The chair of a Senate inquiry into the consultancy industry, Richard Colbeck, has told PwC Australia’s senior leadership that he was deeply offended by the firm’s breach and misuse of confidential government information.
Here’s what Colbeck told the inquiry:
I find it hard, in polite terms, to describe how offended I am as a member of the then government that was introducing significant tax changes in the interests of the Australian people…. and your company, your business, was deliberately using confidential information, to float that process and to assist major corporations to avoid tax and to use that information to market internationally.
Colbeck also told the inquiry that he was not satisfied by an internal investigation into the firm, conducted by former Telstra executive Ziggy Switkowski. That report found PwC partners who make the firm money were known as “untouchables” and “rainmakers” to whom “the rules don’t always apply”.
It was almost depressing every time I started a new section of the report because it basically reinforced at each level, how crap things were inside your business. I mean, it was just terrible.
PwC Australia’s chief executive, Kevin Burrowes, did not dispute Colbeck’s finding and said “there was a lot of work” required to improve the firm’s culture and practice. He also again apologised for the firm’s conduct.
Here’s Burrowes response to Colbeck’s criticism:
The situation is deeply disappointing and Dr Switkowski’s review is very difficult for us to read.
This matter was never properly investigated. The investigation into this matter only started properly in May.
There were numerous occasions previously to identify this matter. We should have investigated and held those who did wrong to account. We did not do that.
Continuing on from our prior post:
PwC Australia’s former chief executive, Luke Sayers, then revealed, after seeking advice on his non-disclosure agreement with PwC Australia, that the recommendation was discussed by the Australian executive team and its governance board, as well as “the global network leadership team”.
There was a project with a codename that I kicked off at PwC Australia because of the breadth and depth and the size [of the firm] and trying to manage all of the various conflicts, while seeing the workings of the banking royal commission. It was a concern to me and it was a concern to the executive board at the time.
We spent about 12 months working through that project and for a number of different reasons, one of the recommendations that came out of that specific project was to divest the consulting business, not just the public sector consulting business, but the entire consulting business.
The decision was taken by global, that whilst understanding the complexity and the risks and so on and so forth, it was not pragmatic to sell a piece of global consulting here in Australia and not divest that elsewhere in other jurisdictions around the world.
PwC Australia’s government consulting business was ultimately divested for $1 earlier this year, but only after a reputation crisis led to many federal government departments refusing to give it new work.
Former PwC Australia CEO says plan to break up the firm due to conflicts of interest was blocked by global management
PwC Australia’s former chief executive, Luke Sayers, has revealed the firm recommended breaking up the organisation in 2018 to manage a concerning level of conflicts of interest, but was blocked by the firm’s global management.
Sayers has told a Senate inquiry that the Australian firm spent 12 months considering whether to separate its entire consultancy business from its audit division. The consideration was influenced by the banking royal commission at the time.
Here’s what Sayers said in his opening statement to the inquiry:
As the chief executive officer of PwC, Australia, I had significant concerns about the conflicts of interest inherent in a large professional services firm and said so.
In the final two years of my tenure, I strove to mitigate the risks associated with that and deliver fundamental structural reform. But I was unsuccessful.
In response to questions from Liberal senator, Richard Colbeck, Sayers went on to reveal his concerns extended to audit quality:
In 2017 – 2019, I was becoming more and more concerned about the depth and breadth of professional services firms here in Australia.
I was becoming concerned about the audit quality and investing into the audit business and doing absolutely everything we could or should to protect citizens through the audit function.
Police confirms one man has died at Melbourne’s factory fire
Victoria police have confirmed a 44-year-old man has died at the factory fire in Melbourne’s Derrimut this morning.
Police said the man, who is from Hoppers Crossing, was discovered inside the building after fire crews brought the fire under control. Nobody else was injured.
Police said around 30 people were evacuate from the site, which is thought to have been engulfed in flames by an explosion caused by a chemical reaction.
Freya Leach equates university stall fundraising for Palestine to Hamas terrorism
Former Liberal candidate and University of Sydney law student Freya Leach has condemned a university stall raising funds for Free Palestine and selling Arabic sweets as “Hamas terrorism” being “celebrated”.
The stall was run by the Macquarie Muslim Society yesterday. Looking at their Instagram, the fundraising event looked peaceful and informative – organisers were handing out flyers on the history of the region, music was playing, “Free Palestine” was written on the floor in chalk, and sweets were being bought and enjoyed by students.
The students were fundraising for the Gaza Emergency Appeal 2023, run by Human Appeal Org, which according to the fundraising site is actively coordinating relief efforts with its field office in Gaza to aid the displaced and medically injured.
Here is what Leach had to say:
DISTURBING: it seems Hamas terrorism is being celebrated at Macquarie University in Sydney as students play music and hand-out sweets. They are ‘fundraising’ for ‘Free Palestine’.
Jewish students have been advised to stay away.
