Interview with Ross Greenwood

17 September

Subjects: Joe Hockey and the budget; Ministerial report cards

GREENWOOD: Alex Malley is the chief executive of CPA Australia which represents accountants in industry and in practice around Australia and also around the world. Good evening to you Alex. Where do we find you?

MALLEY: You find me in Melbourne, in my apartment on my own, just in isolation, typical leadership moment Ross.

GREENWOOD: Oh really? That’s right. What contemplating your navel? Just wondering whether your leadership qualities are good enough or not?

MALLEY: I’m actually just watching Joe Hockey trying to talk about his budget after Peter Costello’s comments today.

GREENWOOD: Alright then, because Peter Costello was on, indicated earlier, had indicated, that maybe Australia is on the turn and that the days of good fortune are behind us. I went to that speech though, it was kind of interesting listening to it. In some ways when I heard Joe Hockey speak yesterday live and it is interesting that the power from a current serving Treasurer versus a previous Treasurer, the dynamics are quite different. I’ve got to tell you Alex and that is about leadership because leadership is when you’re in the job.

MALLEY: That’s right and I think Costello was, on any reflection by any political colours you may have, had a holistic perspective on things and had an articulation that was pretty easy to follow. At the moment I think we just need a bit more articulation of the two or three things we are trying to achieve and stick to those. I think it got a little bit lost in previous…

GREENWOOD: Well Alex, it also really doesn’t help when you haven’t got control of both houses of parliament, that’s one of the other things, because in the early days John Howard and Peter Costello did have control of both houses of parliament and were able to get legislation through fairly easily, it would be fair to say.

MALLEY: That’s true, that’s true and that adds a certain dimension but I tell you what I don’t think happened as frequently as it seems to be happening at the moment and that’s Tony Abbott and his performance review.

GREENWOOD: Well this is the interesting thing. Let us have a listen to our Prime Minister today because he clearly has now got, if you like, the report card out for each of his ministers. Here’s what he said.


TONY ABBOTT: I think some are getting A’s and some are getting A pluses but the fact is this is a competent and trustworthy government. What’s happening at the moment is that 12 months into the life of the government, I am reviewing progress, it’s a perfectly normal dimension to management that you, from time to time, review progress with your senior personnel and that’s exactly that we’re doing now.

GREENWOOD: Mostly minuses amongst them Alex. Were you surprised there were mostly minuses?

MALLEY: Well I thought our Prime Minister might be a little bit easy on the marking but in terms of the…

GREENWOOD: Behind closed doors, I bet it’s a different matter behind closed doors Alex?

MALLEY: I think you’re probably right and the whole issue Ross is the questions you ask in that process. I give him points for having face to face meetings. A lot of people cop out at face to face meetings in leadership these days but it’s all around the two words. You can talk to me about the effort you’ve made but I’ve got to be far more interested in the outcomes of the efforts you’ve made and so if we apply that to Treasury or any other ministry, I don’t think anyone would question the efforts that have been going on. The issue that has to be in full stark conversation amongst the Prime Minister and his ministers is what have you achieved and how close are you to the outcomes that you were set when you took up the post. That’s the conversation that matters in leadership.

GREENWOOD: It would appear that’s almost what he’s trying to do. This is like charter letter reviews, the sessions focus on and update the written instructions given to ministers on appointment outlining the Prime Minister’s expectations and he’s said it’s a perfectly normal dimension in management that from time to time you review progress with your senior personnel. So you’d have to think that this is going to be an interesting observation isn’t it?

MALLEY: It is and I really do think that its value comes in the conversation around outcomes. And I have a sense that his style is quite dogged in relation to getting to the issues he wants to get to, so I’ve got enough faith in his style publicly that he’ll have those conversations. It’s also a good opportunity Ross to review your strategy, and to look at perhaps you’ve set that goal for the first 12 months. And there’s some fair external factors that perhaps implicated you not getting to the very essence of what you tried to achieve but does that need to be adjusted or do you need to adjust your style in that process and again that I think becomes a really important conversation. But some of the studies out there these days will say that 85 per cent of people in leadership and management will always suggest that there’s a better outcome in one on one meetings than in any other form of communication, that makes sense.

GREENWOOD: Well there’s no doubt behind closed doors you can say things that you possibly can’t say in the workplace generally. And Alex Malley of course, talks leadership here on Money News every week on Wednesday night, the chief executive of CPA Australia. Great to have a chat Alex.

MALLEY: Good evening Ross. Thank you.