Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, has been in crisis this week after the salaries of its top journalists were published.
Mark Scott, the managing director of The ABC, has emailed staff to say salary information was released to a South Australian MP last October.
Business Insider understands the list of salaries has been circulating in South Australian Liberal circles for some time.
Here’s the full note from Mark Scott:
Earlier this week I wrote to you about the publication of confidential ABC salary information.
You will be aware that salary details of staff members have been released in News Corp newspapers.
There is a legitimate public debate about the appropriate level of disclosure for areas of public expenditure. The ABC has always complied with all legal requirements in this area.
In releasing personal details like this, media companies and newspaper editors will make their decisions. Readers will judge their motivation and the credibility of their justification for publication.
My concern for staff was that the ABC had not kept confidential, important private information. We were concerned about a deliberate leak or computer hacking and asked for an expedited investigation from our Group Audit team.
Their investigation has shown that the material was inadvertently sent to the office of a South Australian Member of Parliament in October last year in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
The request was for simple summary information regarding staff numbers in certain regional areas and at Ultimo from 2007 to 2012. The payroll detail was accessed through material embedded underneath a simple one-page spreadsheet showing the relevant staffing numbers. The hidden detail included confidential information for all ABC staff for the last pay cycle for the six financial years from 2006/07 to 2011/12: annual salary/pay, date of birth, and name (only) of the relevant superannuation fund. No details such as bank account information or tax file numbers were included.
Clearly, at the ABC, this material was created and distributed in an inappropriate way. Again, I want to apologise for our failure in that regard. New protocols for handling organisational data have been implemented and will be closely reviewed by Group Audit.
The ABC is notifying the Privacy Commissioner of the matter and the steps being taken in response.
I want to thank the team at Group Audit for their forensic work in a short time to uncover how this information left the ABC systems.
In any organisation, the release of this kind of information would be distracting and disruptive. I know our staff are committed to the work the ABC does and the special role it plays in Australian life.
Despite the noise this has created in some circles, I am confident we will get on with our job of creating great programs and delivering outstanding journalism; as we have done this week. That is what our owners, the Australian public, want us to do. It is that commitment that makes us the most trusted and respected media organisation in the country.
The writer is on Twitter @BenCollinsBI
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