Group Certificates/PAYG payment summaries of Treasury Department's SES staff - FY2013/14, FY2014/15 and FY2015/16

Name withheld made this Freedom of Information request to Department of the Treasury

The request was refused by Department of the Treasury.

From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear Department of the Treasury,

This request is an application for the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act).

I am conducting research, across a range of Government agencies, into the Government's enterprise bargaining framework for the Commonwealth Public Service. Specifically, in the interests of equity and transparency, whether the Government's policy to reduce the living standards of rank and file public servants (that is, public servants who are not considered senior executive staff ('SES')) public servants, also extends to SES public servants.

Accordingly, I request documents which detail the precise remuneration paid to each of the Department of Treasury’s (the ‘Department’s’) SES officers in the following financial years - FY2013/14, FY 2014/15 and FY2015/16. The group certificates/end-of-year PAYG payments summaries issued by the Department to each of its SES staff in those years can be quickly and easily identified and retrieved, and will efficiently and accurately provide the information the subject of my request.

I am willing to agree to the decision maker redacting information relating to the tax file numbers, the home addresses and information relating to the amount of tax withheld for each of the relevant SES officers that may be contained in the relevant documents. I am willing to further narrow the scope of my request by limiting it to officers employed by the Department who, at the time of my application, were categorised as SES officers, meaning that:

- Departmental staff who were once SES officers at the Department, but weren’t categorised as such at the time of this application; and
- the documents the subject of my request that pertain to SES officers who are no longer employed by the Department;

are discounted from the scope of my application.

In making this application I note that the information to which I seek access is broadly known, not least because the Department (among others) has chosen to publish, to the world at large (through its website), information pertaining to the names of its SES officers and their indicative salaries (in recognition of the established wide and countervailing public interest in such information and because it considered that it was not be unreasonable to do so). Further, the information relating to SES public servants included in their annual payment summaries/group certificates is included because that information relates to those public servants’ usual public duties and responsibilities.

I make the following submissions in support of my application.

The precise remuneration paid to public servants for performing public duties is a matter of wide and countervailing public interest. That is established by authority, including that set out in Re Ricketson and Royal Women’s Hospital (1989) 4 VAR 10; Re Forbes and Department of Premier & Cabinet (1993) 6 VAR 53; Re Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1 QAR 227; Re Thwaites and Metropolitan Ambulance Service (unreported, 13 June 1997); Re Milthorpe and Mt. Alexander Shire Council (1997) 12 VAR 105; Re National Tertiary Education Industry Union (Murdoch Branch) and Murdoch University; Ors [2001] WAICmr 1 and Asher and Department of State and Regional Development [2002] VCAT 609.

In Re Forbes, Deputy President Ball said (at page 60):
"Mr Baxter is a senior public servant performing very significant public functions and being paid wholly from money provided by the public. The public is entitled to know precisely how much of its money is received in salary and entitlements by senior public servants for performing functions on behalf of the public."

In Re Stewart, at pp.257-258, the Information Commissioner observed:
"It has been held […] that there is a general public interest in seeing how the taxpayers' money is spent which is sufficient to justify the disclosure of the gross income payable from the public purse to the holder of a public office. […] see [Re Ricketson and Royal Women's Hospital (1989) 4 VAR 10, and Re Forbes and Department of the Premier and Cabinet (1993) 6 VAR 53]."

In Re National Tertiary Education Industry Union, the Commissioner observed (at [68]):
"I recognise that there is a public interest in the public receiving value for its money spent on public education, especially in the present climate of financial restrictions. I agree with the Tribunal in Re Ricketson and Re Forbes that the public is entitled to know how much of its money is received in salary and entitlements by senior public officers for performing functions on behalf of the public and that such information is the subject of legitimate public interest and discussion."

In Asher, Deputy President McNamara stated:
"The total remuneration paid to senior public officers has been, and continues to be, a matter of public concern and public debate. The authorities referred to above indicate the fact that the taxpayers ultimately meet the remuneration gives them a legitimate interest in this matter, even although it is one that it is clearly a matter relative to the personal affairs to the officers themselves. As Mr Edwards notes, his actions as Secretary must ultimately be regulated by the law which must take precedence over any government policy, or one might say any private assurance that he might give to a particular officer. The existence of authorities such as Forbes and Milthorpe indicates that conformably with the Freedom of Information Act no officer, certainly no senior officer, could legally obtain an absolute guarantee of confidentiality of his or her total remuneration package figure without some special enabling legislation."

