CPA and other lobby groups

In recent years I have observed the cult of celebrity being reflected in lobby groups. It probably started with Heather Ridout (then at the lobby group AIG) who started to think she was a player and important.

The secretariat (or staff) at lobby groups previously operated behind the scenes and generally in the interests of their members. But from Ridout’s time we have seen emerge ‘CEOs’ of lobby groups behaving in their own interests rather than their long-suffering members. They seem to revel in the limelight and use the organisations to feed their own egos and have puff pieces in newspapers. That is the lobby group is a tool for self-aggrandisement.

So we also have Jennifer Westacott at the BCA running her own agenda and pushing vanity projects of the social issue du jour. I recall when the BCA  was at the forefront of economic reform in Australia in the 1980s and early 1990s. It is sad to see its decline and lack of interest in good policy. The BCA of 20 years ago would not have sat idly by while the Gillard Government reregulated the labour market. But the BCA of Gillard’s era played soft – the CEO of the BCA wanted to remain on the Labor team and didn’t want to discomfort the Government.

Compare that to a truly successful lobby group – the Pharmacy Guild of Australia – where David Quilty (a good guy by the way) is basically unknown. The same can be said of the Minerals Council of Australia, where the head of the secretariat is Brendan Pearson (another good guy).

So my theory – the more obscure or behind the scenes is the secretariat, the more likely the lobby group is acting in the members’ interests. Members of lobby groups should stand up and put the secretariat and its boss back in their box.

But the organisation which seems most to have strayed far from its mission is CPA – the society of accountants – a lobby group representing accountants and auditors (and competing with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand which were once planning to merge).

CPA has become a vanity project for its secretariat head – Alex Malley. It has defied attempts for disclosure on executive remuneration and it turns out that Malley and two others together got paid about $3.5 million a year. For an organisation that supposedly advocates for good practices in financial reporting to bemoan disclosure laws and attempt to resist full disclosure is beyond a farce. It is disgraceful.

Then Malley – whose experience is effectively limited to running a secretariat of a lobby group – has written a book – an autobiography – The Naked CEO. It’s not like he has actually run an organisation making anything. CPA is merely a lobby group that has managed to get official imprimatur for its members who are effectively forced to be members and pay fairly hefty membership fees ($720 per year). But it is certainly not modelling best practice.

At the airport the other week I stopped by a bookstore and thumbed through Malley’s book. Suffice it to say that it is banal and thin with large writing. It is full of platitudes and I wouldn’t recommend its purchase (I didn’t bother buying it).

Yet CPA is promoting his book. And it also pays for a television program In Conversation with Alex Malley. And you get professional development points for listening to Malley – obviously some guru (not!).

If you want to see how far he has strayed from modest servant of his lobby group’s membership to self promotion and narcissism just read Malley’s official biography. He certainly seems to have used the CPA organisation to enrich himself.

Alex Malley is the chief executive of CPA Australia, one of the world’s largest accounting bodies with 19 offices globally and more than 160,000 members worldwide. He also heads its financial services subsidiary business, CPA Australia Advice.

In addition, Alex is the host of the Nine Network Australia series In Conversation with Alex Malley, author of the best-selling book The Naked CEO and provides career mentoring to young people via thenakedceo.com.

A LinkedIn influencer and contributor to The Huffington Post, he is also a regular commentator on the Nine Network Australia’s Weekend Today Show and 2GB.

Alex has been included on The Accountant magazine’s Global Accounting Power 50 List, has addressed the National Press Club Australia, and his policy thought-leadership has informed key national economic and political debates. He also serves on The Prince of Wales Accounting for Sustainability project.

From suspended schoolboy to disruptive CEO, Alex Malley does what he believes in.

About Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus

I'm a retired general who occasionally gets called back to save the republic before returning to my plough.
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35 Responses to CPA and other lobby groups

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    Conquest’s 2nd Law:

    Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.

    AIG, BCA, PGA and CPAA are worked examples.

    The MCA is another example, but of an inherently righty organization which stays righty. It can hardly do otherwise being on the hate-list of the entire Left.

    Oops, I was premature.

    MineralsCouncilAust‏Verified account
    @MineralsCouncil 9h
    NSW Minerals Council pushes for more funding for clean coal technologies | http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/nsw-minerals-council-pushes-for-more-funding-for-clean-coal-technologies/news-story/1a37d858e03cd20432b3ab45863d2b97 … #coal #mining

    That giant sucking sound you hear is Robert Conquest’s dead hand slowly pulling the MCA down into the swamp too.

