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Our priorities need a serious rethink

By Warwick O’Neill

Just in case you’ve been living in a shoe box today, let me take this opportunity to advise you that Lisa Wilkinson quit Chanel 9’s Morning Show. Now you know. Whoopie …

A lot of the talk has centred around gender pay gaps and all that, and fair enough. Two people sitting in front of the same camera, sprouting the same inane conversations should get paid the same amount. It’s a no-brainer.

But surely we’re missing the main travesty in all this. Karl Stefanovic is reported to be on a $9 million, three year contract, which Wilkinson also thought she should be on (according to the media, who as you know are always trustworthy). It was like a few years ago when Samantha Armytage (if my memory serves me correctly) reported that she believed she should be earning the same $800,000 dollars per year that her co-host David Koche earned. No doubt old Larry Emdur is on a pretty good wicket as well, which his female colleague no doubt wishes she was on.

On the face of it, yes those women should earn as much as their male counterparts. But on what planet is the contribution which any of these people has made to society in general, regardless of gender, worth anywhere near the obscene amount they get paid? Why does sitting in front of a camera every morning, talking gibberish and presenting an occasional news article entitle these people to wages that the real contributors to society can only dream of?

Your average soldier’s starting wage, at the rank of Private, is roughly around $60,000 per year. Now these are the men and women (who, coincidentally, receive the same wage regardless of gender – yay Go Army!), whose job sometimes involves putting their lives on the line for the security of our nation. Even when not on deployment, these troops train constantly, enduring all kinds of hardship, often resulting in life-long injuries, spending a large amount of their time away from family, just so they can ensure that when their country needs them, they’re ready to go. TV celebrities have to dodge the shots from a paparazzi camera, while our soldiers dodge the bullets of enemy soldiers. Yet the TV ‘personalities’ get at least ten times the yearly pay packet.

Our police officers? Depending on the jurisdiction, they start at about the same wage as your average soldier. Time after time, these people put themselves in danger to protect the rest of us. It was only a few months ago in Queensland that one of these wonderful people lost his life in attempting to apprehend a violent and extremely dangerous criminal in order to prevent that criminal posing a threat to society. The incident was reported on these morning shows, with the presenters all donning solemn and respectful faces and voicing their respect for the officers involved. Meanwhile in the time it took them to report on the incident, they probably earned more than the deceased officer would have made in a full day’s work, with overtime.

How about those unsung heroes who work long hours, on their feet all day or night, in un-glamorous and unflattering uniforms as they tend to every need of our sick and injured family members in hospitals? Our nurses sometime bear the brunt of abuse from patients or their families, spend so much of their lives cleaning, dressing and patching up the damage people do to themselves and again forfeit much of their family time, in order to serve the community. All for roughly $40 an hour for a Registered Nurse, less for an Enrolled Nurse.

The list goes on. Paramedics and fire officers, teachers, garbage truck drivers, sewerage operators, bus and train drivers, council workers who keep our infrastructure functioning and the whole gamut of workers without whom our society would collapse. Take away any one of these professions and we all crumble. Take away a few morning TV presenters and we all carry on as though nothing of import has happened, because it hasn’t.

So really the question being asked shouldn’t be “why don’t the female presenters get paid the same as their male counterparts?” The question being asked should be, “why don’t the male presenters get paid the same as their female counterparts?” And then, “why don’t they all take a pay cut?”

Actually, bugger it. Chanel 7, 9 and 10 Executives, if you’re reading this (who am I kidding, of course you are …) I’ll host your morning show for you, and I’ll only ask $200 000 a year, which incidentally is four times what I earn now as a public service employee. Just get your people to call my people, alright? Shit, I gotta find some people.

Warwick O’Neill’s passion lies in exploring the nooks and crannies of Australia, both physically and historically and combing it all into writing historical fiction novels which showcase the colourful history of this country. His first novel; “Flames of Rebellion” is a fictional tale set amongst a real life backdrop of the Victorian Goldfields and the Eureka Stockade.

His blog site contains a collection of tales relating to his experiences over the last twenty years of parenting, off-roading/camping and occasionally managing to avoid incarceration by the skin of his teeth. He also hosts the YouTube video blog “On This Day In Australia” showcasing the lessor known events and people in Australian history.


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  1. wam

    Same pay for the same work is a dream for most women.
    Lisa compares well ahead of karl baby at every level except the art of the snide/inane grin. (a la the rabbott’s wink)
    Sam, on the other hand, is not anywhere near the level of skill and knowledge of david. Indeed sam’s understanding of most issues is superficial and her comments are trivial.

  2. kerri

    I was mentally preparing my rail against your same work same pay, worthwhile pay tribute until you mentioned nurses, teachers et al.
    Many jobs, far more than the public give them credit, let alone remuneration for, are overlooked in the male/female battle. My mother raised me to believe that my uncle, A primary principal, deserved more pay as he had a family to support! Even as a teenager I could not understand why she believed he needed to be paid for his lifestyle and not his contribution to the workplace. Incidentally I am sure he would have agreed with me. Same work same pay.
    Gender does not come into the picture unless the job involves sperm donation or surrogacy.
    The latter of which, of course, should involve a greater remuneration given the length of time, physical stressors, psychological detriments and long term after effects.

