Australia is very generous to its prime ministers. They get a car and driver, domestic air travel, and an office with administration costs covered.

Nick Greiner, you can buy this yourself. Picture: File

They have a huge responsibility for the country’s economy and its security. The country’s biggest headaches find themselves on their desks eventually. And their considerable perks after they’ve served the country cost our more-than-a-trillion dollar economy around a million dollars in 2010-11.

But do premiers who have served their states for more than a few years deserve their perks? Each state is different. Queensland’s new Premier refused Anna Bligh a couple of months of having funding for her office Blackberry and iPad after she being kicked out of office. The South Australian cabinet voted to give former premier Mike Rann a car, driver, office and security detail for six months last year and stirred outrage.

Retired premiers in Tasmania get nothing. Former NSW premiers have gotten a whole lot out of the government for life.

Last financial year, three former NSW premiers sucked $1.6 million out of their state coffers, while five former prime ministers cost the federal government almost $1 million over a similar period. The premiers get a car, a driver, an office plus related expenses, two staff, and domestic airfares. Former NSW premier and now-Foreign Minister Bob Carr spent $438,683 of taxpayer money in his first year out of office. According to Fairfax in 2010-11, he spent $298,224, most on his staff and office. It’s a similar story when it comes to the state’s former premier Nick Greiner.

It was reported yesterday that the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell, is trying to cut those benefits for its three eligible former premiers down to a more reasonable $1.1 million a year.

State leaders, like prime ministers, deserve respect. But they still don’t have a prime minister’s global-scale responsibilities, and they don’t need looking after when their term is up.

Frankly, being a state premier looks great on the CV. If you can’t parlay that kind of work experience into a decent private or even public sector gig, then really, what’s wrong with you?

There is a semi-reasonable argument for financially supporting ex-premiers. An annual stipend allows them to leverage their high profile to do a variety of good deeds for assorted worthy causes.

But all three former NSW premiers could surely afford to do their good works without taxpayer assistance. Carr worked for Macquarie Bank as a consultant, Greiner is the chairman of Infrastructure NSW and was a highly paid company director beforehand, and Neville Wran was a merchant banker. These guys are not picking up 5 cent coins in the gutter.

At the very least, any support for former premiers should be means tested. If they’re doing some public interest work and can prove that they’‘re doing it, fine. You can get some limited resources if you don’t have them, if you’re retired and just want to do public good. But if you’re eating lunch at a restaurant 40 floors up a shiny glass tower, it’s a fair sign you don’t need the people in the food court downstairs bankrolling your lunch.

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    • Craig says:

      06:53am | 22/05/12

      It is a boondoggle. Few people, when leaving a job, can count on years of extra privileges.

      Politicians should be no different to everyone else.

      However the ego it requires to get to the position make them think they deserve more than other people. They feel they are an elite - and get this reinforced by the people around them.

      It is unacceptable. Cut their privileges to the bone. The egotists will still want the top job because of the adulation, power and lucrative parachutes into high paid jobs.

    • Old Man Emu says:

      08:02am | 22/05/12

      The fact of the matter is Australian politicians are grossly underpaid. In fact, they generally earn less than those advising them. In order to attract more talent to parliament (not just union hacks and failed lawyers), we should be offering pollies more benefits not less. Otherwise the country’s best leaders will do what they are doing today and remain in the private sector where they are more generously compensated for their efforts.

    • Jane2 says:

      08:41am | 22/05/12

      Its a job that has no prereq skills so 18yo kids can win it (as was the case in the last election when 1 won a seat!). That require nothing beyond Australian citizenship. They dont even need to pass a security check.

      Taking all that on board its probably the most over paid 100% unskilled position in the country.

      Paying more wont attract better since they are already paid more than what over 50% of Australians earn and yet these unskilled jobs are not attractive to the general population.

      $80,000pa for 24 weeks of attending the office, not even having to turn up to class (ie sit in the actual room), subsidised housing, transport and office. Are you really saying they are not paid enough?!

    • Borderer says:

      08:57am | 22/05/12

      The fact that Gillard will get more to be an ex-Prime Minister than a serving one indicates that there is more reward to be booted than to be hardworking.

    • Woodsy says:

      09:43am | 22/05/12

      As much as the notion of paying pollies more seems incongruous, Old Man Emu is spot on. Many of the most brilliant minds in Australian industry don’t go into politics because they can earn two, three, four times as much in the private sector. So that leaves us with what we have now.

