Political staffers’ $5.5m pay boost

Political staffers’ $5.5m pay boost

The NSW coalition is spending up to $5 million a year more on political staff since it came to power, analysis of new figures shows, despite campaigning on a mantra of leaner government.

In the first financial year after the Coalition took office, 2011-12, the government had about 185 full-time-equivalent political staff. That number now stands at about 203 full-time staff.

By the end of June that put the government’s total staff bill at between $25.5 million and $31 million.

Including adjustments for inflation, that amounts to an increase in the government’s political staff costs of between $3 million and $5.5 million since it took power, according to calculations by Fairfax Media.

Precise numbers about the government’s spending on staff cannot be calculated because the department publishes only salary bands, not exact salaries.

About 35 staffers receive the top salary band of between $150,000 and $300,000, or nine more than in the final year of the previous Labor government, according to the opposition’s waste watch committee spokesman Hugh McDermott.

“I think most people would be shocked to know that [Gladys Berejiklian] has loaded up her ministry with political operatives that are paid between two and four times the average NSW wage,” Mr McDermott said.

He accused the Premier of using public money to buy “political muscle”.

But the Premier said she had kept ministerial staff lower than the past Labor government had in the 2010-11 financial year.

“Labor should take a look at their own records,” she said. “The total ministerial staff budget for the current ministry is the same as the budget for the last Baird ministry, despite having 23 ministers compared to 22.

“The total ministerial staffing budget is less than Labor’s last ministerial staffing budget.”

Ms Berejiklian employs about 28 full-time-equivalent staff, only slightly more than former premier Barry O’Farrell.

But the Premier’s staff includes 10 people on salaries in the top band of up to $300,000 including senior media advisers and chiefs of staff, or double the number in Mr O’Farrell’s office during 2012 financial year, according to department figures.

But Ms Berejiklian noted the total number of staff receiving the top pay grade across the government had remained “virtually unchanged” and that ministerial staff wage growth was subject to the same 2.5 per cent wage cap the government had brought in for public servants.

Only six government staffers are in the bottom salary band of between $47,000 and $63,000, according to figures published by the Premier’s Department annually.

Ms Berejiklian’s top counsellors include former journalists cum advisers including Clive Mathieson and Ehssan Veiszadeh, as well as Mr O’Farrell’s former top spinner Brad Burden, who has rejoined politics under the title “Director, Government and Stakeholder”.

Ms Berejiklian took over the reins of power only at the beginning of the year following the resignation of former premier Mike Baird.

But in her former role as treasurer she argued that governments “should be as small and as efficient as possible to ensure resources are dedicated where they are needed most”.

The Coalition also introduced a controversial 2.5 per cent cap on pay increases for public servants upon taking power in 2011, sparking mass demonstrations.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.