  2. H B Bear

    Nancy the Media Watchdog has had this bozo in her sights for a while now.

    Heather Sellout was just another media tart and justifiably got torched as a Gillard apologist.

    The Pharmacy Guild are arguably the most successful union even ahead of the AMA (although probably behind the surgical colleges). They saw off Keating’s competition law back in the day and even Colesworths can’t lay a glove on them.

  3. Adelagado

    I thought you’d just lifted a small section from his biography. But no, thats all of it. Its a pretty slim record for a guy on that sort of dough.

  4. areff

    “contributor to the Huffington Post”

    Cut the man some slack, Lucius. This man has, as he would say of himself, rocketed past the apogee of achievement.

  5. tgs

    CPA is the dud accountant qualification as well, CA is the good one.

  6. Robber Baron

    Richard Alston has got his meat hooks in the organization.

  7. Art Vandelay

    Compare that to a truly successful lobby group – the Pharmacy Guild of Australia – where David Quilty (a good guy by the way) is basically unknown.

    The Pharmacy Guild have been successful at restricting competition and feathering their own nests at the expense of ordinary consumers (particularly those who are ill) and taxpayers. They are parasites.

  8. Rasputin

    Can’t believe that the arch exponent did not get a mention! What about the silver bodgie then ‘ay?

  9. The BigBlueCat

    As a (retired) CPA, I am sick of seeing Alex Malley everywhere! CPA is much more than Alex Malley.

  10. Pyrmonter

    @ tgs

    Maybe a generation ago; not that much between them now other than the background of the students.

    Pyrmonter CA (would have been FCA if they hadn’t shut that particular bit down a month before I qualified)

  11. Burchell Wilson

    Correct in many respects but what has the anonymous author ever accomplished in public life? I bet he’s just a disgruntled public servant hiding cravenly behind a pseudonym and casually hurling invective from a taxpayer funded sinecure. Put your name on the line or shut up is only appropriate response.

  12. Nerblnob

    Having a big presence on social media is Going way of telling everyone you’re a bludger.

  13. Nerblnob

    FFS. “God’s way” not “Going way’

  14. Hydra

    Potentially the main reason my employer insists on membership to CAANZ.

  15. old bloke

    “The AMA Position Statement on Climate Change and Human Health 2015 is a very strong document. It was developed from the ground up, with input from AMA members at grassroots level around the country.

    The evidence is clear – we cannot sit back and do nothing,” Dr Gannon said.

    Dr. Michael Gannon, President, Australian Medical Association, quoted here.

  16. Tim Neilson

    The Pharmacy Guild have been successful at restricting competition and feathering their own nests at the expense of ordinary consumers (particularly those who are ill) and taxpayers. They are parasites.

    Yes, a truly successful lobby group.

  17. The BigBlueCat

    CPA Australia should not be a lobby group – they can hire a lobbyists to gain political support for accountancy and taxation matters, but they themselves should not be political activists. CPA Australia exists to serve its members on matters relating to accountancy, not socio-political activism. They should respond with advice, not with political ideology – not on my membership dime anyway.

  18. Leigh Lowe

    I thought you’d just lifted a small section from his biography. But no, thats all of it. Its a pretty slim record for a guy on that sort of dough.

    Exactly.
    He has won career Tattslotto.
    I can’t be fucked looking it up again but, IIRC, a big chunk of his ‘career’ was as a teacher at some B-Grade Uni/Tafe, spent some time as CEO (cough) of, I think, the Society of Urological surgeons with a few vague ill-defined periods thrown in (ie failures).
    The fucker has never actually run anything but promotes himself as the world’s greatest CEO.
    I am not a CPA member but I would be spitting chips if I was.

  19. Leigh Lowe

    CPA Australia should not be a lobby group – they can hire a lobbyists to gain political support for accountancy and taxation matters, but they themselves should not be political activists.

    You miss the point BBC.
    Like Heather Sellout, he talks about his job as “broadening the base” of the organisation, which is code for “fuck the members, this is a personal career advancement vehicle for MEEEEEE“.

  20. .

    Tim Neilson
    #2381158, posted on May 16, 2017 at 10:43 am
    The Pharmacy Guild have been successful at restricting competition and feathering their own nests at the expense of ordinary consumers (particularly those who are ill) and taxpayers. They are parasites.

    Yes, a truly successful lobby group.

