Pacific

Australia's highest-paid public servant quits $4.3M job

Australia's highest-paid public servant announced his resignation on Thursday, two weeks after a revelation that he made 5.6 million Australian ($4.3 million) last year sparked a public furor.

Australia Post managing director Ahmed Fahour said he was quitting the national mail service on the same day the government-owned corporation posted a profit of AU$131 million for the six months through December. The figure was a big jump from the AU$16 million profit the corporation made in the same half a year earlier.

The Lebanese-born former banker, 50, said he was leaving because Australia Post had transformed from a traditional mail service to a parcel and e-commerce business during his seven years at the helm.

His resignation was not caused by the widespread public outrage at his high salary, he said.

"Clearly, this has been a very difficult and emotional decision for me and my family. But I've come to the conclusion that the timing is right. As the half-year results show, the transformation has worked," Fahour said.

Fahour said he would leave Australia Post in July following the announcement of his successor.

Earlier this month, a Senate committee revealed Fahour's pay despite objections from Australia Post that making it public could damage the corporation's brand.

His AU$4.4 million salary plus an AU$1.2 million bonus in the last fiscal year was more than 10 times the prime minister's salary of AU$507,000.

By contrast, U.S. Postal Service Chief Executive and Postmaster General Megan Brennan's salary was $286,137 last year.

Fahour said that Australia Post should not be compared to the loss-making U.S. Postal Service.

"They are a letters company and, by the way, they lose $20 billion a year and have done so now for a number of years," Fahour said.

"That's not the right comparison. We need to be compared to other parcels logistics companies, e-commerce companies — and those companies are global," he said.

When Fahour's pay was made public, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a former merchant banker with a personal fortune estimated at exceeding AU$200 million, said he told Australia Post Chairman John Stanhope that the salary was too high.

"As someone who spent most of his life in the business world before I came into politics, I think that is a very big salary for that job," Turnbull told reporters.

The highest paid Australian public servant after Fahour was Bill Morrow, chief executive of Australia's government-owned NBN Co., who was paid AU$3.6 million last year, including an AU$1.2 million bonus. NBN is rolling out Australia's national broadband network.