A lot of noise is made about ‘closing the gap’ between Indigenous Australians and their non-Indigenous counterparts. There are so many factors to address; no one remedy is going to work in all areas, no one person has the only resolution; but central to the process must be an awareness and accountability for failures and deliberate harm metered out to the Indigenous of this nation by individuals, corporations and governments.
Resolution starts with putting your ego aside and considering the opinions of others. Such an other-focused approach requires that we consider the impacts of our actions on others, acknowledging the harms and making an effort at redress. Of course, no resolution is complete without a change in the culture that allowed the harms to occur in the first place. The global accounting firm Ernst & Young appear to be shooting for the Reconciliation star, but in the house of former Commissioner for ACT Revenue (aka ‘Pat’) they land well short. The evidence as seen through the eyes of Pat, his family and friends is that Ernst & Young are not in the least bit interested in developing a better relationship with Indigenous Australians. It is reflective of the fears I hold for the truth of democracy in this nation in which the façade of equality has been hewn not from the solid cool bluestone mined by our convict forbears, but molded of the rotting timbers and rusting nails that carried them to these shores, Britain’s jetsam.
Ernst & Young prides itself on its diverse culture. It’s Oceania CEO, Mr. Rob McLeod is a Maori of Ngati Porou descent and apparently proud of his own heritage, so naturally one would expect that he would be interested in addressing the disadvantage suffered by his fellow Indigenous across the Tasman. Certainly, he’s paid the appropriate lip service on behalf of the company he oversees, but is the company willing to go the full hog? It seems not, for the issues that led to the demise of the former Commissioner and the subsequent impacts on his family and friends, precipitated by questionable conduct by staff employed at Ernst & Young have never been addressed. Indeed, in trying to get the issues addressed some years ago, Bakchos was told that, “We are Ernst & Young. We have the money, the connections and the power. If you want to seek redress for Tanya Taylor’s and Gillian Moffatt’s actions you know where you can serve your documents on us!” Yes, that definitely sounds like a conciliatory tone to me.
In a nation that professes not to discriminate on the basis of race, colour, creed or gender, Ernst & Young provide a stark contrast. As one of Australia’s and the world’s top three accounting firms, Ernst & Young wield considerable power over tax, accounting, auditing and transaction management.
Mr. McLeod professes to want to facilitate better relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, but he’s missing the most obvious point – his company facilitated the destruction of an Indigenous public servant who once worked within their ranks. How on earth can Ernst & Young claim to have the best interests of Aboriginal Australia at heart?
Diversity Inc. and the Australian Financial Review both promote Ernst & Young as leaders when it comes to inclusion of people of diverse ethnicity and in working toward gender neutrality in its managerial ranks. Yet, it is notable that whilst Ernst & Young may have ranked at number 5 out of 500+ companies in the Diversity Inc. rankings, it does not make the grade for the recruitment nor retention of black employees in this ranking system, nor in the Diversity Registry, a US based website and magazine targeting both new graduates and more experienced job seekers.
Diversity Inc. identifies four key points in the demonstration of a diverse culture within an organization and describes them in terms of stages through which companies, in their opinion, progress. Most companies achieve recognition for reaching the first two stages – celebration focused and workforce focused – and it is in these that I am most interested. Such companies are sensitive to the diversity of culture within their company and acknowledge these with ‘celebrations’ or activities within the workplace targeted to a particular minority group. But if this is the only expression of the commitment to diversity, Diversity Inc. suggests that companies can potentially lose valuable staff and encounter problems recruiting as the word gets out that what is preached is little more than window dressing. However, if the culture of the company also focuses on the workforce, setting clear objectives and planning for employment and retention of a diverse workforce they can be expected to develop a happier team of staff.
