‘Obscene’: NBN Co employees paid $78m in personal bonuses in 2020
Employees at NBN Co, the taxpayer-owned body which runs and operates the national broadband network, shared in $78 million in personal bonuses last year despite the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
New figures released on Wednesday show the organisation’s top executives, including highly-paid chief executive Stephen Rue, were awarded $4.3 million in short-term incentives after it exceeded its targets for the 2020 financial year, including connecting 230,000 more premises to the network than required.
CEO Stephen Rue was among the NBN Co’s top executives to share in $78 million in bonuses last year.Credit:Edwina Pickles
In figures tabled in Federal Parliament, NBN Co said it also paid $73.2 million in bonuses to its more than 6000 employees. Some of the payments were deferred from previous financial years.
It is a massive increase from previous bonus payments which reached just over $43 million in the previous financial year.
Labor’s government services spokeswoman Kimberley Kitching said the bonuses were “as obscene as companies making record profits and then refusing to hand back JobKeeper”.
She said federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher should intervene as he did with Australia Post boss Christine Holgate.
“Minister Fletcher and NBN Co bosses are oblivious to the pain that the Australian people have felt during this pandemic,” Senator Kitching said.
She said Labor had to use a motion in the Senate this week in order to get NBN Co to answer questions, which she said most other departments and agencies had no trouble answering within the required timelines.
The massive salaries at NBN Co have attracted fierce criticism in the past year after Mr Rue earned more than $3 million, topping taxpayer-funded salaries after receiving a $1.2 million bonus.
Earlier this month the company announced it was looking to capitalise on low interest rates to secure additional debt funding after lower disconnection payments to Telstra and Optus helped the company pull off a $1.1 billion earnings turnaround for the first half of fiscal 2021.
Labor has previously jumped on Mr Rue’s total pay, saying NBN Co had missed revenue forecasts set in 2018 by $1.1 billion, fell short of new broadband connection targets and had rising capital costs.
It has fiercely attacked NBN Co for routinely shifting its corporate plan forecasts to manufacture a positive outcome that “distracts from the underlying trend”.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed last year that more than 850 employees at NBN Co were paid above $200,000 a year, with more than three-quarters of its workforce earning six-figure salaries.
The company paid 110 of its workers between $300,000 and $400,000 and 34 received base salaries above $400,000 before bonuses. About 4800 of its 6300 employees were paid in excess of $100,000 a year, including 733 workers on salaries worth between $200,000 and $300,000.
A spokesman for Mr Fletcher said salary arrangements at NBN Co were a matter for its board.
NBN Co’s annual report said its remuneration policies and practices were “aligned with market practice” and the interests of its shareholders and the Australian public.
“Senior Executive remuneration is designed to attract, motivate and retain the calibre of executives required to achieve our objectives now and into the future,” it said.
NBN Co announced earlier this month it had paid $3 billion of the $19.5 billion it owes the government. The network issued $1.2 billion worth of five-year bonds last December, which was in addition to $6 billion raised earlier in the year.
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