Interview with Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland
Newspaper review segment

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Subjects: New Australia-Indonesia Joint Understanding of a Code of Conduct, Budget 2014; east coast fast rail proposals; exams for Melbourne’s taxi drivers


TRIOLI: Let’s take a look at today’s newspapers, we are joined by Alex Malley, the chief executive officer of the Certified Practising Accountants of Australia – CPA.

MALLEY: No less.

TRIOLI: No less. It makes you sound august, which you are.

MALLEY: How was your 30th on Saturday?

TRIOLI: It was a delightful day, thank you very much.

ROWLAND: Oh, you old charmer.

MALLEY: I tell you what.

TRIOLI: He’s a masher isn’t he?

MALLEY: I’m in the zone aren’t I?

TRIOLI: Alex, what are you looking at this morning?

MALLEY: I am looking at a whole lot of things. The first one of course is Indonesia – the pact. And there is no doubt that we needed to sort out some of the issues that came from the spying case and there is now going to be a pact. I understand Indonesia wanted a code of conduct and we wanted an understanding. This is on the front page of The Australian. So, we now have an Understanding of a Code of Conduct which is a combination of the two requirements that each country wanted.

TRIOLI: A code of conduct covering what?

MALLEY: Well that is the interesting thing. That is desperately vague at the moment. And we’re trying to get to the core of it. But it is interesting that Indonesia wanted a code of conduct and we wanted an understanding between the two countries.

TRIOLI: Now is this only in relation to security issues. I was going to say spying but if we’re getting it back on track, I better not use that word.

MALLEY: We are not talking about that anymore.

ROWLAND: We don’t want spies anymore.

TRIOLI: Shhh. That’s right! So it’s just security or other matters as well?

MALLEY: It appears to be security more broadly and I think there is a sense of symbolism in this agreement. And it interesting that Tony Abbott is not going, Julie Bishop is going to be signing it with her counterpart with Yudhoyono in presence. Which I think is saying a lot about Julie Bishop’s star as well. I think she has performed quite well and her standing is starting to grow.

ROWLAND: She has had a few good weeks, hasn’t she?

MALLEY: She has, absolutely.

ROWLAND: Let’s go to the Financial Review Alex, it has the story about the Prime Minister continuing to try to get that budget through the Senate.

MALLEY: Well dare I say that the Government’s taking the A.B.C approach to budgeting. Prime Minister Abbott, Julie Bishop and Mathias Cormann, A.B.C…

ROWLAND: No “H”.

MALLEY: …that’s true…have come in to talk around the budget issue. So clearly Joe’s just taking some out at the moment which is understandable in the circumstances. But what matters most here is that all governments of all persuasions have a crash or crash through moment. This has been going for a while and there needs to be a plan B scenario with what Clive said last night, and he’s clearly had no media this morning, he has sort of come to the point where he’s saying no to most things that matter and so they need a plan B and that might be, at some point, a mini-budget.

TRIOLI: Well then, certainly not saying at the moment that it’s going to be there, there is no retreat from the fundamentals, was the point of that Financial Review story today. Three months since the budget was handed down are you surprised that it’s taken this long to even hear about a plan B?

MALLEY: I’m surprised at a level of naivety that finishing the budget and letting the ink dry was where it ended. In budget land, in business land it’s always about how you communicate the values with which your budget is built and I think there was a sense that everyone would accept it and the great mistake of early governments is that, of all persuasions, is that they’ll think they’ve won because their popular. But most governments win because there’s a protest. And I think when you get that wrong in your mind, you tend to take things for granted and everyone thought well, we won by a pretty healthy majority that means they’ll accept this budget. Life doesn’t work like that, business doesn’t work like that.

ROWLAND: Well you mix with a lot of corporate types Alex, how is this budget stand-off going down in corporate Australia?