How can this be allowed in Australia?
Former PwC Australia chief executive offers apology but tells Senate he wasn’t aware of confidentiality scandal
There’s been another apology in the Senate inquiry into consultants. This time, it’s come from PwC Australia’s former chief executive, Luke Sayers, who held that position from April 2012 until May 2020.
It was during this time that confidential Treasury information regarding multinational tax policy was shared with partners and marketed to major companies based in the United States.
Earlier this morning, PwC Australia’s current chief executive, Kevin Burrowes, held Sayers and other former senior managers accountable for ethical and cultural failures within the firm. Burrowes has also apologised for those failures, which were outlined in an internal investigation.
Sayers has told the Senate inquiry that he was not aware of the confidentiality breach involving Treasury information during his tenure:
I was accountable for the firm and its 8,000 employees and 700 partners. The breaches of confidence and the failure to properly identify and address them happened on my watch. And I sincerely apologise.
The sharing of government information clearly intended to be kept confidential, whether it is subject to legal confidentiality agreement or not, is not something I would never condone. It was a breach of trust. It was wrong, and it simply should never have happened.
I did not know of breaches of confidentiality agreements in PwC tax business until this year.
One person reportedly feared dead after explosion and factory fire in Melbourne’s west
Emergency services crews have rushed to a factory fire in Melbourne’s west where there are media reports that a person is feared dead.
A spokesperson for Ambulance Victoria said paramedics were called following reports of an explosion in Derrimut around 9.45am. Fire Rescue Victoria has confirmed the fire was brought under control at midday.
An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson says a man believed to be in his 50s was assessed on the scene but did not require emergency treatment. Paramedics are monitoring 28 people who were evacuated from the site.
A spokesperson for FRV says the explosion was thought to be caused by a chemical reaction. Firefighters have contained the fire with a sprinkler system and remain on scene.
Kalgoorlie statue’s head returned after going missing overnight
The head of the Paddy Hannan statue in Kalgoorlie has been returned but police say investigations remain ongoing:
Kalgoorlie police are currently investigating an incident in which the iconic Paddy Hannan statue was damaged yesterday, Wednesday 11 October 2023.
Between 11pm and midnight, the head was removed from the rest of the statue.
A member of the community secured the head and returned it to the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder this morning, Thursday 12 October 2023.
Queensland health minister apologises to 17-year-old alleged rape victim who was left humiliated and suicidal by treatment at hospital
The Queensland health minister, Shannon Fentiman, has unreservedly apologised to a 17-year-old alleged rape victim who said she left a hospital in tears after waiting three hours for an examination due to a lack of available trained staff.
Guardian Australia spoke exclusively to the year 11 student, Tilly*, who said she had suicidal thoughts and felt humiliated after presenting to a Queensland hospital in August.
Tilly revealed she had been asked to take photographs of her injuries and send them to the hospital as there were no iPads available.
She left the hospital in a state of distress and was only examined several days later after police organised for the process to occur at a private clinic.
Speaking to parliament on Thursday, Fentiman acknowledged the woman “did not receive the timely, compassionate, trauma-informed care that she was entitled to and expected”.
The hospital and health service has apologised to the young woman and I would like to also unreservedly apologise to her for the ongoing impact that this incident has had on her.
The health minister said as a result of the complaint issued by the family, the hospital has moved to implement a series of “improved processes”. She said this included ensuring social workers are present at the time of presentation to the hospital and “ensuring continuity of care by a specialised nurse and medical officer.”
Fentiman said the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service had been providing support to the teenager and her family while they work through the family’s complaint.
I have also asked the [Hospital and Health Service] to extend my offer to meet with the young woman and her family to discuss her experience if she wishes to do so.
She confirmed that as of Thursday there are 19 available staff across the CQHHS trained to administer forensic examinations with new rape kits and that training for clinicians is ongoing “to ensure that even more clinicians are qualified”.
I want to thank this young woman for bravely speaking out about her experience. We have heard you and we are acting.
*Name has been changed
‘Hard’ for Wallabies’ Eddie Jones to stay without change, says coach’s assistant
Wallabies assistant coach Pierre-Henry Broncan has suggested Eddie Jones will choose to leave Australia if he does not believe the team can be successful, as speculation heightens that Jones is on the verge of taking over as Japan’s next head coach.
Read more here:
Statue’s head goes missing in Kalgoorlie
The head of a statue of the man who sparked Western Australia’s gold rush has gone missing in Kalgoorlie.
The damage occurred overnight to the statue outside town hall of Paddy Hannan, whose gold strike in 1894 triggered the state’s gold rush and led to the founding of Kalgoorlie.
Glenn Wilson, a local resident and mayoral candidate, told 6PR Breakfast that the head is “completely gone” with evidence tools had been used in a premeditated act.
I’ve just come down to the statue to confirm that it has taken place.