      But whilst the remuneration whilst IN the job could be made more attractive, I still fail to see why perks such as this are ongoing once they are out of a Parliamentary job.

    • Anon says:

      10:01am | 22/05/12


      Having worked for several of them, I can vouch for the fact that minister or backbencher, senator or member, they never really stop working. It is a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year job, regardless of how much time they actually spend in the House.

      Would you rather attract the best talent or the meh talent?

      That being said, the number of after-job perks for NSW Premiers is ludicrous.

    • gobsmack says:

      07:37am | 22/05/12

      There must be more than 3 former NSW premiers.

    • Daniel Piotrowski

      Daniel Piotrowski says:

      08:16am | 22/05/12

      Only those three get the full package of benefits. Pretty much for that reason.

    • Kath says:

      10:14am | 22/05/12

      Other NSW ex-Premiers are Barry Unsworth, John Fahey, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees, Kristina Keneally.  Two are still in Parliament.  I think the Premiers before Wran have all died.  After all, Wran became Premier in 1976.

      Wran, Greiner and Carr were in office for longer than any of the other exes hence they get the full package.  Keneally and Rees are still in Parliament - they already have an office and staff as they are MPs.

    • Cienfuegos says:

      08:15am | 22/05/12

      So does Carr get these benefits whilst receiving an income as a Foreign Affairs Minister? What a disgrace

    • Blind Freddy says:

      09:42am | 22/05/12

      I’m guessing you answered your own question?

    • Chris says:

      08:23am | 22/05/12

      I guess this issue comes down to where you put prime ministers if you rank them equivalently in the private sector.

      Let’s look at their characteristics (by and large - I’m not commenting on individuals here):
      1) Prime Ministers usually work very hard.  They are available all day, every day, for the period of their appointment.
      2) They are ordinarily smart, whether or not we agree with how that works out;
      3) These days, they are often already from affluent backgrounds, it seems, although historically that has not always been the case;
      4) They are in charge of the largest budget in the country;
      5) They can dramatically influence the lives of many people;
      6) Think whatever you like - my view is that Prime Ministers are emotionally very linked to their jobs.  If you think you can make decisions like those made in the PMs office and not be impacted upon by them, then it would take a greater degree of detachment then most people I know (and I’m a lawyer - so I know all about being detached).

      That said, they will hold their office sometimes for only 3-4 years.

      State Premiers fit the bill much the same as the above, albeit on slightly smaller scale in some aspects.  However, the State Premier has a much more direct attachment to the people in their state rather than a dispassionate view from Canberra, so I would think that being Premier offers a much greater emotional burden than being PM.  Also, with the State’s plenary constitutional powers, the States have a much greater ability to influence our lives directly in our day to day functions.

      How are we to compare them?  CEO/CFO of a major bank?  What about a director of BHP or Rio Tinto or the like?  Should we compare them to the new CEO of Apple?

      I’m not sure if this is current, but the PM earns around $481k per year?  I’m not sure what the Premiers are on.

      Compared to the combined value of earnings, perks, and stock options available to private enterprise, the salary paid to a PM is pretty low (despite how high the number seems).

      So if we are to adopt any sort of parity (and paying people in these positions properly is the only way to try and encourage talented young people to take up public service in the first place) would you rather increase their immediate salaries, or have them spread over time like the current system?

      To be honest, I actually have no opinion.  It seems a bit stupid to pay them for the rest of their lives, but at the same time the amount of their life they have to give up for service to the country is significant whilst they are in office, and the salary doesn’t exactly set them up for life the same way it would if they were CEO of a major company in Australia.


    • Jane2 says:

      08:47am | 22/05/12

      Only increase their salaries if we include pre-requisites for the job. Things like, must have run an organisation employing over 20 people for a period greater than 5 years and have never gone bankrupt.

      Scarily these fairly simple prereqs which you would want anyone who was in even middle management to have, would probably see only 2 people in the entire 100 plus at Federal level able to hold their seats.
      Our PM doesnt even qualify.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:05am | 22/05/12

      Plato thought that politicians and those who served the polity should not be paid at all, at least not directly. This in order to distinguish those who engaged ethically and intellectually with the city-state, from those who were mere working plebs. And something to be said for ensuring that MPs do not lose contact with the working lives of their constituents. However I agree that the taxpayer pays for the enormou$ salaries of company directors without a murmur, yet expect MPs to work around the clock virtually for free. I think this says more about our attitude towards politicians than a reasoned stance.

    • Chris says:

      09:56am | 22/05/12

      Actually I looked at your comment and I thought “that’s a great idea”.

