Watkins on press secretary salaries

February 17th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Dom Post Political Editor Tracy Watkin blogs:

It takes a lot to shock the hardened hacks around the press gallery – but news of the pay rates awarded to the new intake of press secretaries has caused quite a stir.

Heh guaranteed to do so. What I found interesting was the range:

Eight media staff were employed under Labour on salaries of $100,000-or-more, seven in the $10,000 band below. And that was in November 2008; as a general rule, the closer to an election, the higher the pay rates – salary demands tend to be ratcheted up when an election is looming, particularly when it looks like a government is on its last legs and the vacancies come thick and fast as longer-serving press secs desert for positions with more job security. …

Meanwhile, you have to feel sorry for the three unnamed National press secretaries who signed up for less than $60,000.

I don’t think it is a problem that some press secretaries are on under $60,000 and some over $100,000.

The most senior Ministers need highly experienced people as press secretaries. They will have people with sometimes decades of experience, and need to pay to recognise that. These are the officers where almost every day is a crisis day – as in there is some sensitive issue they have to deal with.

Some of the more junior Ministers have an easier ride. For example Consumer Affairs doesn’t normally create too many issues, so that Minister may only need someone who has been a journalist for a few years – with their skills being more on good written communication skills, rather than on devising “key lines” etc.

So the salary range isn’t that unusual to my eyes. I will say I was a bit surprised that 18 press secretaries are on over $100,000 as my gut reaction is probably only the front bench (10 or so) need someone that experienced. But I’m no expert on what the market rates are.

I remember my own pay negotiation when I was in the PM’s Office in the late 90s. I got screwed over and settled for far too low a salary. The problem was the bastards knew I’d probably work there for almost free, and exploited that :-)

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18 Responses to “Watkins on press secretary salaries”

  1. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    I remember my own pay negotiation when I was in the PM’s Office in the late 90s. I got screwed over and settled for far too low a salary. The problem was the bastards knew I’d probably work there for almost free, and exploited that

    Ditto for me for the Labour Research Unit in 1997. Still, it’s invaluable experience.

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  2. Danyl Mclauchlan (1,065 comments) says:

    It seems appropriate for senior press sec’s and SPS’s to have rough pay parity with backbencher MP’s, so there’s nothing wrong with the salaries, as such. But the Nat’s and yourself have spent the last nine years moaning about Labour Party spin doctors and lavish spending on public servant salaries so in that respect this is a pretty awful look. You’d have been clawing your eyes out in fury if you heard Helen Clark was paying seven of her advisers more than $150,000/year, DPF.

    [DPF: I'd think seven was somewhat too many, but I would think Heather Simpson should have been getting $200,000 or more considering her role and ability.]

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  3. jacob van hartog (309 comments) says:

    Has anybody checked what the numbers in the other staff categories in the beehive are.

    My bet is that some ‘communications people’ have been hidden under other classifications, ie updating web pages or writing content for web pages or embedding stuff have been moved to IT .
    Wasnt that DPFs job way back then ,creating the content for the first web pages ??

    [DPF: Actually I created the content in 1996 before I was in the PMs Office, and did it as a volunteer - wasn't sadly paid a cent for it]

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  4. Inventory2 (10,108 comments) says:

    Gidday jacob – do you plan to defame anyone from your within your cushy cloak of anonymity today?

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  5. jacob van hartog (309 comments) says:

    Do you mean – Well- Ill- be- foocked. Well he has

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  6. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    You mean like you Inventory? What a laff.

    Jacob’s right of course. Moreover, lets see the numbers at the end of this term and then compare.

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  7. Buggerlugs (1,609 comments) says:

    FFS – she knows the hours these poor pricks have to work…although as a PS in 1992 I did earn a bit more than $60K so have to assume those on less this time are like you DPF and willing to work for nothing!

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  8. Inventory2 (10,108 comments) says:

    Paul – I may blog anonymously (for genuine reasons), but I don’t make a habit of trawling through public records (eg the Companies Office) and splashing them all over the blogosphere to try and make a point – and in jacob’s case from last week, I still don’t have a clue what point he was trying to make!

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  9. Simon Lyall (101 comments) says:

    Perhaps it’s a case of the incoming National Ministers not being as experienced in government and needing to hire experienced minders while many of the outgoing Labour Ministers had years of cabinet experience and didn’t need as much looking after.

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  10. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    Inventory, I don’t know what you’re referring too and don’t have a problem with anon blogging. However, as it reads here, your criticism seems a little hypocritical.

    Either way, Danyl’s point is a fair one. David and many on this site were zealous in their criticisms of Labour’s spending on press secretaries etc so it’s hardly surprising that there’s interest in how much Key’s spending.

    [DPF: I never actually complained about the cost of the press secretaries - more the number of them. Also I have blogged twice on National's level of spending on them, so am providing a forum for scrutiny, rather than ignore the issue now National is in Govt]

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  11. Patrick Starr (3,675 comments) says:

    I cant see what all the fuss is about. Anyone with similar skills in the private sector is rewarded much higher than that.

    Paul Williams IV2 is referring to Jacobs filthy personal smears the other night, that are going to haunt him for a long time. He may jest about it now but he probably did it to the wrong person

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  12. LUCY (359 comments) says:

    Looks like sour grapes to me. It always appeared to me that Tracey Watkins supported Clarke no matter what. Perhaps she is miffed that she was too late having a position with Labour.

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  13. Inventory2 (10,108 comments) says:

    Sorry Paul – I thought you must have been reflecting on the irony of an anonymous blogger criticising another blogger for being anonymous.’

    Anyway, FYI – here’s the thread I was referring to:

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2009/02/naughty_winnie.html

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  14. peteremcc (341 comments) says:

    hey all,

    the EFA repeal is going through its final reading at the moment.

    theres probably 30 mins left once they get back from dinner at 7.30.

    come down to the house to celebrate, or watch on tv if you cant make it!

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  15. nz capitalist (306 comments) says:

    I made a similar comment the other day and will repeat it…

    What do these chappies do to earn their excessive wages?

    If you have a Minister who is virtually invisible why do they require a Press Secretary and doesn’t it logically follow the Press Secretary is incompetent?

    I know the ‘Beltway’ is all “warm-fluffy-wankfest-big-hugs-politically-correct-survival-of-the-unfittest-I-deserve-the-right-to-ponce-about-impressing-my-friends-telling-them-I-work-at-the-Beehive-and-will-sue-if-you-remove-that-right” but if I was a Minister I would tie my Press Secretary’s pay and continued employment to the amount of column inches and televison time I received.

    If I opened the newspaper over breakfast and was not reading about myself I would sack the Press Secretary; as for all this nonsense about ‘experience’ and other palarvar – what rot, anyone with half a brain can email 50 reporters.

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  16. Inventory2 (10,108 comments) says:

    I’ve just blogged about it petermcc, urging all EFA opponents to drink a toast to free speech tonight

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  17. Paul Williams (876 comments) says:

    [DPF: I never actually complained about the cost of the press secretaries - more the number of them. Also I have blogged twice on National's level of spending on them, so am providing a forum for scrutiny, rather than ignore the issue now National is in Govt]

    That’s splitting hairs about one point but I have noted your earlier comments.

    IV2, I didn’t follow the thread where the comments were made about Whale. I have to say I have no sympathy for the bloke, he’s dealt his fair share of shit and should expect to get it back. BTW, whether the comments are defamatory is far from clear as I’m sure many others can explain better than me…

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  18. kiki (425 comments) says:

    devising “key lines” do you mean spin?

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