Meet Peter Cochrane, the federal Director of National Parks.
Peter has been a fan of the public purse ever since he got the top job at Parks Australia back in September 1999. Reappointed as director in 2002 and again in 2005, he has been Grand Pooh-Bah long enough to have seen off four different environment ministers – Robert Hill, David Kemp, Ian Campbell and Malcolm Turnbull – before his fifth ‘little minister’, Peter Garrett, turned up in late 2007.
In the period from mid-2001 to mid-2008 his annual remuneration (aka “salary”) as Director of National Parks grew from $196,053 to $294,525. In 2003-2004, his annual remuneration would have been nine times higher than that of the average annual income for an adult living at the Mutitjulu community near Uluru. And his annual remuneration for the financial year 2008-2009 was also considerably larger than that of the base salary of the American Secretary of the Interior, who heads a department that had an annual budget for 2009 of $US10.7 billion (Aust. $11.8 billion), which was almost 200 times larger than the annual budget for Cochrane’s much smaller fiefdom. (The US Department of the Interior has eleven operating units of which the National Park Services is but one.)
In September 2007 Peter Cochrane participated in a Parks and Protected Areas Forum that was held in Perth. It was noted in a brief biography of the invited speakers that one of his priorities was, “improving agency corporate governance, accountability and transparency”. Now I am a bit perplexed by this statement because in 2005 it took him three weeks to answer a simple question as to whether Uluru was of significance and symbolic importance for all Australians – the final answer was yes but this only came about after considerable prodding.