      But then as I worked it through, it starts to impede on democratic principles doesn’t it?  The fact is that the people these days select the prime minister (I know technically that is not the case, but in reality people have a tendancy to vote the PM rather than vote the local candidate).

      How does such criteria mesh with democracy?

      Good luck getting that one passed, my friend… “I would like to move that we all accept a wage of $0 - please make it a conscience vote too”.

      More seriously - don’t forget in Plato’s time the class system that was in place was very different in terms of how working for your living was viewed than it is now. 


    • Jane2 says:

      09:59am | 22/05/12

      According to the Australian constitution the wage of a politician is to make up the wages lost from them being away from their core business, that is all politicians are meant to have a primary job and their elected position is their second job.

      When you consider they are technically workingon 24 weeks a year as a politician they have enough weeks left to keep their primary jobs going if they chose. Some do, most dont.

      Just because the person choses not to continue with their pre-election job does not mean their part time electoral job should compensate for their decision.

    • Bomb78 says:

      10:36am | 22/05/12

      Scothfinger: not sure where you get the ‘enormous’ salary of a director from - CEO’s might get enormous pay, but directors rarely do, and they carry the personal risk of going to jail if something goes astray - and the reason that payments were introduced for politicians was to ensure it wasn’t just the landed gentry that could serve. Without paying them only the rich could afford to serve - Clive Palmer or Gina Rinehart for PM?

    • Gymmer says:

      10:52am | 22/05/12

      Politicians do not just work 24 weeks of the year when the house is sitting. They do actually have stuff going on in their electorates and if they are Ministers they are always on the go. I’ve seen this all first hand (and no I’m not employed by a politician.)

    • Jeremy says:

      12:27pm | 22/05/12

      Singapore has very successfully ran a technocrat government for some time now, and salaries range from about US$1 million for the back bench to US$2 - 2.5 million for main portfolio holders.
      All sitting members have experience running big firms before being selected to be eligible for election. I would be very happy for Australia to have a similar system.
      @ Scotchfinger - If you’re going to use silly ideas from Aristocles at least have the decency to use his real name.

    • Chris L says:

      02:22pm | 22/05/12

      Not all experience should come from running a business. After all, it is not the government’s task to run a profit, it is to use taxes to provide services that the private sector does not cover (or would not cover equitably).

    • Peter Thornton says:

      08:32am | 22/05/12

      The ‘private sector’ (dread term) demands greater accountability and fewer rorting lurks. Politicians aren’t doing that hard a job and neither are they doing it so well as to warrant sucking on what is little more than a glorified welfare teat that seemingly squirts out far more cream than their recently made redundant ex-constituents.

    • Rose says:

      10:22am | 22/05/12

      Politicians with any amount of seniority work bloody hard, harder than most. They are accountable for everything they say, a slip of the tongue today is online in minutes and headlines the next day, and will be dragged up again and again any time the other side finds it convenient. The deal with personal scrutiny which is not only intrusive it is often unrelenting. Any mistake or brief dalliance with the wrong person in teenage/early adult years can haunt them and possibly, many years later, derail an otherwise promising career. Their families suffer the indignity of having their spouse or parent dragged through the court of public opinion (often without access to all the facts), and hey have little right of reply.
      We may not have a terribly esteemed bunch of pollies at the moment, but I think that has more to do with the job becoming more and more stressful and poorly rewarded than ever before.

    • Chris L says:

      02:24pm | 22/05/12

      If the job were that cushy for how it pays perhaps you’d like to give it a try Peter.

    • TimR says:

      08:46am | 22/05/12

      The taxpayer has to pay for the ex-pollies car, staff and office?? Is it just me, or would it be cheaper to just pay them not to work??

    • Garry says:

      09:00am | 22/05/12

      I have always had a problem with supporting PM’s after they have been kicked out of power by the taxpayers for failing at their job. Why should anyone who loses their job continue to get benefits, the working public don’t, this is just another rort paid for by the public, we are their employers, we have the money, and we own the country ! ...... It’s about time politicians realized that they work for us and Australians are not here to fulfill their ideologies.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      09:51am | 22/05/12

      you replaced the charming, capable Mrs Keneally with a pompous, committee-delegating, BMW-driving fathead who couldn’t make a decision if it was handed to him with gift wrapping. I know who I’d rather support. You assume the mass electorate always makes the right decision? These are people who vote Master Chef as most popular TV. Something to be said for dismantling democracy and replacing with a dictatorship.

