Albany port worker Robin Liley paid $1 million after claiming 333 days in overtime

The West Australian,
The Albany Port.
The Albany Port. Credit: Laurie Benson/The West Australian

A port worker in Albany was paid almost $1 million last year after claiming 333 days overtime.

Robin Liley banked $993,000 in 2019-20 after a $606,000 “pay adjustment” in recognition of extra hours worked in different positions over two years.

Mr Liley juggled the high-pressure roles of harbour master, which gave him responsibility for the safe and efficient functioning at Albany Port, and harbour pilot, which required him to guide ships in and out of the port. The monster payout was detailed in the recently tabled annual report of the Southern Ports Authority.

“This pay adjustment relates to a balance of time in lieu paid in cash, as well as some back pay for performing acting higher duties during the period,” the report noted.

“The Port of Albany Harbour Master, in covering the pilotage function for an extended period in 2018 and 2019, has accumulated a large amount of time in lieu which could not be practically cleared and it was agreed that the paying of these entitlements as a lump sum was the most appropriate treatment.”

A spokesperson for Southern Ports Authority further clarified the matter when The West Australian raised the payment details on page 81 of the annual report.

“Captain Liley was filling the role of both acting harbour master/pilot for a period during this time, and was then appointed to harbour master/pilot for the Port of Albany,” the spokesperson said. “He continued to undertake additional duties during the recruitment and training of an additional pilot. The employee provided pilotage cover for an extended period of time — 333 days — throughout 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.”

Leader Liza Harvey.
Leader Liza Harvey. Credit: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

Opposition Leader Liza Harvey questioned how one person could have been allowed to work so many hours.

“This should have had alarm bells ringing in the ears of the Labor Government,” she said.

“West Australians should be outraged that a government entity would allow someone on a base salary of $268,000 to get paid $993,000.”

Ports Minister Alannah MacTiernan blamed the situation on the previous government’s decision to amalgamate some port functions six years ago.

Regional Development, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Regional Development, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

“Two pilots had been working at Albany Port,” she said. “The second pilot resigned from Southern Ports in June 2018, shortly before the inaugural CEO departed.

“Amid the management turmoil at Southern Ports, the first pilot took over full duties at Albany Port — effectively one person filling two roles.

“We moved to fix the management issues at Southern Ports and appointed Steve Lewis as CEO in January 2019.

“Mr Lewis became aware of the issue and began a recruitment process for a new pilot in April 2019,” she said.

“When Mr Lewis considered interim arrangements, he determined that as Captain Liley was ready and able to continue in this dual role — and as this would be a less costly option than obtaining pilotage coverage from Fremantle — he would allow the arrangement to stand until a new pilot could commence.

“A second pilot was appointed in October 2019, after which a six-month training period was required. Effectively this meant Captain Liley filled two roles for two years, as well as requiring higher duties for a period. It was decided a pay out was preferable to time in lieu to prevent another backfill situation arising.

“This unfortunate episode was a result of the chaos following the amalgamation of Southern Ports, and should never have been permitted.

“Southern Ports has put in place measures to ensure this situation cannot occur again, including succession planning for pilots at its ports.”