Brisbane Council CEO $700k pay chat with Scott Emerson on 4BC

I had a good chat with Scott Emerson on his 4BC Drive program on Tuesday afternoon about the fat pay packet of Brisbane City Council boss Colin Jensen, who is paid over $700k each year, placing him easily in the top 1% of earners. First I noted that it’s comparable to salaries paid to people with similar levels of responsibility (i.e. heads of department at state or federal levels or university VCs, some of whom are paid $1M) and that even some school principals (e.g. of Brisbane Grammar) are paid $500k. Scott noted Brisbane City Council is almost like a state government given its size.

That said, I did note I’d want to do a benchmarking exercise of salaries of people in similar positions around the world to determine if it was an appropriate salary. Such a comparison may not necessarily be favourable for Mr Jensen. For instance, I was surprised to learn that the head of the New York Port Authority makes under US$300k per year (see Port Authority’s Bloated Payroll Grew $150 Million Last Year: Report).

Finally, I told Scott that with bureaucracies we need to worry about the Principal-Agent Problem. It’s very possible the management of organisations can exert undue influence on the organisation and extract excessive salaries for themselves. This may be more likely to occur in taxpayer-funded institutions (including councils, universities, and, peculiarly in Australia, private schools), which are less subject to market discipline.

You can listen to my conversation with Scott via this link:

Brisbane City Council CEO paid eyewatering salary higher than PM and US President

Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to

Brisbane City Council coat of arms, on the corner of Wickham Terrace and Albert St, Spring Hill.
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3 Responses to Brisbane Council CEO $700k pay chat with Scott Emerson on 4BC

  1. Glen says:

    Gene the CEO of Townsville City Council has a package close to $500k, which is a disgrace for a city of that size,, and the current CEO actually lives in Brisbane, which is more of a disgrace, but that aside the $700k for the Brisbane CEO seems quite reasonable in comparison.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Good point. Is the Townsville Grammar School principal still getting paid nearly $500k? I remember it was huge news when it came out Richard Fairley was on $400k-500k.

  2. AlanC says:

    This article, while a little dated now, has remarkable relevance for the residents of Eidsvold who are about to lose their free to air tv broadcasts because their local council cannot afford to repair and update the rebroadcast tower.

    It’s beyond me to find the North Burnett Council CEO’s salary but I gather it’s in the vicinity of $270,000 (sourced from other lga papers for a level 1 council).

    The amalgamation of councils under Beatty seems to have caused an explosion in Council executive wages which will have gone a long way towards undoing any actual benefits from the amalgamation.

    The LGAQ is now a behemoth beyond the State Government’s power…

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