QR $18 million bonuses justified: Fraser

Queensland Rail.

(Image courtesy of Queensland Rail)

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser has backed Queensland Rail’s (QR) generous spending on bonuses, saying they are needed to attract the best staff.

QR’s annual report showed bonus payouts to staff jumped from $5 million to nearly $18 million in the last fiscal year.

Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg urged the government-owned company to justify the surging bonuses despite its questionable safety records.

Earlier this year the company faced criticisms over a leaked document highlighted staff concerns about safety.

Queensland Transport Minister John Mickle said the company paid out more than $17 million in workers compensation claims in 2007-08, and while its renewed focus on safety “ruffled some feathers”, it had a long way to go to improve injury rates.

Mr Fraser said the bonuses reflected the company’s performance, set at five per cent below the maximum possible level.

He added economic incentives were necessary to attract quality staff.

“In order to be able to recruit and retain the best people to manage QR, then this is a part of the commercial environment…that’s ultimately to the benefit of the taxpayer,” he told AAP.

However, Mr Springborg argued the bonuses were unwarranted as the rail company continued to face an increasing level of customer complaints, and the attempt to justify the payouts under staff recruitment missed the point.

“We’re talking about (paying) people who are actually there,” he told reporters.

“I think that’s probably a big cop-out.

“What we’ve got to have is the people being serviced by Queensland Rail actually being happy with the service, and they’ll be happy for the bonuses to be paid,” Mr Springborg said.

In its annual report, the company posted revenue of $3.5 billion in the year, up 11 per cent on the previous year. Its net profit after tax was $194.5 million, a six per cent increase.

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