Interview with James Daggar-Nickson

Thursday 21 August

Subjects: Clive Palmer, ASADA, NRL, Cronulla Sharks

DAGGAR-NICKSON: I want to bring in Alex Malley, the CEO of CPA Australia. Just, where do you begin? I mean, what do you make, when you wake up and you see the headlines or indeed you hear the comments for the first time, what do you think?

MALLEY: I think it’s symptomatic at the society we’re seemingly happy to create. I think our attention spans are shortening, I think we’re selecting really unusual people in various levels of public life and we’ve lost the principle of statesmanship. Because in the end one of the great concerns for us James, is that we’re an island a long way away and when the world was sleeping, that was fine, but the world has woken up and we need to send really solid messages about that we’re statesman, compete in a positive way in society and we’re balanced in our views. And I don’t think we’ve ticked any of those boxes.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Does this hurt us do you think on the global stage?

MALLEY: Undoubtedly. You know when we had the issue with the Indian taxi drivers in Melbourne, that had enormous impact on the universities and other areas of business. This will have an impact. You know to some extent you can argue it’s isolated to particular characters but nonetheless, are we comfortable with that? And I must say from a media point of view, there’s a lot of conversation about it so in and of itself that sort of feeds it as well. And if one thought that part of the motivation was to feed your commentary into the market place then you’d have to argue that on this occasion he’s winning because everyone’s talking about it.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: You worry though, I mean, you know part of the reason that he gets the coverage he does is because essentially he holds the balance of power. But that in itself becomes problematic when the comments and some of the beliefs coming out of the person who does indeed hold the balance of power, you know it’s shaped in these sort of remarks.

MALLEY: Well, but there’s also an irony in this in that when someone’s got a vision, and we’ve talked about leadership on a range of occasions, and said if someone’s got a vision people will go through some pain to help get to that vision. But there are certain capacities where people will talk about issues that may appeal to certain segments of society and you can almost see the button’s been pressed, as various comments are made, to almost incite a certain reaction from a certain cohort and I think it’s up to all Australians to say sooner or later we can’t have a gridlock senate for the very reasons of what we’ve seen the last 24 hours and we have to start deciding on the fact that if there’s only two parties, we’ve got to give a mandate to one of them. And we’ve got to run the country and at the moment, for various reasons, we still can’t seem to run our own country.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Where is the skill of negotiation, you know, gone when it comes to some of the political figures, you know the idea of, as you say, being ready and willing to take a bit of pain for a long term vision and long term goal? I spoke to Peter Costello the former Treasurer and his first budget seemed a lot tougher budget in terms of fiscal drag on the economy. He said it was all about knowing what your message is and getting out there and selling it but we haven’t seen that in a while?

MALLEY: No, and I think too that when governments win, they often mistake that for popular victory, not protect. And generally you’ve got to start by proving yourself and you’d expect us to know about budgets. Budgets aren’t a strategy, they’re a step towards a vision which should be well articulated. And we’ve reached a point now where I think there was a sense that when we finished the budget and the ink dries, great, the job’s done, move on. But anyone who sets up budgets of any lengths, small business through to government knows that it’s the communication of the budget that wins the day. And that’s not being evident at this point. The other thing is that all governments have a crash or crash through mentality on budgets but they’ve got to have a plan B James, and I’d like to think the Coalition has a plan B here because at the moment, given Palmer’s comments on Q&A on Monday night, he’s just decided he’s not going to agree on anything at any time. So you know, things are looking grim and they’re going to have to consider options like option B.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Different topic, seemingly to some degree it’s come to a head today, it’s regarding ASADA, the NRL and in particular the Cronulla Sharks, a number of current and former Sharks we believe haven’t been given show cause notices. This has been a long time coming and when you go back to the blackest day in sport, some 18 months ago and the process since then has been nothing short of shambolic.

MALLEY: Extraordinary and again if you take a leadership lens on this, we had literally trumpets blowing, every leader of every sport hurled into a room with a press conference, there must have been an election coming and they literally trumpeted that the world was going to end. And for the last 18 months when, that is their core business, investigation, process and outcome, they’re now saying as late as today that if you tell us you did something in the next couple of days at least, I’m working off what’s in the press, then we’ll presume you’ve had the penalty and you’re back on deck. And remember the quote I think from Paul Gallen, the captain of Cronulla, as late as the last couple of hours, has said well you know if we admit to something then we’re going to be labelled cheats.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: That’s right.

MALLEY: But of course the expedient outcome could be that they say yes we did something and they’re back in two months. So if this process was transparent up front and we were told exactly what the issues were and who was involved because you’re comfortable with your own process, then people could’ve set about defending themselves. But you can’t half tell a story and when you’re an agency that’s covert in some of your activities. I’ve chaired the Office of Police Integrity’s audit and risk covert operation, you go about your business and you get your facts right and then you go out and tell people. You don’t think you’ve got your facts right and then half tell a story.\

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Where does this leave confidence in ASADA?

MALLEY: Well I think there’s got to be questions asked about ASADA’s processes, by any fair measure, and I would say that about any business that claims to be a core of whatever so our core business is professional services, we’re accountable for that. Their core business is investigation and outcome and they’re accountable for that and I think questions fairly have to be asked.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Yes, I suspect they will be over the coming days and weeks.

MALLEY: They should.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Alex Malley, as always insightful, thanks very much.

MALLEY: Thank you James.

DAGGAR-NICKSON: Alex Malley there, the CEO of CPA Australia.