    Can’t wait until vending machines bone these plonkers as well.

  21. Sheree

    This is so absolutely true. I am a long suffering member of CPA in public practice and their advocacy is absolutely terrible. I had considered this year not bothering about renewing and most likely will not next year. They have definately strayed far from their mission. I too am sick to death of seeing Alex Malley everywhere and he has used the CPA brand to springboard his own career. I had read an article on Breitbart about the left encouraging membership groups to push their membership base left (which can be seen in simply the front covers of their In the Black magazine – whos who of leftist agenda pushers). I contacted CPA as a member asking them for their opinion on this – i am still awaiting a reply so many months later. It is a disgrace.

  22. stackja

    Liberty Quote
    The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.

    — Friedrich von Hayek

  23. Empire

    Can’t wait until vending machines bone these plonkers as well.

    The state will not willingly accept a demotion from its current status as Principal Chief Dealer. The Guild supports them in this.

    You reckon Escobar mounted a spirited defence of his drug business? Watch the medical industrial complex protect its patch.

  24. Defender of the faith

    The truly miserable lobby is the BCA. Westacott is in the media 24/7 yet never actually says anything. They are totally useless. As for Malley, the CPAs are supposed to be accountants. Yet he’s been at this caper for years and none of them said a peep until one of the nastier gossip writers got the shits with him.

  25. Cactus

    2 Separate thing but I think in some way linked to this
    1) the qualification bubble – once upon a time only a few service industries required qualifications, i.e. a Uni degree and ongoing professional development to engender trust. I.e. the public wants to hire an accountant/lawyer/surgeon etc they want to trust they have kept up to speed with new laws/technology/standards. The industry body had a role to ensure that the good name of said profession is kept up and trust is warranted. Now every avenue of the economy has these bodies and certificates, like personal training, child care etc. There is a burgeoning industry in getting these bits of paper which weren’t previously required and rent seekers charging.
    2) The CFA program is a global example – Chartered Financial Analyst – what a great business model (for them). They charge US$1k per module, you need to pass 3 to put CFA behind your name. They routinely fail 30% of each class. So systemically they get 4 payments for 3 modules. Then when you pass, for each year you pay US$1k pa to keep it up to date.

  26. Marcus

    This is so absolutely true. I am a long suffering member of CPA in public practice and their advocacy is absolutely terrible. I had considered this year not bothering about renewing and most likely will not next year.

    Be careful what you decide, though. If you ever try to re-enter the organisation, you’ll get hit with fees for years you’ve missed because they don’t want to encourage people to leave the organisation. Like the Mafia, once you’re in, you’re in for life, or else you have to pay through the nose.

  27. Pingback: CPA and other lobby groups | Catallaxy Files | Cranky Old Crow

  28. Tim Neilson

    Cactus
    #2381351, posted on May 16, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Yes, qualification inflation is spreading a problem that otherwise would have been confined to a few areas.

    The life cycle seems to be:
    1. actually maintain standards, to the benefit of the public;
    2. regress into a trade union, which benefits the incumbents and fleeces the entrants;
    3. regress further into an extortion racket from near-captives dependent on the “qualification” to be allowed to earn a living, and spend the ill-gotten gains on promoting societal destruction via middle class pinkoism.

    Happens with other organisations too. Qantas under Hudson Fysh helped get the Flying Doctors off the ground (if you’ll pardon the expression), later it was at least good at hoovering from the customers, but now shareholders’ funds are being deployed to promote Alan Joyce’s self-esteem boosting vanity project.
    Or the AFL, which has gone from helping the clubs co-ordinate a football competition (back in Charles Brownlow’s days at least) to a giant shakedown operation feasting off the carcass of inherited club loyalties (by the 1980’s at the latest) to being interested only in staging North Korean style mass rallies for the ALP/Greens’ causes du jour.

  29. Paul Farmer

    I am with Sheree and a few other posters on here. I am a CPA too with 25 odd years experience and I find Malley just a totally empty shell……….CPA has become to obsessed with marketing and superficial crap and I dislike its increasingly left leaning tendencies.

    I have toyed with the idea of writing an article for “In the black” on a who’s who of great free market thinkers in the last couple of hundred years ……….on people like Smith and Mills , Say , Menger, Hayek and of course Freidman………you know people that any self respecting professional who earns a living off business and the functioning of free markets should probably actually understand and moreover hopefully endorse yet there is probably no one at their head office anymore who has even heard of these names……………thank God there is sites like this if you want some deeper thinking on issues of a financial nature.