  3. Jack

    Once again the gender equality debate has tried to compare apples with apples and there is a banana in there instead. Karl does more than just the Today show so he got paid more. How can Lisa’s manager justify asking for the same money, when she is doing less work. Unless she also starts doing shows/work for Nine outside of Today. It irks me with the tennis too; men play five sets, women three.
    I’m all for equal work, equal pay, but when there is inequality in the ‘work’ portion how can we expect there to be equality in the pay.
    Imagine a male nurse working 8hrs a day and a female nurse only doing 7 for the same salary

  4. Judith W

    So true. And I will remember this post when people start talking about welfare or a basic wage being money for doing nothing. How can anyone stand beside a child care worker and say “my job is worth 70 times what your job is worth”?

  5. etnorb

    Very well put, & I TOTALLY agree with you too! however, whilst Stefanovic does get more in salary, he is also on other programs as well, so his salary probably reflects the differences. Even so, you are right, ALL these so-called TV presenters (sic!) do NOT deserve anywhere near the obscene amounts off money they all seem to get! And you are right about the “small” salaries those in our Defence, Police Nursing etc get. So much for “a fair days pay for a fair days work”!

  6. jimhaz

    It seems there were reasons.


    Just for the record I’m an anti-feminist when it comes to well paid women – I’ve completely tired of it. I do however believe some of the lower paid female intensive jobs should earn more, and for this group more needs to be done to ensure adequate superannuation.

    With the demise of market share TV personalities salaries should be trending down, down, down

  7. James Cook

    Who are they? What is morning TV? If it exists, why?

  8. diannaart

    The unsung heroes” of the service/caring professions – the ones without which, society does indeed crumble.

    I have asked similar questions along the lines of if every leader in the world just disappeared overnight would the human race fall into a dystopic helplessness?. I rather believe factories can still function without the boss, trains will still run, nurses will still aid the ill and infirm, planes fly, even TV and other other media can still function. Of course the reality would be that new arseholes would take over – after all sociopaths have to have a job too.

    As for the overpayment of celebratory and the self-appointed (though having way too much money for one lifetime) elite – can’t see too many people opting for a pay-cut given the entire pyramid scheme into which the human race has organised itself.

    But a good start would be payment for value and the services really need some recompense for the dangers they face and the care they give.

  9. Miriam English

    Artists, writers, musicians create our culture and nearly always die in poverty. Worse, their work is generally derided until after they die, when people look back and pick out a couple of the poor bastards to make billions from. Of course the countless other, equally talented ones are simply never heard of again.

    Just take a wander through Project Gutenberg‘s virtual bookshelves and be amazed at the amount of genius forgotten, almost entirely unrewarded… and then compare with politicians, TV show presenters, and hedge-fund managers. Ugh! Our society has its values largely upside down.

  10. Michael Taylor

    I’ll tell you who are worked to death an underpaid: blog owners. ?

  11. Miriam English

    diannaart, you’ve put your finder on it exactly. I remember many decades ago reading in New Scientist about Lucas Aerospace in UK being driven into bankruptcy by its irresponsible bosses. The engineers and scientists who worked there pooled their money and bought the company. Not only did they run it successfully without the greedy bosses, but they stopped having to work on weaponry and instead turned their efforts to socially positive projects, such as creating equipment for handicapped people.

    One day humanity might wake from its collective catalepsy and realise it doesn’t need managers, bosses, politicians, priests, or any of the parasitic class sucking down all the money and privilege in return for a con job where they pretend to be essential.

  12. susan

    When did celebrities and sports people and CEOs persuade their employers that they were worth such huge amounts of money? Nobody is indispensable. When it comes to actual responsibility and pay rate, it is hard to ignore the fact that young doctors start at $63000.00 and after 3 years can hope for about $80000.00, frighteningly, they hold your life in their too tired hands.

  13. Jack Straw

    Michael: I have a Violin you could borrow.

  14. Michael Taylor

    Keep it, Jack. You might need it.

  15. Steve Laing

    And yet the media companies believe they have a right to come, cap in hand, to the government asking for reductions in their license fees, and to be allowed to change the media laws because they are broke due to lack of advertising revenue. Surely they should be starting applying, what’s the term, an “efficiency dividend” on the “talent” and the boardroom first? As Katherine Tait would say “What a bloody liberty!”

  16. win jeavons

    Totally agree ; the last thing this planet needs is overpaid time wasters. Inequality is skewed so the least useful persons are paid ridiculous sums, while the skills we really depend on, including good parenting are under valued and underpaid. It really is time for a new paradigm for running a just, sustainable society.

  17. Susan

    Well said.
    Karl earns $57,692.30 a week.!!!!!!

  18. jimhaz

    [Just take a wander through Project Gutenberg‘s virtual bookshelves and be amazed at the amount of genius forgotten]

    I was looking for free books for my Kindle some years ago.

    I discovered these childrens stories “The Little Cousin Series”. Nothing genius about them but interesting still.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/43425/43425-h/43425-h.htm “Jean, Our Little Australian Cousin”

    If you wish to know what some Westerners thought of other cultures in 1908 they make a good read. Something for everyone there, if you don’t mind a bit of patronising racism and ignorance – though their intention seemed to be the opposite.

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