CPA Today

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools." – Plato

Clearly Plato was not an accountant or a member of the CPA Australia, but never let it be said that your scribe and WOB suffered this prophesy. The very public agitating of a group of members over this past year has produced some good news for CPA Australia. Nine new appointments have been made to the board.

This includes a new President, the very personable and distinguished Peter Wilson AM, who is Chairman of the Australian HR Institute Limited, Australian Network on Disability Limited and of the World Federation of People Management Associations.  Merran Kelsall and Chin Aik Wong have been appointed as Deputy Presidents and WOB member, Caroline Spencer, is also on the board. Congratulations.

Collectively the nine are a distinguished group.  The selection has ticked the boxes in areas that were absent from the skills of the prior board. Namely strategic HR, governance, stakeholder engagement and expertise with high risk start-ups.

The appointments comprise two independent directors and the remainder are CPA members. Encouragingly fewer of the CPA appointees have come through the Divisional Council pathway - who, with the exception of the NSW Divisional Council, remained publicly silent during the CPA difficulties.  It’s all very well to work behind the scenes (if indeed they did) but by remaining silent they removed the imprimatur for more reticent CPA members to voice their considerable concerns.   

Which comes to the obvious point about the new board which comprises well established seasoned professionals and directors.  The CPA board suffered from a lack of an appropriate skills mix for many years.  That has now been corrected but what about some under 40 board appointees. That then opens the opportunity to have people who have more recent organisational execution experience. CPA is a turnaround exercise with the need for cultural transformation - not business as usual.

As an interested member your scribe expects a material improvement in board performance. This could include:

  • Information to members about the board’s high priority matters
  • An improved understanding by CPA board of its strategy and attendant risks   
  • An early publication of the remuneration of directors and senior officers
  • Meaningful interaction with the membership base
  • Constitutional reforms that allows ordinary member involvement; such as the ability of the AGM to disapprove director remuneration increases

The far-reaching interim report of Ian McPhee and colleagues was very politely couched. Has the CPA truly got the message? 

Following the first board meeting the President issued a comprehensive statement covering priority items.  Amongst these is Director and Executive Remuneration where the board has approved independent benchmarking for Director and Executive Remuneration.  The McPhee inquiry made a preliminary (and unconvincing) effort at this.  Remuneration is a core test for the new board as any decision will reflect the culture of the new board. More on this anon.  

Comprehensive reform won’t happen if CPA members now sit back and expect the board to carry the load. Remember - "If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools." – Plato...

WOB and CPA member Jen Dalitz is still managing the Spillers list.  If you are a CPA and wish to support continued vigilance join it at

A snap shot of the new CPA board members.

  • Ric De Santi - public sector experience, mainly in audit in Tasmania
  • Robyn Erskine - partner in Brooke Bird where she is a specialist restructuring insolvency and turnaround practitioner. Deputy President of CPA Australia’s Victorian Divisional Council
  • Merran Kelsall  - deputy chair who holds other board roles
  • Helen Lorigan  - Independent director, Venture Partner of Sapien Ventures
  • Jon Scriven – independent director, currently Group Executive HR & Office of the CEO with Qantas Airways
  • Rosemary Sinclair - CEO and Senior Executive level in the communications, media, publishing, higher education and energy sectors which have included significant stakeholder engagement responsibilities
  • Caroline Spencer - public practitioner based in Canberra specialising in governance and assurance.
  • Peter Wilson - the new President
  • Chin Aik Wong  - deputy chair and a member of the Malaysian Division of CPA
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