Mike “my money” Hosking is having an existential first world crisis

The terrifying Mike Hosking

If you think Winston Peters and this shambles around waiting for a government is bad, they have their own version across the Tasman in the form of One Nation, the brain child of Pauline Hanson.

She has a similar sort of hold over certain proceedings. Their system is infinitely more complex than ours given they have an upper house. But her latest policy win involves the government directing the state-run broadcaster, the ABC, to publish the names and salaries of everyone who earns more than A$200,000 ($219,000) a year.

This is a petty little exercise, petty and futile. What possible good can come from it?

It is, of course, driven out of the BBC decision to do the same thing, which led to nothing but the predictable outrage from the angstys on social media – the sort of person desperate to start their day with a good moan.

There is no doubt that if you’re paid by taxpayers or ratepayers, that a level of public accountability exists that doesn’t in the private sector, and that in general terms is probably no bad thing.

There was some justifiable upset, for example, the other day over the number of people at the Auckland City Council who earn more than $100,000. They seemed vast numbers. But the critical part of it, and this is applicable to all disclosures of public organisations, indeed all listed companies as well: the people themselves aren’t named. And this is where accountability turns into a side show.

Publishing salary bands is a world away from knowing that Bob the chief financial officer earns $260,000. What Bob earns isn’t the business of anyone other than the person who writes the cheques, no matter where the money for those cheques comes from.

The general exception of course is chief executives and board members.

But here is the simple truth behind the sport that is outing well-known names and their incomes. It’s for little more than gossip and spite. Little more than envy and bitching.

It serves no purpose, and hampers the organisation to compete in a very competitive market place. Let me assure you, the same would apply here as it does in Britain, that the state broadcasters don’t as a rule pay well.

As outraged, upset or infuriated as you might be about any numbers that make the public domain, they are not a patch on the serious coin that’s floating around the private sector.

And it’s that private sector with which the state so often has to compete.

I believe it is the public’s business to know how public money is spent.  And that includes salaries.

There is some argument for depersonalising it at a lower level, where we really don’t need to know that Betty in accounts is on $45,300.  But in the case of people like Mike, who are major costs to the organisation, those headline salaries are relevant for the people paying for them.

If Mike worked for Mediaworks, he can have his privacy.  While he’s at TVNZ, he can damn well put up with the inconvenience of his defacto employers and company owners (us) knowing how much he stresses the bottom line.


– Mike Hosking, NZ Herald


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