You have 0 free articles left this month.
Register for a free account to access unlimited free content.
accountants daily logo

The year of shakers and movers


Turnover among tax professionals runs hot, but it’s nothing compared to the revolving doors at the RBA, ATO, CPA Australia and other top posts.

By Philip King 15 minute read

Almost one in 10 workers is changing jobs every year according to the ABS, but since you work in professional services, the figure is more like one in eight. Unemployment might be rising but the labour market remains tight, especially when it comes to those with tax and finance skills. For anyone who wants their salary to keep pace with inflation, moving – or the threat of it – might be the only way to persuade a boss of your value.

If you are the boss, different dynamics prevail but last year, as ever, the top end of town played musical chairs. Many of the plumb posts are in the gift of government and Labor has embraced its role as party host.

One who undoubtedly saw his exit coming a mile off was RBA governor Philip Lowe, who was left standing when the music stopped in favour of central bank long-timer Michele Bullock. She assumed the post in September and the RBA raised rates at the next opportunity just a few weeks later. Ms Bullock will have an overhaul of the RBA to negotiate in addition to calling the shots on rates this year.


Despite suggestions that he might stay for a third term, ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan decided a decade was enough as the No.1 taxman.

His first lieutenant – and another KPMG alumni – Jeremy Hirschhorn was widely regarded as the front-runner but that was before the Senate inquiry into consultants dissected the tax secrets scandal at PwC and learned, among other things, that it talked the ATO into halving $1.4 million in penalties for false claims of legal professional privilege and paid $12,000 to fly Mr Hirschhorn to France for a conference.

In December, the Treasurer named CEO of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Rob Heferen to the role, which he takes up on 1 March. A former ATO officer and Treasury deputy secretary, Mr Chalmers described him as “an outstanding leader and one of the nation’s most experienced tax experts”. He inherits a rapidly digitising ATO on track for a future where “tax just happens”. As for Mr Hirschhorn, he’ll always have Paris.

Another Europhile, CPA Australia CEO Andrew Hunter, announced his intention to quit in July to return to his former stomping ground in the noughties, where he was head of Macquarie Capital Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Mr Hunter took over as CPA Australia boss six years ago with the job of restoring the body’s reputation in the wake of the disgraced Alex Malley, who left under a cloud – but with huge exit cheque – in 2017. Mr Hunter’s publicity-shy approach contrasted markedly with his predecessor. Still, he departs in March leaving cumulative losses over two years of more than $40 million and a demoralised body reeling from a redundancy program that culled dozens of its 600-plus staff over the latter half of 2023.

His replacement was named in December as lawyer Chris Freeland, who has spent 13 years at Baker McKenzie and is currently its Asia-Pacific managing director.

CPA Australia president and chair Dale Pinto – himself a mid-year appointee – said Mr Freeland had a proven track record of leadership and was an expert in corporate change and transformation.

One of his first jobs will be to resurrect morale and assuage fears of further lay-offs with little prospect of a return to profit in the next set of results.

The PwC scandal inflicted casualties at the firm itself – with Brit Kevin Burrowes parachuted into Australia to replace CEO Tom Seymour – but the ramifications went much wider.

At the Board of Taxation, Treasury named two part-time members to the fill vacancies left when CEO Christina Sahyoun returned to PwC in January and former PwC partner Anthony Klein left in July. ATO stalwart Judy O’Connell and Financial Reporting Council chair Andrew Mills were appointed for three-year terms, bringing “more experience and more expertise”, Treasury said.

In October, Treasury moved to expand the TPB from eight members to 11 with three part-time appointments: lawyers Simone Carton and Phillip Davies as well as Queensland University of Technology tax professor Kerrie Sadiq.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said the appointments brought a “diversity of skills and experience” to add to the board’s capabilities.

In November, a successful change by the Greens to the Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 1) Bill 2023 means current or previous partners still receiving payments from firms with more than 100 employees will in future be ineligible to join the regulator.

The government is also hunting for members of the new Administrative Review Tribunal which will replace the AAT this year. Ahead of that change, the Attorney-General appointed Emilios Kyrou as a Federal Court justice in June and made him AAT president for a five-year term the following day.

Acting Attorney-General Katy Gallagher said Mr Kyrou would oversee the AAT’s reform.

“As president, Justice Kyrou would lead the AAT through this important reform and would be the inaugural president of the new administrative review body, once established, for the remainder of the term of his appointment,” she said.

Meanwhile, Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke announced the appointment of Anna Booth as president of the Fair Work Ombudsman for a five-year term from September, replacing Sandra Parker. Ms Booth, who had previously served eight years as deputy president of the FWC, would “execute her duties with skill, rigour and impartiality” Mr Burke said.

Government proposals for multi-employer bargaining as part of a shake-up of workplace legislation forced a change at the helm of small business body COSBOA, with Alexi Boyd quitting in January after controversially supporting the trade union position.

In May, COSBOA chair Matthew Addison named Luke Achterstraat, a former NSW executive director of the Property Council of Australia, as her replacement.

“Luke will bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table which will benefit our members, partners, and industry stakeholders, as well as help to achieve COSBOA’s goals,” said Mr Addison. 

Mr Achterstraat said his personal history with small businesses and his professional experience meant he was well suited to the role. 

“Starting my career with a federal employer group and then in federal government has given me hands-on experience in understanding policy development and working with a broad scope of stakeholders,” said Mr Achterstraat. 

After a similar hiatus at the Tax Institute following the exit of Giles Hurst in May last year, technical team leader Scott Treatt took over as CEO in October from interim chief Clare Mazzetti.

The Tax Institute said Mr Treatt had been a member of the institute for over 20 years and a tax specialist since 1997 with experience in large second-tier and big four accounting firms as well as government.

Mr Treatt said the Tax Institute performed an important role and he wanted to “empower our community to have their voices heard often, heard well and acted upon to the best of our power”.

Which should be music to the ears of tax professionals everywhere.

Philip King

Philip King


Philip King is editor of Accountants Daily and SMSF Adviser, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting and SMSF sectors.

Philip joined the titles in March 2022 and brings extensive experience from a variety of roles at The Australian national broadsheet daily, most recently as motoring editor. His background also takes in spells on diverse consumer and trade magazines.

You can email Philip on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You are not authorised to post comments.

Comments will undergo moderation before they get published.

accountants daily logo Newsletter

Receive breaking news directly to your inbox each day.