MALLEY: I don’t think anyone was very happy about the comments made by the Treasurer at the time last week about business isn’t wanting to help. Business is desperate to help primarily because they want to employ people and get things done. There’s some real issues with employment, there’s some real issues with Australia’s confidence, we’re living off a momentum of the past and I think we’re into some pretty desperate territory. We’ve got to resolve these issues and you know when you watch Q&A last night, which I did in full, I have to say that you’re left thinking, where’s this going to go? And I think there’s a real issue we need to debate.

TRIOLI: Now look you come on this morning just to get my hopes up about the idea of fast rail and I dare not believe that it’s actually going to happen.

MALLEY: Well it’s a protest that I’ve brought this topic up because we should stop talking about it. If we’re going to do it we’ve got to do it. If you look at the China’s of the world, they’ve all got these cities that are all hubs, all have railway lines. But I’m drawing an analogy between that and Julian Assange who keeps saying I’m going to come out, I’m going to come out. It’s almost like the same thing but Julian’s probably building a tunnel as we speak.

ROWLAND: You reckon? Where to?

MALLEY: Well, one of the subway stations.

TRIOLI: A fast tunnel.

MALLEY: No one will recognise him.

TRIOLI: How realistic is this chatter yet again about a fast rail link along the east coast?

MALLEY: Well I think it’s got to be called. You’ve got to have it or not. We’re apparently talking to the Japanese, the Chinese, even the Spanish, which is great, but ultimately I think we do need one. I think that’s the sort of thing that international markets recognise but I’m raising it because it’s a protest, it should be a topic and it should be an outcome. Not a conversation.

ROWLAND: Big bucks though. Tens of billions of dollars.

MALLEY: Well, quite honestly you’re talking about a second airport and they’re saying even if they complete that, there’s not going to have enough infrastructure to cover all the bases. So I think we’ve got to look at it, we’ve got to be willing to spend, we’ve got to be willing to make a decision and no one’s making decisions.

ROWLAND: Yep, good point. Let’s finish up with a story that raised my eyebrows at least this morning. On the front page of The Age, it has to do with taxi drivers.

MALLEY: Yes, 100 per cent failure rates, since June. Now I’m a former academic and I used to tell my lecture of 500 well-meaning children at 10 o’clock on a Monday, you don’t have to get the right answers in the exams, just the same answers as me. Now, it’s interesting but this whole taxi thing, I have been in a few taxis where I’m convinced someone didn’t pass an exam was still driving.

TRIOLI: Yes.

MALLEY: But no exam should have a 100 per cent failure rate.

ROWLAND: No.

MALLEY: I’m questioning the process going on there. We need to review it.

ROWLAND: The questions perhaps? Was it too hard? I mean that’s a tricky one.

TRIOLI: Let’s just back track for those who might not know this story. So, which…

MALLEY: That’s true, we do get excited about these topics, don’t we.

TRIOLI: Which cabbies were asked to sit, what kind of exam?

MALLEY: Well apparently there’s a knowledge test that they’re running and since June the new knowledge test has come out and there is a 100 per cent failure rate. Now, as a former academic that is stunning, I mean how do you achieve that level of certainty?

TRIOLI: Don’t you need to ask a question then about the test?

MALLEY: Of course. Of course and so it is, there are questions about you know, how is it that you can set an exam that no one can pass? Now that’s a stunning effort from the examiner’s point of view but we are looking for an outcome where people can be employed and drive a cab. But that is an interesting statistic, not in any of my 20 year educational history have I heard such excellence in examination technique.

TRIOLI: And so is it possible in your mind that the other outcome is not true, that virtually 100 per cent of cabbies in Victoria are really bad?

MALLEY: I think you can set an exam, I think you can set an exam on any topic and have everyone fail, right, you can. But I think somewhere in between that extreme and reality there are some people who probably should take up another vocation.

TRIOLI: There’s going to be a make-up test clearly.

MALLEY: I think there will be and they’ll probably charge for it.

TRIOLI: Nice to see you Alex, thank you.

ROWLAND: Alex, thank you.

MALLEY: Thank you.