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

Name withheld made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Finance

The request was refused by Department of Finance.

From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear Department of Finance,

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 remuneration paid to each of the Department of Finance’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. Accordingly, those documents are 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.

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: FOI Requests
Department of Finance

Thank you for your email, which has been forwarded to the Department’s FOI
Team for their consideration. A member of the FOI Team will respond to
your email in the next couple of days.

 

Kind regards

 

FOI Coordinator

 

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From: FOI Requests
Department of Finance

Thank you for your email to the Freedom of Information Team at the
Department of Finance.  An officer will respond to your email shortly.  In
the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact
the FOI Team on (02) 6215 1783.

Regards,

 

 

FOI Officer, Legal Services Branch

Business Enabling Services

Department of Finance

T: 02 6215 1783 E: [1][Finance request email]

A: One Canberra Avenue, Forrest ACT 2603

References

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1. mailto:[Finance request email]

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From: FOI Requests
Department of Finance


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UNCLASSIFIED

Good afternoon,

 

Freedom of Information Request – FOI 17/43

Thank you for your email to the Department of Finance (Finance) requesting
access to the following under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI
Act).

 

Accordingly, I request documents which detail the remuneration paid to
each of the Department of Finance’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. Accordingly, those
documents are 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.

 

The statutory period for processing your request commences from the day
after Finance received your request.  Your request was received by Finance
on 3 March 2017.  The processing period may be extended if we need to
consult third parties, impose a charge or for other reasons.  We will
advise you if this happens.

 

Liability to pay a charge

You will be notified of any charges in relation to your request as soon as
possible, before we process any requested documents or impose a final
charge.

 

Publication

As required by the FOI Act, any documents provided to you under the FOI
Act will be published on our [1]disclosure log, unless an exemption
applies or the documents are characterised as containing personal
information.  Documents will be published within one working day after
they are released to you.

 

Policy to exclude junior officer contact details

Finance has adopted a policy to generally exclude from any documents
released under FOI, the names and contact details of junior staff (non-SES
officers) and staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act
1984 (adviser level and below). Finance’s preference is to reach agreement
with FOI applicants to exclude these details from the scope of the
request. Where there is no objection, the names and contact details of
junior officers are redacted under section 22 of the FOI Act, on the basis
that these details are irrelevant to the request. 

 

Please contact the FOI Team on the below contact details if you wish to
discuss your request.

 

Regards,

Kira

 

[2]cid:image001.jpg@01D20F6A.7457D930

 

FOI Coordinator (A/g), Legal Services Branch

Business Enabling Services

Department of Finance

T: 02 6215 1783 E: [3][Finance request email]

A: One Canberra Avenue, Forrest ACT 2603

UNCLASSIFIED

 

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3. mailto:[Finance request email]

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From: FOI Requests
Department of Finance


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Attachment FOI 17 43 s24AB Consultation Notice.pdf
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UNCLASSIFIED

Good afternoon Sir/Madam,

 

Please find attached, a section 24AB consultation notice in regards to
your FOI request (our reference FOI 17/43).

 

Please don’t hesitate to contact the FOI Team, on the below details, if
you would like to discuss.

 

Regards,

Kira

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01D20F6A.7457D930

 

FOI Coordinator (A/g), Legal Services Branch

Business Enabling Services

Department of Finance

T: 02 6215 1783 E: [2][Finance request email]

A: One Canberra Avenue, Forrest ACT 2603

UNCLASSIFIED

 

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From: Name withheld

Delivered

Dear FOI Coordinator

Pursuant to paragraph 24AB(6)(b) of the FOI Act, my revised request is for the group certificates/end of year payment summaries for the Department’s SES Band 3 officers for the 2013/14,2014/15 and 2015/16 financial years.

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

Link to this

From: FOI Requests
Department of Finance

Thank you for your email, which has been forwarded to the Department’s FOI
Team for their consideration. A member of the FOI Team will respond to
your email in the next couple of days.

 

Kind regards

 

FOI Coordinator

 

show quoted sections

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From: FOI Requests
Department of Finance


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Attachment FOI 17 43 Decision Letter.pdf
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UNCLASSIFIED

Good afternoon

Please find attached, a decision in regards to your FOI request (our
reference number 17/43).

 

Regards

FOI Officer

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01D20F6A.7457D930

 

FOI Officer, Legal Services Branch

Business Enabling Services

Department of Finance

T: 02 6215 1783 E: [2][Finance request email]

A: One Canberra Avenue, Forrest ACT 2603

 

UNCLASSIFIED

 

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