… Everyone is shocked but also disgusted at the act of vandalism overnight … It’s a very honoured statue.
Wilson said it was not the original statue, which is safely locked inside the Kalgoorlie town hall.
The ABC is reporting that City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder officials have set up a barrier around the statue as the effort to track down those responsible for the vandalism gets under way.
Andrews spotted in Big Apple for post-retirement break
A bearded Daniel Andrews has jetted out of Australia for the Big Apple after stepping down as Victorian premier.
Sporting an irregular amount of stubble, the former state leader was spotted in the arrival line at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.
Quick to capture the moment, entertainment reporter Peter Ford posted a candid shot of Andrews on X/Twitter on Thursday morning.
Doorstopped by political journalists as the image began doing the rounds on social media, the new premier, Jacinta Allan, was puzzled over why a private citizen travelling overseas was making news:
I have been speaking to him over the last couple of weeks but I think he deserves a chance to go and have a peaceful break.
Andrews this week shared an image of himself casting his yes ballot for Saturday’s voice referendum at an early polling centre, before flying out of the country.
Six global PwC partners under investigation but firm can’t tell inquiry who or where
PwC Australia’s chief executive, Ken Burrowes, has told a Senate inquiry that six international partners are under investigation by the firm after they failed to raise concerns after receiving confidential and sensitive information about Australian tax policy.
Burrowes was unable to tell the Senate inquiry who the partners were, or where they were based, because he had not read a copy of a law firm’s investigation into the scandal’s international links. That investigation has not been made public.
The inquiry’s chair, Liberal senator Richard Colbeck, alleged the firm’s global management team had made Burrowes’ job much harder by not sharing that report with him.
Internal emails show one PwC Australia partner shared information “provided to [him] on a strictly confidential basis” with colleagues whose accounts indicate they were based in the Asia Pacific, US, Europe and the Middle East.
Here’s what Burrowes told the inquiry:
Six of our partners around the world were found to have not asked the questions they should have done in connection with the confidentiality breaches.The firms in which they reside are taking appropriate action against them.
[There is action being taken in other jurisdictions] against those six partners, to the extent that they remain in the firm. They may not be in the firm anymore, we don’t know.
Colbeck asked “what is the action that’s been taken in those other jurisdictions?”. Burrowes replied by saying: “I don’t know”, prompting this criticism from Colbeck:
Seriously, you don’t know? Incredible. I mean, you can’t tell us what’s happening in those other jurisdictions?
Greens say NSW climate targets ‘not in line with the science to keep our planet liveable’
The New South Wales Greens have welcomed the state government’s move to enshrine the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in law, but spokesperson Sue Higginson said the 2050 target was “not in line with the science to keep our planet liveable”.
The Greens welcome the Government taking serious and legislative change to limit emissions and slow climate change, but a net-zero target by 2050 in NSW will cause a breach of the obligations that Australia has under the Paris Agreement and is not in line with the science to keep our planet liveable.
The Greens want to support net-zero legislation and welcome the inquiry into this bill. We will be working with the government and pushing hard to get a better outcome for NSW and Australia.
The Minns government will introduce its centrepiece climate change legislation to NSW parliament to entrench the targets and set up the Net Zero Commission.
NSW will also follow the federal government in creating a new standalone Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water.
More on this story here:
Six schools close amid total fire ban across regions in NSW
Six schools have been closed in north-west New South Wales for precaution today amid a total fire ban in regions across the state.
This includes schools in Hermidale in the state’s central-west and the Waramungal education centre, which is located north of Dubbo, according to the ABC.
The decision to close the schools was made in conjunction with the RFS and the NSW department of education.
This comes after a catastrophic fire warning on NSW’s south coast in September led to dozens of schools to be closed for the day.
21st anniversary of Bali bombings
Today marks 21 years since the Bali bombings, which claimed the lives of 202 people – including 88 Australians.
Anthony Albanese has expressed commiserations on X/Twitter for the lives that were lost:
Twenty-one years after the Bali bombings, Australia pauses to reflect and to remember. We think of all who were lost, and those we have lost since. We think of the extraordinary heroism that night and in the aftermath.
And we think of those who still live with the effects and the loss. So many hearts still beat with the memories of that night, and even if the shock is gone the sorrow remains.
Today and every day we hold on to the truth that, even amid the terrible destruction they inflicted, the terrorists did not achieve what they wanted.
What they targeted that night was the idea of us – our humanity, our compassion, our freedom, our long friendship with the Indonesian people – but that is something they could not defeat.
We hold on to that just as we hold on to the names of everyone that Bali touched. We hold them in our hearts and we never let them fade.
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2023/oct/12/australia-news-live-julian-leeser-indigenous-voice-to-parliament-anthony-albanese-peter-dutton-gaza-israel-protests-rally-palestine News live: PwC Australia blocked from breaking up business by global management in 2018, former CEO tells Senate inquiry | Australia news