Most obscene Aussie CEO salaries revealed amid protest plans

EARLIER this year, it was revealed Australia's highest-paid chief executive earned almost 435 times the average full-time worker's wage.

Yesterday, Telstra copped a huge shareholder revolt over its CEO's $4.5 million pay package.

And from tomorrow, fed-up Aussies around the country will take to the streets to protest against outrageous CEO salaries, which many consider to be a slap in the face as the wages of everyday workers continue to stagnate while the cost of living soars.

Tomorrow's rally, which will be held in Perth, is one of a series planned for the country's capital cities and regional centres in the coming weeks.

They have been organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) as part of its Change the Rules campaign, which aims to draw attention to "exorbitant CEO pay" and company profits compared to the "very low or non-existent" pay rises experienced by many Australians.

In fact, an independent survey commissioned by the ACTU found 80 per cent of workers had not had a pay rise that kept up with the cost of living in the last 12 months, with nearly half of us receiving no pay rise at all.

It's no surprise, then, that Telstra's annual meeting turned to chaos yesterday as angry shareholders slammed the $4.5 million package enjoyed by the company's chief executive Andy Penn in the face of falling Telstra share prices.

Fairfax media reported that a record 62 per cent voted against the company's remuneration report.

Both the ACTU campaign and the Telstra debacle follows the shock revelation earlier this year that Domino's Pizza boss Don Meij took home a massive $36.84 million in the 2017 financial year.

Mr Meij's salary was almost 435 times the average worker's earnings, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, when compared to the average full-time Australian salary of $84,661.20 per year.

 

Here's the full list of Australia's top-earning CEOs:

1. Don Meij, Domino's Pizza: $36.84m

2. Peter and Steven Lowy, Westfield Corp: $25.9m

3. Nicholas Moore, Macquarie Group: $25.19m

4. Chris Rex, Ramsay Health Care: $22.3m

5. Louis Gries, Hardie Industries: $18.03m

6. Andrew Bassat, Seek: $14.12m

7. Ron Delia, Amcor: $12.2m

8. Alan Joyce, Qantas: $11.25m

9. Colin Goldschmidt, Sonic Healthcare: $10.61m

10. Mike Kane, Boral: $9.82m

 

When Mr Meij's salary was revealed by an Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) analysis in July, it sparked backlash from the public and politicians alike, including former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Speaking with 3AW's Neil Mitchell after the release of the report, Mr Turnbull took a swipe at bloated executive pay packets.

"The pay rates of people working for a lot of big (publicly) listed companies is extraordinarily high," Mr Turnbull said at the time.

Labor MP Ed Husic also weighed into the debate, telling Sky News high CEO pay was "a form of wealth hoarding".

"Investors (are) doing well but ordinary Australians that earn their living through a wage are not being able to get ahead," Mr Husic said.

And former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan also slammed the trend, telling Fairfax it was time for shareholders to "take matters into their own hands" and demand a CEO pay cap.

But according to the ACSI data, Mr Meij wasn't the only high-flyer raking in the dough, with the salaries of Australia's top 100 CEOs rising by 12.4 per cent in just one year.

Domino’s CEO Don Meij pocketed $36.84 million in the 2017 financial year. Picture: Annette Dew
Domino’s CEO Don Meij pocketed $36.84 million in the 2017 financial year. Picture: Annette Dew

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said it was time to change the rules and "rebalance the system".

"Working people have had enough of businesses taking obscene profits and CEOs making exorbitant salaries at the expense of the pay rises and job security we need to get ahead of the cost of living," she said.

"We are ready to take action to get the fair pay and more secure jobs we need to live better lives."

HOW ARE CEO WAGES DECIDED?

Australia operates under a free market, which means companies are able to pay executives whatever they like, without government intervention.

CEOs often earn far more than their actual salary through bonuses linked to targets.

However, shareholders can vote to impose a CEO salary cap - a move supported by a number of critics, including former treasurer Wayne Swan.

But others - including Telstra chairman John Mullen - argue salary caps would need to be adopted by all Australian companies instead of on a case-by-case basis, as CEOs are often recruited from overseas, where executive wages are even higher.

According to Fairfax, Mr Mullen said "the multiple difference in the US is 300 times between the CEO and the average employee, UK is 180-odd and here we're 50-something", with average executive wages fluctuating wildly between countries.

Mr Mullen proposed a return to CEOs earning a fixed wage "commensurate with the difficulty of the job", and being paid half in cash and half in shares.



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