High-flying executives at the Australian Public Service Commission would be distressed if details of their salaries, each running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, were made public, the commission says.
The APSC is the the government's federal workplace enforcer, responsible for policing the Coalition's hardline policy on pay and conditions that have seen more than 90,000 Commonwealth worker face an effective wage freeze since 2013.
It also publishes an annual remuneration survey of the 155,000 strong Australian Public Service, a snapshot of who is earning what in the federal bureaucracy.
But in response to a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public, the Commission says details of the salaries of its own nine "senior executive service" public servants are off-limits.
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Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd's band of senior executives have had two pay rises, along with the agency's rank-and-file, since November 2015.
A "band 3" executive would have seen their wages topped up by $12,600 during that period.
Further down the pay scale, a band 1 executive, at the top of their band, has seen their wage grow by nearly $9000-a-year.
But that is all the detail that will be forthcoming, if the commission gets its way, with the FOI request, for executive pay slips and group certificates to be made public, running into a polite but firm refusal.
"Disclosure would breach the privacy of individuals and would cause stress on the individuals," the commission's FOI decision maker Clare Page wrote to the applicant.
"Disclosure would reveal the individuals' remuneration to the public.
"None of the relevant individuals has consented to the disclosure of the documents."
Ms Page, whose own salary details would be disclosed if the FOI application was successful, conceded that it may be in the public interest to release the documents, but only to a "certain degree".
"In my opinion, disclosure of the relevant documents would advance, to a certain degree, the public interest in government transparency and integrity," she wrote.
But Ms Page, commission's group manager, also claimed her agency's ability to haggle over wages with new recruits to its executive ranks would be harmed if the going rate for an SES at the commission became common knowledge.
"The disclosure of information about remuneration paid to each of the APSC's SES employees could reasonably be expected to undermine the APSC's negotiating position with current and future SES employees," she wrote.
"The public disclosure of this information would fundamentally alter the APSC's relative bargaining position."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Clare Page of the APSC as writing "Disclosure would breach the privacy of individuals and cause distress on the individual. The correct quote is "Disclosure would breach the privacy of individuals and would cause stress on the individuals."