    • Rose says:

      12:28pm | 22/05/12

      Ex PMs and other politicians are sometimes called upon to perform public duties after their political careers are over. My solution would be to ensure politicians are well remunerated during their time in office and then after they leave office create a government department that co-ordinate duties for ex-politicians. For example if Paul Keating or John Howard were to be called upon to attend a function or give a speech, the department would organize flights and accommodation etc for that event rather than just handing over cash as an allowance. They wouldn’t need their own offices or staff as the department would be there to assist them. Maybe for the first 6 months out of office they should get government support to tie up loose ends with regard to work commenced before the elections, even if it’s only secretarial support to draft letters about cancellation of projects, or thanking bodies for support and referring them on to the new government personnel. Goodwill type of stuff.
      The Commonwealth (or State for ex-Premiers etc)  needs to ensure ex-politicians are remunerated for anything they do that supports the Government of the day but we don’t need to pay for individual offices etc for ll of them.

    • Garry says:

      12:29pm | 22/05/12

      Scotchfinger… The mass electorate did make the right decision getting rid of the Blonde bimbo who lead a corupt and totally incompetent Labor gov’t who sending NSW back to the dark ages with mounting debt. Also look at Canberra and you will see that democracy has been replaced by a communist atheist dictator already, who has imposed censorship laws on the media and killed off free speech, so there you have it, the Australian voters will in the end punish politicians who think the public are are fools ! ...... Just like the will at the next election, ask Kenneally & Bligh for starters.

    • Rose says:

      01:12pm | 22/05/12

      “ will see that democracy has been replaced by a communist atheist dictator already, who has imposed censorship laws on the media and killed off free speech”.  If that was really the case how do you explain that this comment was published and you have not been packed off to a work camp some where?
      Drama Queen much?

    • andye says:

      01:33pm | 22/05/12

      @Garry - “Also look at Canberra and you will see that democracy has been replaced by a communist atheist dictator already, who has imposed censorship laws on the media and killed off free speech”

      You insult every person who has suffered under a genuinely evil regime with your ridiculous ignorant comments. Are you being stopped from criticizing the government now? Has Labor declared marshal law and cancelled all future elections?

      Most Australians wouldn’t know true hardship and lack of freedom if it fell on their head.

    • Martin says:

      03:52pm | 22/05/12

      So why are so many people not supporting a DIRECT DEMOCRACY a la Switzerland in which only the people are sovereign by having the same legal democratic right to call a referendum to modify or repeal any phoney laws as we have ???????

    • Garry says:

      06:02pm | 22/05/12

      @ Andye, Rose .... The Punch is probably the only media available who has the balls to publish my free speech, try and get any negative comments published on other sites, but of course I assumed too much, I thought that you could understand I was not saying that I would be placed in a ” Gulag “, but most people apart from Labor supporter sheep do know that Gillard set up a minister & deptment to oversee censorship on media publications, but what I do find unbelievable is that there are still foolish sheep who can not see what pathetic failures Rudd, Gillard & Labor have been after their compounding moronic decisions costing billions, loss of lives, destruction of border protection, low morals and blatantly lying to the Australian people. So why would anyone want to support reward failures when kicked out of office is beyond belief. No I have never lived under a repressive regime, because I remained in my country like many many others here to make sure we write and fight for our rights, it’s easy to just jump to another country and leave the fighting to others. ( All this is getting a bit off topic )

    • Little Joe says:

      07:29pm | 22/05/12

      @ Garry

      For what it is worth, I agree!!!

      Yeah, the axe gets wielded on occasion ..... but those people with Arts Degrees don’t like us being overly critical.

    • Garry says:

      08:28am | 23/05/12

      ANDYE says:  ” Most Australians wouldn’t know true hardship and lack of freedom if it fell on their head ” .... I assume you are trying to imply that you are a special case and have suffered ? Well what an extremely ungrateful person you are, to make this comment about the people of a country you came too, what about ” Gallipoli “, ” Vietnam ” etc etc, who fought and died to protect Australia and give you the right to free speech, they did not cut and run from a battle, and hard working taxpayers who support refugees through taxes. There is nothing worse than a migrant or refugee who comes to Australia to take all the benefits and then insults true loyal Australians, as they say, Love Australia or Leave Australia, your choice, because Australians made it so !

    • Anna C says:

      09:05am | 22/05/12

      I think we should end this gravy train now.  Pretty much all the ex-Premiers have been able to find well paid/cushy jobs working for investment banks or sitting on company boards following their political careers.  Their overly generous government pensions should be means tested the same way it is for the rest of the population.

