Deal on wheels: Tribunal green lights grand prix boss’ $600,000 pay

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News on Monday that the state government is paying a bloke, Airport Rail Link director Vito Trantino, nearly $565,000 a year – with the blessing of the Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal – to run a project that’s on hold, sent CBD scrambling among the Victorian Public Service employment ads.

But we weren’t quick enough to put our hands up for another sweet gig, also signed off by the tribunal, this time for newish Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Travis Auld.

Former AFL executive Travis Auld is the new head of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation.Credit: Getty Images

The tribunal issued its advice a couple of weeks before Auld’s appointment was announced in July that he could be paid up to $600,000. That’s about $90,000 above the ceiling for the job’s officially designated salary band – public entity senior executive 3, for all the sticklers out there.

The tribunal reckoned the functions and responsibilities of the job, including “managing complex stakeholder relationships”, as well as international market testing – carried out by the GP itself – all bolstered the argument for the higher wage for Auld.

Grand prix spinners referred our questions to Major Events Minister Steve Dimopoulos, who told us that Auld was a respected leader in the sporting world. He was well placed to “steer” – well done – the grand prix’s future.


Relations between the all-powerful Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Albanese government have been bumpy of late, but both parties promise to play nice as they negotiate over an additional $3.3 billion in funding for pharmacists.

The Pharmacy Guild is promoting Gerard Benedet to its chief executive position.Credit: John Shakespeare

That peace deal was shaken when a bunch of white-coated pharmacists launched a disruptive protest during question time in Parliament House last month, even though the guild said it had nothing to do with it.

So we’re not sure the guild’s latest move – promoting Gerard Benedet, co-founder of conservative activist group Advance Australia to chief executive – is much of an olive branch.

Benedet ran Advance through the 2019 election campaign, where it was best remembered for bringing us Captain Get Up, a man dressed in a superhero outfit who followed Zali Steggall around Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Gerard departed for the guild later that year, and has held the role of Queensland branch director ever since.

But a guild source told CBD that while Benedet’s history with Advance was all out in the open, he got the top job thanks to his work with the Queensland Labor government, which has rolled out a statewide trial expanding pharmacists’ ability to prescribe medications and diagnose conditions, to the lobby group’s great pleasure.

Benedet’s old mob Advance, meanwhile, played a leading role in the campaign against the Voice to parliament and have now set their sights on a new target: the government’s misinformation bill.


Former Morrison government ministers Alan Tudge and Christian Porter are both famously out of politics now – for various reasons – and don’t have to pay much mind to what their former Liberal Party colleagues think.

So poor old CBD has to take the calls from Liberal types, who don’t want to be named, but are still not quite over the trauma of those last years in government and who would like Tudge in particular to consider keeping a lower profile.

The former Aston MP has a regular column in conservative periodical The Spectator, has popped up in the opinion pages of The Australian and has posted selfies with right-wing warriors Rita Panahi, John Anderson and car-crash former state Liberal MP Tim Smith.

Tudge and Porter were out and about very publicly on Saturday, attending the Telethon charity ball, run by Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media at Perth’s Crown casino, with the event billed as “the most exclusive and generous invitation-only black-tie event”.

The two former politicians were accompanied by Karen Espiner, who married Porter in Byron Bay last summer, and Melbourne personal trainer Tarryn Walsh respectively, all looking very stylish, we must say.

“Our entire table had a wonderful evening, and we were all pleased to be supporting such a wonderful cause,” Espiner told us. Tudge said: “It was a great event for a good cause and I enjoyed catching up with Christian Porter and his wife.”


At CBD, we like to keep abreast of who is, and isn’t, a member of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge, Australia’s most exclusive invitation-only club.

Lounge limits: Australian Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer.Credit: Olive + Maeve

Last month, as anti-Alan Joyce sentiment reached fever pitch, and as politicians started tearing up their access in disgust at the airline’s cosiness with government, we fired off questions to a bunch of government departments asking which of their top brass were lounge members.

Some, like Treasury and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, hastily updated their gift registers to disclose Chairman’s Lounge memberships. Others, like Home Affairs, never responded.

Now, it seems Australian Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer has had enough, with his agency publishing new guidelines on Monday, forcing agency heads to disclose any airline lounge memberships in their departments’ relevant gift registers. About damn time, we say.

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