An additional wide public interest aspect that relates to my application is that employment relations (including the regulation of pay and conditions) in the public sector are widely considered to serve as a role model for industrial relations in the private sector (see, for example, Creighton B and Forsyth R [Eds.] Rediscovering Collective Bargaining, 2012 at pp.184-185). That is, the way in which a government treats its staff (public servants) can be considered emblematic of the way in which a government considers employees across the broader workforce should be treated by their employers. The current Commonwealth Government has an employment relations policy in place (known as the ‘Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework’) which necessarily involves reducing the living standards for rank and file (non-SES) public servants. Senior management at the Department has decided, at its discretion, to adopt and enforce, against its rank and file staff, the Government’s employment relations policy. Part of the purpose of my application is to determine whether the Government’s policy to reduce the living standards of rank and file public servants also extends to SES public servants. The documents the subject of my request will shed some light on that issue. It is immutably in the public interest of not only Departmental employees and employees across the wider public service, but also Australian taxpayers and working Australians more generally, to know whether it is the current Government’s view that rank and file employees who are not categorised as senior executives (or equivalent) are generally overpaid, and should therefore have their living standards reduced by their employers, while senior executives (or their equivalents) are generally underpaid and should have their living standards increased.

Yours sincerely

[name not required to be provided under the FOI Act]

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From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear Department of the Treasury,

I'm inquiring as to the status of my FOI request. Does the Department intend to acknowledge my request in accordance with the obligation imposed on it by paragraph 15(5)(a) of the FOI Act? I await your advice.

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From: FOI
Department of the Treasury

Dear Sir/Madam,

 

We would like to acknowledge receipt of your FOI request to this
department, received 20 February 2017, requesting the following documents:

 

I am conducting research, across a range of Government agencies, into the
Government's enterprise bargaining framework for the Commonwealth Public
Service. Specifically, in the interests of equity and transparency,
whether the Government's policy to reduce the living standards of rank and
file public servants (that is, public servants who are not considered
senior executive staff ('SES')) public servants, also extends to SES
public servants.

 

Accordingly, I request documents which detail the precise remuneration
paid to each of the Department of Treasury’s (the ‘Department’s’) SES
officers in the following financial years - FY2013/14, FY 2014/15 and
FY2015/16. The group certificates/end-of-year PAYG payments summaries
issued by the Department to each of its SES staff in those years can be
quickly and easily identified and retrieved, and will efficiently and
accurately provide the information the subject of my request.

 

I am willing to agree to the decision maker redacting information relating
to the tax file numbers, the home addresses and information relating to
the amount of tax withheld for each of the relevant SES officers that may
be contained in the relevant documents. I am willing to further narrow the
scope of my request by limiting it to officers employed by the Department
who, at the time of my application, were categorised as SES officers,
meaning that:

 

-              Departmental staff who were once SES officers at the
Department, but weren’t categorised as such at the time of this
application; and 

-              the documents the subject of my request that pertain to SES
officers who are no longer employed by the Department;

 

are discounted from the scope of my application.

 

In making this application I note that the information to which I seek
access is broadly known, not least because the Department (among others)
has chosen to publish, to the world at large (through its website),
information pertaining to the names of its SES officers and their
indicative salaries (in recognition of the established wide and
countervailing public interest in such information and because it
considered that it was not be unreasonable to do so). Further, the
information relating to SES public servants included in their annual
payment summaries/group certificates is included because that information
relates to those public servants’ usual public duties and
responsibilities.

 

I make the following submissions in support of my application.

 

The precise remuneration paid to public servants for performing public
duties is a matter of wide and countervailing public interest. That is
established by authority, including that set out in Re Ricketson and Royal
Women’s Hospital (1989) 4 VAR 10; Re Forbes and Department of Premier &
Cabinet (1993) 6 VAR 53; Re Stewart and Department of Transport (1993) 1
QAR 227; Re Thwaites and Metropolitan Ambulance Service (unreported, 13
June 1997); Re Milthorpe and Mt. Alexander Shire Council (1997) 12 VAR
105; Re National Tertiary Education Industry Union (Murdoch Branch) and
Murdoch University; Ors [2001] WAICmr 1 and Asher and Department of State
and Regional Development [2002] VCAT 609.

