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Shorten aims at rich execs, bureaucrats

AAP logoAAP 24/08/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Bill Shorten has weighed into the debate over inflated salaries of senior bureaucrats and executives, saying massive pay rises and bonuses don't sit well with average Australians.

The pay-packets of top federal public servants have ballooned since the global financial crisis, with some nearing $1 million.

Remuneration Tribunal decisions show cumulative salary rises for top bureaucrats over the past decade reaching almost 70 per cent.

The head of the prime minister's department Martin Parkinson earns $861,700 - up from the position's $504,900 salary in 2006.

Australia's 300 highest-earning chief executives receive an average pay packet of more than $3 million a year - more than 50 times the average Australian salary.

Now-retired ANZ boss Mike Smith was earning $10.8 million at the end of 2015.

Mr Shorten said he respected the independent process which set public servant salaries.

"But there's something going on there which I think sits uneasily with the Australian people," he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"The real issue is not just those people - the real issue is we have stagnant wages growth in this country."

He said Labor's proposed royal commission into the banks would explore the issue of executive pay.

"When you look at the cultural and ethical business structures of Australia's institutions let's just bell the cat here," Mr Shorten said.

"You have got the big bonuses for the top end of executives and banking.

"They get paid by improvements to the bottom line or a significant portion of their bonus is the bottom line. How does that impact upon decisions to lower credit card interest rates?"

He also took a veiled swipe at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose family's net worth last year was estimated at $186 million.

Mr Turnbull has urged Australians to take more risks in a low-interest rate environment to be innovative, set up businesses and create jobs.

"It's easy to say 'take a risk' from a position of great financial security," Mr Shorten said.

"But in the 20 years of representing workers I have seen the underbelly of economic change and unemployment (and) ... if you are a 55-year-old machine operator whose factory is closing, that is not transition, it's unemployment.

"If you are a small business owner, funded by your mortgage, you don't need to be told to embrace failure, that's what keeps you up at night."

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