    • Borderer says:

      09:19am | 22/05/12

      Big difference is that CEO’s get more because they achieve their position on their ability to manage a business correctly, politicians do not. Pollies must win their seat first then in order to become a minister need to only be the best of the talent pool available in the government, a CEO must be among the best in the available global talent pool. A CEO can also get booted for failure by the shareholders, either at the annual meeting or under special circumstances, a politician only truly fears for their job every three years.

    • Jolanda says:

      09:35am | 22/05/12

      Its hush money.  Whilst they are on the Government payroll they are prohibited from saying anything negative about the Government or what really goes on behind closed doors.

      It’s called protecting the Government and it is costing us a fortune.  Interesting thing is that the Government believes it is in the public interest.  Go figure.

    • Buffwench says:

      09:38am | 22/05/12

      And that’s partly why NSW is broke. Too busy paying the pollies post employment

    • no says:

      09:55am | 22/05/12

      They want benefits after they leave their job? Centrelink is right around the corner.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      10:03am | 22/05/12

      Of course there is a lot of responsibilty and pressure and stress with leading the country or a state in Australia. However, to rationalise that after perhaps a few of albeit intense years of work with a lot of perks and a great deal of potentially useful networking along the way, that we have to support any of them for the rest of their earthly lives is a bit absurd. As many have commented some have no real skills so don’t deserve the job in the first place.

      Finally, given the cost to the taxpayers it is another good reason to limit the amount of gross over-governance in a country with such a small population. I think we have more government here than in the US with about 200 million more people! How do you justify that?

    • P says:

      10:58am | 22/05/12

      “Queensland’s new Premier refused Anna Bligh a couple of months of having funding for her office Blackberry and iPad after she being kicked out of office.”


      Are you related to the Channel 10 Commsec guy?

    • subotic has a Vendetta says:

      11:17am | 22/05/12

      What happened Daniel?

      Was my last comment questioning the pay difference between the Australian prime minister & the American President so non-relevant? Too close to the bone maybe? Felt more like a “wake up call” than most Punch readers would care to deal with before their morning coffee? Was is the V for Vendetta references?

      Stay on topic subotic.

      Don’t stray too far off the Yellow Brick Road of topic conformity….

    • Anjuli says:

      11:21am | 22/05/12

      How many premiers, prime ministers is Australia going to end up with having to pay after they have left office,  with the population   living longer each decade. They should all receive their entitlements as we lowly workers do ,it is obscene and totally unfair to the taxpayer. All parliamentarians at the very least should have a degree in politics

    • Tanya says:

      11:27am | 22/05/12

      In this economic climate it is nigh impossible to support the concept of maintenance payments to ex politicians regardless of who they are, least of all Anna Bligh.  The eagerness of Queenslanders to be rid of her has resulted in the election of an austere, process driven premier who might be leaning dangerously right. In barely two months, he’s embarked on a program to systematically dispense with all public servants on contract and is in the process of introducing legislation to curtail union activity. There was a fat chance of Bligh having her laptop paid for! Punch – watch this space. These are interesting times in Queensland.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      11:29am | 22/05/12

      If Premiers, Chief Ministers & Prime Ministers & indeed all that dead- wood sitting on the back-benches in our assorted Houses of Parliament, did not, on retiring or being sacked by us get massive, largely Taxpayer-Funded, Fully Indexed Pansions I would agree that a premier or PM should be given a bit of a help to settle back into ordinary life.
      They get extrememly well rewarded with their Pensions. That is all they should get. No Free Air Travel, No Gold Passes for any of them - PM, Premier, MP or Senator.
      One of the most absurd perks they have ever granted themslevs is that if they have not been in Parliament for a number of terms or get sacked by us after just one term they get a massive handout of 10s of 1000s of dollars. Why? No-one else who gets the sack gets that sort of benefit. Why should politicians.
      For Nick Greiner, or any other ex-anything to expect us to keep supporting them for life with all sorts of perks in addition to their generous pensions is ridiculous & should, without any ceremony, lead-in period be stopped immediately for all of them.
      It won’t happen because they are all & without exception parasites.

    • disgusted says:

      11:06am | 23/05/12

      Australia is overgoverned for 20 million people on an arid continent. Greedy, all of them. Let them apply and be means tested for the pension like everybody else. Surely we should get to vote on this issue.

      Why don’t they let the people who vote decide this issue, if we truly are a free democratic country.


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