Remuneration for Commissioners and Staff (Or: Money Makes the World Go Round)

One inescapable aspect of 21st century life is that the level of remuneration reflects the value a society places on an individual. The average share of science’s most valuable award, the Nobel Prize, is about $400,000 to $500,000. Many sportspeople can make this in an afternoon. Our adopted Aussie, Professor Brian Schmidt, won last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for a really cool thing.

Albert Einstein thought the universe was stable until Edwin Hubble proved it was expanding. Professor Schmidt went one step further, showing the expansion was accelerating, and thus there must be some form of unknown energy, popularly termed “dark energy”. One has every right to think it is even cooler to win a boxing match and that is perfectly valid.

The common point here is that it is private money which is involved in both examples. Different considerations come into play when it is public money that is involved.

The mooted cost of the royal commission, as a ballpark figure, is $100 million. One of the reasons given by opponents to the royal commission previously related to this enormous cost. For people who favour such enquiries, it makes sense to ensure that the taxpayer is confident that the government is giving value for money.

Governments would not consider giving very large payments to sports people, and even stir controversy when they give modest sums to, for example, scientists, authors, and artists. So it is fair enough for the taxpayer to scrutinise the remunerations given to public officials, such as those appointed to the royal commission.

But first, they need to know just what that remuneration is before they can make judgments as to its suitability. The media had to resort to freedom of information claims to find out just how much counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness, received for The Star Casino enquiry (see my previous two posts). Given that freedom of information requests have become both time-consuming and costly exercises, these days, it would be hoped that some responsible media giant will again find out how much Ms Furness is to be paid for her royal commission work, along with all other appointees.

In a difficult budget year that may see many vital services cut during widely anticipated austerity measures, this becomes ever so much more important.

TOMORROW: The world is watching

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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