  30. John A

    Like others here, I am a CPA. I have both my 35 and my 40 year badges, having joined in the early 70s when CPA wasn’t in the name – it later became the “premium” status to out-rank the Chartered chaps.

    BUT I never wear them, and my Compulsory PD is done elsewhere. The monthly magazine In The Black gets as little attention as my RACV magazine Royalauto – less than an hour per month.

    I am not in public practice but, like Sheree, I think hard each year about parting with my 700 bucks. The only reason I keep paying is there are people and organisations whom I serve with, who have been hoodwinked into requiring CPA or CA qualifications for particular functions (Hon. Treasurer, Hon. auditor, etc).

    So I put up with the personal embarrassment rather than jettison the initials. But one day…

  31. The BigBlueCat

    John A
    #2381563, posted on May 16, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    JohnA, you can still use your CPA designation if you go to “retired” status and still service those organisations – you save in membership fees and CPD requirements.

  32. The BigBlueCat

    Leigh Lowe
    #2381212, posted on May 16, 2017 at 11:22 am
    CPA Australia should not be a lobby group – they can hire a lobbyists to gain political support for accountancy and taxation matters, but they themselves should not be political activists.

    You miss the point BBC.
    Like Heather Sellout, he talks about his job as “broadening the base” of the organisation, which is code for “fuck the members, this is a personal career advancement vehicle for MEEEEEE“.

    No, I got the point – Alex Malley is more into self-promotion than promoting CPA – he uses CPA to promote his book and his TV show. But CPA Australia needs to grow a pair and cut him down to size as he’s tarnishing the brand. Franky, he’s not that good (IMHO).

  33. Justin

    Spartacus you are clearly not very familiar with the plight of pharmacy and incompetence of the Guild. Pharmacy owners have seen their profits (not that large by the way) severely diminished in recent years as a consequence of changes to PBS pricing which in turn has diminished the capital value of most pharmacies, which for most owners represents their retirement nest egg. The Guild has sat idly by and barely whispered a protest as this has been going on. There have been no orchestrated campaigns to reverse this trend and capitalise on the significant political capital retail pharmacy can offer. At the last election Guild President, George Tambasis vacated the field of battle. He was too busy sunning it up in Greece (his ancestral home) at Guild member’s expense presumably justified as “learning” from overseas models of community pharmacy. Compare that to the AMA president at the last election that was front and centre arguing for his members. The Guild has sold out members over successive community pharmacy agreements and instead positions itself to manage millions of dollars of government grants on programs worthless to the typical pharmacy owner and participating in pointless government advisory boards or healthcare reviews. The Guild has become co-opted by the public service and are now barely distinguishable from bureaucrats that ruin their industry. That is when they do not spend the majority of their time running a conglomerate of second rate businesses that provide limited, if any benefits to owners but offer vehicles of self enrichment for Guild Presidents and staff (e.g. FRED dispense). Unfortunately the Guild has morphed into the very vehicle for self promotion and self enrichment of individuals you despair. The rise and rise of Chemist Warehouse is a symptom of Guild ineptness. The most audacious disruption / flaunting of pharmacy ownership rules has not prompted any serious response by The Guild. The industry is in state of crisis and much of this crisis is a consequence of the once great Guild being reduced to rubble.

  34. .

    Pharmacy owners have seen their profits (not that large by the way)

    (Giggles).

    as a consequence of changes to PBS pricing which in turn has diminished the capital value of most pharmacies

    So how were they making more money off the PBS before?

    There have been no orchestrated campaigns to reverse this trend and capitalise on the significant political capital retail pharmacy can offer.

    You mean like the campaign to stop supermarkets offering pharmacy drugs, as you can do in other western countries?

    The Guild has sold out members over successive community pharmacy agreements

    Which are worth billions.

    The Guild has become co-opted by the public service and are now barely distinguishable from bureaucrats that ruin their industry.

    Please show us a few pharmacies owned or run by APS.

    The rise and rise of Chemist Warehouse is a symptom of Guild ineptness.

    Good.

    The most audacious disruption / flaunting of pharmacy ownership rules has not prompted any serious response by The Guild.

    Good.

    The industry is in state of crisis and much of this crisis is a consequence of the once great Guild being reduced to rubble.

    Very good.

    Time for you muppets to be replaced by vending machines. Personally, I can’t wait.

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