By the accounts of the former Commissioner and those who know what happened, the window dressing seems to be well in place within Ernst & Young Australia. Whilst Pat left Ernst & Young Canberra of his own accord for the illusion of working in the service of the public in the Australian Capital Territory’s Department of Treasury (ACT Treasury), the lip service paid to diversity by the multi-national Ernst & Young corporation failed at the racial test some seven months after Pat left their environs, when a subordinate (the Inquisitor) in ACT Treasury accessed his personnel file at Ernst & Young. This would have been bad enough, but it got worse when in June 2003, another 13 months later, the Inquisitor made a similar request. This despite the fact that Pat, after receiving advice from his lawyers, had informed Ernst & Young that the Inquisitor was not authorized by ACT Treasury or any other relevant authority to request access to any files held by them relating to his prior employment at the accounting firm, Ernst & Young still provided access. This unconscionable act set in play the destruction of one man’s life and career, for it was at this point that the alleged manipulation of Pat’s personnel file by Tanya Taylor occurred. This has been attested to by Australia’s most senior Aboriginal bank executive, who when indecently assaulted and racially abused by the Inquisitor whilst lunching at the Waldorf Café in Canberra recalled that he bragged that Ms Taylor had changed Pat’s Ernst & Young application. It has also been alluded to by ‘Tom Payne’, who apparently knew Pat during his EY days, in his most recent comment,:
“Even if Tanya Taylor did tinge your application, who really cares, no one cares about you black cunts. Well some nigger in the New York office might, but they are only there because of positive discrimination, really they cant write, read, count or spell so what use are they in an accounting firm?”
You would think Mr. McLeod would be embarrassed at the actions of any employee, past or present and appalled by the failure to protect the privacy of confidential documents. The utter silence suggests the complete opposite, a reinforcement of their aforementioned position expressed to Bakchos: “We are Ernst & Young we have the money, the connections and the power, if you want to seek redress for Tanya Taylor’s and Gillian Moffatts actions you know where you can serve your documents on us!” If that’s an example of the inclusive nature of Ernst & Young and their commitment to Indigenous reconciliation, they can keep the diversity accolades. Why would any other company wish to be compared against this company, one that is complicit in the denigration, destabilization and racial vilification of a man based on nothing more than his race? More importantly, why does Ernst & Young continue to protect the people who were the subject of an investigation into missing money from ACT Treasury, one of whom was the Inquisitor? The Terms of Reference (“ToR”) for this investigation were discussed at length in court proceedings in March 2006. In fact the Inquisitor, while first denying the existence of a ToR finally, under cross-examination, admitted to them.
Really, Mr. McLeod, why was it necessary for Ernst &Young to destroy the life of a man who had proved himself within your corporate ranks, a man that Ernst &Young had head-hunted themselves? Pat had raised himself above the pains so many of the Stolen Generations still endure, educating himself and building a career. He met the same standard as any of his colleagues and yet, Ernst &Young aided in the destruction of the life of not only Pat, but that of his family.
I believe, Mr. McLeod that you are a champion of affirmative action among Maori employers. Do you cherish the same ideals for your Indigenous brothers across the Tasman? If so, why has the attitude that allowed the discrimination and racial abuse of an Indigenous Australian and former Ernst &Young employee, one that is still being expounded by one such as ‘Tom Payne’, been swept under the carpet?
When you talk about reconciliation in Australia you cannot separate it from diversity. Corporations and governments cannot ignore the maltreatment of Indigenous Australians by glossing over the past with statements about helping those they first disenfranchised. Transparency of thought and accountability for actions is what is needed. Quite frankly Mr. McLeod, I’m wondering why Ernst & Young, one of Australia’s and the world’s largest accounting firms, has remained so silent on this issue and why it wants to remain tied to ACT Treasury, Tom Payne, the Inquisitor or an incomplete fraud investigation that’s resulted in the very public and damaging lynching of an Indigenous Australian. Until I understand, the lip service that you and your company pay to Indigenous reconciliation will be taken as little more than posturing for the sake of political correctness and proof of the attitude that underpins Tom Payne’s words, “… but they are only there because of positive discrimination …”.
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