Most of Australia's major levy- and tax-payer funded agriculture research and development companies are hiding executive and director remuneration details behind a legislative loophole.
While five statutory RDCs outline extensive executive and director pay details in their annual reports, the 10 RDCs classified as industry-owned do not release such detail.
Meat and Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Hort Innovation, LiveCorp, Australian Pork Limited, Sugar Research Australia Limited, Australian Eggs Limited, Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Forest and Wood Products Australia do not detail executive or director pay in their annual reports, instead heaping their senior employees into a salary pool.
Grains Research Development Corporation, AgriFutures Australia, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Wine Australia each reveal the exact remuneration of their managing directors or chief executive officers, as well as senior management staff and non-executive directors.
Yet all Australia's agriculture RDCs - whether classified as statutory organisations or as Industry-owned companies - are funded by a mix of funds from levy payers and tax payers.
Australia's biggest RDC, Meat and Livestock Australia, received $97.7 million from grower levies and $94.3 million from taxpayers in 2022-23.
However, MLA does not release detailed executive and director remuneration.
Meanwhile, Grains Research and Development Corporation received $261 million in grower levies, and $132 million in taxpayer funds for the financial year.
GRDC is compelled to reveal its managing director Nigel Hart earned a total package of $555,441 in 2022-23.
When asked why it did not supply such detail, an MLA spokesman responded:
"Please see section 12.1 (k) of the MLA Statutory Funding Agreement. sfa-mla-2020-2030.pdf. MLA is not obliged to disclose individual director remuneration."
A similar response was received by Australian Wool Innovation, Dairy Australia, LiveCorp and Hort Innovation.
Australian Pork Limited and Australian Meat Processor Corporation did not respond to queries.
According to Livecorp: "Our financial statements comply with the Australian Accounting Standards, which provide for the reporting of key personnel management remuneration in the form we use.
Hort Innovation said: "Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd is a non-listed public company registered under the Corporations Act 2001."
Australian Shareholders' Association Policy & Advocacy Manager Fiona Balzer said like any listed company, the industry-owned RDCs need to have a measure of accountability and appropriate remuneration.
"Given that these organisations are funded by both the tax payer and the industry participants via levies, I would have thought some clarity about how much of that money was given to the executives and the managing director, and the operating of the business, would be helpful," Ms Balzer said.
"I think a clear remuneration strategy on the same basis as listed companies and other entities is good for governance. It is good for clarity of costs.
"In the end we see when people are mature about their remuneration structures and what it is that is appropriate to pay we get better outcomes."
David Foote, chair of Cattle Australia chair, the representative body for grass-fed cattle levy payers, said he was open to a change in the rules under which the industry-owned RDCs operated.
"It is not unreasonable for a company funded by compulsory levies and taxpayer R&D funding to be transparent in most areas of operations that are not commercial in confidence".
"If other statutory RDC's are required to report that level of detail - then I expect it is not unreasonable for MLA to do the same," Mr Foote said.