonwealth. Each State has its own remuneration framework for public servants, regulatory bodies and state-owned business enterprises. Until last year, the highest-paid public servant in the country was WA Health Director-General Neale Fong, who was received $650,000 until forced out by his connections with — of course — Brian Burke. His replacement, Peter Flett, is on $540,000.

For reasons that aren’t clear, State public sectors have in recent years paid more — in some cases considerably more — than the Commonwealth. Australia’s highest paid public servant and best-remunerated Government Business Enterprise executive is therefore likely to be working in a State capital rather than Canberra. Send your tips for the highest public sector remuneration packages to [email protected] and we’ll keep expanding the list.

Oh, and no discussion of remuneration lists is complete without a nod to the episode of the greatest TV program of the nineties, The Newsroom, in which George tries to rectify his mortifying omission from a list of top public sector salaries. Until the Tax Office notices.

Top earners, the panel:

Salary Remuneration
Graeme John Australia Post $1,396,629 $2,903,671
Mike Quigley NBN CEO $1,950,000
George Savvides Medibank Private $666,774 $1,152,728
James Marshall Australia Post $615,720 $1,121,688
David Murray Future Fund $970,000
Ian Chubb ANU Vice-chancellor $984,999
Bill Mitchell Australia Post $487,035 $948,793
Bruce Levy Medibank Private $530,727 $884,983
Peter Meehan Australia Post $454,596 $825,210
Mark Howard Australia Post $373,693 $700,517
Michael Sammels Medibank Private $430,718 $766,215
Stephen Gumley Defence Materiel Organisation $660,000
Rodney McDonald Australia Post $353,225 $638,270
Mark Scott ABC $615,000
John Laker APRA chair $421,030 $603,130
Alec Ceselli Australia Post $336,628 $569,473
Andrew Cheesman Wine Australia $565,000
Megan Clark CSIRO $550,000
unknown CSIRO $535,000
Graeme Samuel ACCC $364,300 $529,830
Tony D’Aloisio ASIC $364,300 $529,830
Stephen Gageler SC Solicitor-General $396,380 $529,830
Heather Parkinson Medibank Private $312,317 $519,399
Shaun Brown SBS $510,000
Ross Jones APRA $352,300 $504,660
Terry Moran PM&C $390,940 $488,560
Ken Henry Treasury $390,940 $488,560
Nick Warner Defence (outgoing) $390,940 $488,560
John Trowbridge APRA $480,000
unknown CSIRO $475,000
Geoff Buckley Tourism Australia (outgoing) $475,000
Robert French Chief Justice $433,570
Kevin Rudd Prime Minister $330,000