The salary of Mike Kaiser, the National Broadband Network Company's government relations and external affairs chief, has been outed by a senate motion started by Shadow Communications Minister Nick Minchin yesterday.
Kaiser will earn $450,000 a year. He is currently leading Bligh's camp but will start work with NBN Co on 1 December. He served in the Queensland parliament until 2001 when he resigned after admitting during the Shepherdson inquiry to involvement in vote rigging in Labor Party ballots in the 1980s.
Minchin was staggered by the amount, pointing out that Kaiser was getting $100,000 more than the Prime Minister at $340,000.
"It is absolutely outrageous that a spin doctor for Labor's NBN Co is being paid $450,000 per annum by Australian taxpayers to promote a company that generates no revenue, has no customers and provides no services to anybody," Minchin said in a statement.
"The Rudd Government is spending taxpayers' money on this shell of a company with reckless abandon. Most Australians would be shocked that their taxes are being used to pay these extraordinary salaries to employees of this new government entity," Minchin said. "The $43 billion extravaganza that is Labor's NBN is becoming more scandalous by the day."
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's office said the remuneration was in line with market rates. "It is consistent with NBN Co's remuneration approach and the relativity of different roles at NBN and market benchmarking," the office said. "NBN Co advise that the salary is consistent with equivalent jobs in other companies."
NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley's salary sits at $1.95 million a year while NBN Co board members rake in $90,000 each.
Minchin also asked whether there were communications between the government and the NBN Co prior to the appointment, to find out if there had been preferential treatment.
Conroy's office said that there were communications, but they were not controversial. "As is normal and appropriate, the government was aware of the appointment prior to its announcement. The government is confident all these communications were entirely appropriate and proper," it said. "The decision to appoint Mr Kaiser as principal government relations and external affairs was an independent decision taken by NBN Co, not by the government."