Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Jul-Aug 2011 Contents But Macri said she'd have a think about
it so she spoke to a few people and did
some thinking and reflecting. "In the end
I decided, there aren't many people who
know more about aged care and all its
history than me, so I said yes."
But that wasn't the end of it.
"It became sticky as my three-year term
on the board of the Aged Care Standards
and Accreditation Agency was coming to
an end in June 2010 and I could not remain
on the board and accept the position at
the PC. At the same time I was told that I
would have to limit my consultancy work
to ensure there would be no conflicts of
interest, which of course I knew I would
have to do. I was also advised that I would
have to stand down from the board of RSL
LifeCare as this would also be seen as a
conflict of interest."
RSL would have given her leave of
absence but by this stage she felt as
though there were too many barriers.
"On the one hand they want you because
of your knowledgeand then they try and
prevent you from participating in it.
"They were paying me a wage but that
wasn't the appeal. Really, I was doing it
because I felt that I was in a privileged
position in being given the opportunity to
help shape the future of and industry I love
and am passionate about. However, I was not
prepared to resign from the board of RSL
LifeCare as they have an excellent corporate
governance model and I firmly believed
that any conflict of interest issues could be
managed. So I declined the position.
"They could not believe it. But
after some fairly strong lobbying and
discussion we were able to work through
the issues and I started in May."
SERVICE AND SACRIFICE
Deputy chairman of the PC, Mike Woods,
acknowledges that accepting the role has
meant a great many sacrifices for Macri.
"I know Sue has put a lot of her life
on hold," he says. I do know that she has
invested a lot of personal thinking hours,
not just working hours, struggling with the
issues we have all worked our way through.
But that's the nature of the enterprise.
Commissioner Woods says, as a
general rule, the PC does not have
associate commissioners appointed from
outside the commission.
"Usually we will consult with the
industry, but not actually have someone
from the industry as part of the inquiry.
Where we do," he says, "it is up to the
government to choose and appoint the
associates. We will be consulted but we
don't make the decision.
"We completely concurred with the
department's decision to appoint Sue. I've
been doing this job for 13 years and she is
part of a handful or less of associates who
not only are seen to fit the criteria but
absolutely meet the criteria."
Woods says an associate
commissioner needs more than a good
knowledge of the sector in question.
"They must also have a good
understanding of public policy. They need
to be able to step back and look objectively
at the issues and be led by evidence and
analysis and logic about what is best policy
and what is implementable.
"A lot of people don't have that
capacity. And an even smaller subset are
able to have an open mind, to look at the
evidence. It's a hard discipline for a lot of
people at that level because, usually for
a very long time, they have thought that
they know the answers and have made up
The potentially difficult matter of the
PC having her chosen 'for them', not 'by
them', set a solid foundation for Macri's
respect for the institution.
"I was interested to see how they
would feel about that," she says. "But I
have to say it's the healthiest process I've
ever been through at a political level. And
I think it should give the Australian public
great confidence and great comfort that
there is an organisation, quite separate
from government, with so many smart and
In Macri's praise and respect for the
commission's work there is an element of
affectionate naivete: of being pleasantly
surprised that any official government-
initiated response to an issue could be so
thoroughly and intelligently reviewed.
"I had appeared before them before,
but never really appreciated what they
do. I am amazed at the workload and
the capacity of those people to get their
heads around so much detail and so many
different topics," says Macri.
"I think because the PC is autonomous
-- being a statutory body of government
-- it allows a certain freedom. While
the department puts in a submission
like everyone else, there is no political
interference. And there is no hierarchy.
"The commissioners and all of the team
are highly skilled and intelligent with a wide
variety of expertise and experience. All staff
are able to debate what they feel strongly
about. There is so much robust discussion
going on but, at the end of the day, it is all
Australian Catholic University awarded
Macri an honorary doctorate in 2007
PC deputy chairman, Mike Woods, shares a
laugh with Macri.
Teamwork: L to R, Stewart Plain, Sue Macri, Meredith Baker and PC commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald.
AAA | JULY -- AUGUST 2011 | 69
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