Interview with Ross Greenwood

12 November

Subjects: WCOA, skilled occupation list, and employment

GREENWOOD: Well you see Alex Malley, you see right now is in Rome, because he’s attending the World Congress of Accountants. He’s almost as good as Harold Mitchell, as he gets around the place doing different things. I of course am in Brisbane at the G20 summit where all the leaders are coming to. Alex, I reckon you win, you’re in Rome.

MALLEY: Ross, you’ve got a Roman correspondent. That’s how well your show’s going.

GREENWOOD: That’s how well it is, it’s unbelievable. Can you tell me what’s the weather like outside Alex?

MALLEY: Well it was raining but it’s now cleared up so it’s reasonable but of course Ross.

GREENWOOD: It serves you right Alex. You’re in Rome and it’s raining.

MALLEY: Well I have no idea about the weather really because I’m in these Congress sessions constantly so, working for the profession tirelessly.

GREENWOOD: What’s a Congress of Accountants like Alex? Be honest about this.

MALLEY: Well, it’s far more interesting than you think I’m going to say but in fact, this round is 4,000 Ross, in KL four years ago, it was 6,000 and we have along with our colleagues at the Institute have won the bid and will announce that tomorrow at Congress for Sydney. 10,000 accounting and finance people in 2018.

GREENWOOD: That suggests to me that there’s not a shortage of accountants in the world Alex. Is that true or not?

MALLEY: There is a shortage of accountants Ross and I’ll tell you why and it’s a very simple argument, that they are actually once trained, work in all areas of management and leadership don’t always work for accountants but add the value of that skill set and of course the news today which was erroneous around skill occupation which has caused a lot of angst and was in fact an erroneous report by Agnes King at the AFR and it’s been withdrawn.

GREENWOOD: Is that right now, so what you’re saying is that the list has not been revised and accountants have not been taken off that list?

MALLEY: That’s right and that’s come through from the Minister’s office to correct that article which has been withdrawn from the Fairfax site and on The Australian website and in press tomorrow it will report the accurate story.

GREENWOOD: How can there be a shortage of accountants Alex, in the world? I mean why is it that we would need to import accountants into Australia from anywhere? Surely every second kid these days is either doing law or accountancy. I could understand if it was geology or I could understand if it was engineering or a range of different things but accountants? Seriously?

MALLEY: Well Ross the reason for that and it is a simple argument, is the fact that most of what we need in most economies is around the issue of governance, is around the management of business and the management of not-for-profit sectors and all of those sectors. So accountants just don’t go into practice necessarily or just go into the public sector, they’re actually across all the sectors and that’s what makes it relevant. So, fundamentally the way in which the world’s going, particularly in the emerging economy, we need more and more skill sets around governance, finance and business and therefore the world’s global, people travel and some of our great talent in Australia go across to international markets simply to do business on a very good level. So we’ve got to keep the circulation of that talent coming through our country.

GREENWOOD: It’s going to be fascinating. Is accountancy one of those core skill sets, a service that could be actually beneficial under a free trade agreement with China?

MALLEY: Well, it’s a big part of their conversation Ross and the whole area of putting up the finance transfer and the financial services is fundamental to Australia and as you know in New South Wales, the Premier’s very keen to look at a financial services hub through Sydney and there’s a lot of push towards that and we’re very strongly behind them. The Premier’s office approached me to talk to the World Congress coordinators so that we could seek to get that through in 2018 with our colleagues at the Institute. We’ve been able to do that. So this really is about employment. It is about empowering business. It is about driving new opportunities but without a skill set that’s able to be built and accepting that people travel the world constantly and some of our Australian best talent, is out there doing it in other markets, earning good money and adding value in other productive markets.

GREENWOOD: I’ve got to get myself going Alex, so I’m going to leave you there and leave you in Rome. Enjoy the Congress. See you next week.

MALLEY: Thanks Ross.