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 and created a political headache for the government.
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.
The government later announced that an independent tribunal that decides the salaries of lawmakers, judges and government department bosses will be given power to rule on how much Fahour’s replacement is worth.
While the Australia Post board of directors will continue to decide the managing director’s salary package, it will now have to persuade the Remuneration Tribunal that the pay is consistent with what other senior public servants are paid.
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.