Murray Goulburn board milks it with big pay rise

Got milk and staying mum: Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy. Photo: Leanne Pickett
Got milk and staying mum: Murray Goulburn chairman Philip Tracy. Photo: Leanne Pickett

After a disastrous first year as a listed entity – including a Four Corner's program devoted to the destructive impact of Murray Goulburn's shock decision to cut milk prices – this probably was not the time for the dairy group to reveal its directors got a 50 per cent pay hike last year.

Just before the unit trust listed on the ASX in July last year, investors voted to increase the remuneration pool to $2 million.

For the 2014 and 2015 financial years, Murray Goulburn's board collected $1.2 million in fees.

This rose to $1.657 million in 2016 – a 38 per cent pay rise – but would have been much higher if the entire board had not waived their fees for the last two months of the financial year as the disaster unfolded.

This does not include any payments to former CEO, Gary Helou, who departed in April after the company slashed its profit forecast. He received $3.3 million for the year – including salary and leave entitlements. 

According to the company's financial statements lodged on Wednesday, the board fee structure would have seen its directors collectively paid $1.835 million for managing Murray Goulburn Co-operative and the listed unit trust – a 53 per cent increase on the previous financial year.

The smallest pay rise would have gone to chairman, Philip Tracy, whose fees and super would have increased 35 per cent. 

The $2 million fee pool "does not include any special and additional remuneration for special exertions and additional services performed by a director as determined appropriate by the board of Murray Goulburn," the company said in its product disclosure statement last year.

The company did not say whether the pay cut will continue this year as its dairy farmers endure even lower prices. 

Murray Goulburn cut the price of milk solids to $4.31 per kilogram last month. This is lower than the price cut in April which sent shockwaves through the industry.

he new $4.31 rate is after a 14¢ repayment is applied for loans Murray Goulburn gave farmers to see them through the final months of the 2016 financial year after April's price cut.

David Basham, acting president of advocacy body Australian Dairy Farmers, said farmers would now endure an entire year of being paid less for their milk than the cost of producing it.

"We think that about $5 to $5.20 is about where cost of production is in the current environment and this is a good way below that."