 

In Re Forbes, Deputy President Ball said (at page 60):

"Mr Baxter is a senior public servant performing very significant public
functions and being paid wholly from money provided by the public. The
public is entitled to know precisely how much of its money is received in
salary and entitlements by senior public servants for performing functions
on behalf of the public."

 

In Re Stewart, at pp.257-258, the Information Commissioner observed:

"It has been held […] that there is a general public interest in seeing
how the taxpayers' money is spent which is sufficient to justify the
disclosure of the gross income payable from the public purse to the holder
of a public office. […] see [Re Ricketson and Royal Women's Hospital
(1989) 4 VAR 10, and Re Forbes and Department of the Premier and Cabinet
(1993) 6 VAR 53]."

 

In Re National Tertiary Education Industry Union, the Commissioner
observed (at [68]):

"I recognise that there is a public interest in the public receiving value
for its money spent on public education, especially in the present climate
of financial restrictions. I agree with the Tribunal in Re Ricketson and
Re Forbes that the public is entitled to know how much of its money is
received in salary and entitlements by senior public officers for
performing functions on behalf of the public and that such information is
the subject of legitimate public interest and discussion."

 

In Asher, Deputy President McNamara stated:

"The total remuneration paid to senior public officers has been, and
continues to be, a matter of public concern and public debate. The
authorities referred to above indicate the fact that the taxpayers
ultimately meet the remuneration gives them a legitimate interest in this
matter, even although it is one that it is clearly a matter relative to
the personal affairs to the officers themselves. As Mr Edwards notes, his
actions as Secretary must ultimately be regulated by the law which must
take precedence over any government policy, or one might say any private
assurance that he might give to a particular officer. The existence of
authorities such as Forbes and Milthorpe indicates that conformably with
the Freedom of Information Act no officer, certainly no senior officer,
could legally obtain an absolute guarantee of confidentiality of his or
her total remuneration package figure without some special enabling
legislation."

 

An additional wide public interest aspect that relates to my application
is that employment relations (including the regulation of pay and
conditions) in the public sector are widely considered to serve as a role
model for industrial relations in the private sector (see, for example,
Creighton B and Forsyth R [Eds.] Rediscovering Collective Bargaining, 2012
at pp.184-185). That is, the way in which a government treats its staff
(public servants) can be considered emblematic of the way in which a
government considers employees across the broader workforce should be
treated by their employers. The current Commonwealth Government has an
employment relations policy in place (known as the ‘Australian Public
Service Bargaining Framework’) which necessarily involves reducing the
living standards for rank and file (non-SES) public servants. Senior
management at the Department has decided, at its discretion, to adopt and
enforce, against its rank and file staff, the Government’s employment
relations policy. Part of the purpose of my application is to determine
whether the Government’s policy to reduce the living standards of rank and
file public servants also extends to SES public servants. The documents
the subject of my request will shed some light on that issue. It is
immutably in the public interest of not only Departmental employees and
employees across the wider public service, but also Australian taxpayers
and working Australians more generally, to know whether it is the current
Government’s view that rank and file employees who are not categorised as
senior executives (or equivalent) are generally overpaid, and should
therefore have their living standards reduced by their employers, while
senior executives (or their equivalents) are generally underpaid and
should have their living standards increased.

 

Your request will be processed as soon as possible. If you have any
questions in relation to your application, please contact the FOI Team on
02 6263 2800.

 

Regards,

FOI Team

Parliamentary and Legal Services Unit

Financial and Parliamentary Division

The Treasury, Langton Crescent, Parkes ACT 2600

 

Phone:  (02) 6263 2800

Email:  [email address]

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From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear FOI,

By my calculations, and in accordance with s.15AC of the FOI Act, the Department (in particular, the Secretary of the Department, Mr. John Fraser) is now deemed to have refused my request. But if you think otherwise, please let me know by close of business Thursday, 23 March 2017.

Yours sincerely,

[Name note required to be provided under the FOI Act]

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From: FOI
Department of the Treasury


Attachment FOI 2099 Decision.pdf
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Dear Applicant,

 

Please see attached correspondence regarding your recent Freedom of
Information (FOI) request for:

 

‘…I request documents which detail the precise remuneration paid to each
of the Department of Treasury’s (the ‘Department’s’) SES officers in the
following financial years - FY2013/14, FY 2014/15 and FY2015/16.’

 

Regards,

 

FOI Team

Parliamentary and Legal Services Division

The Treasury, Langton Crescent, Parkes ACT 2600

 

Phone:  (02) 6263 2800

Email:  [1][email address]

 

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