Strong relationships lead to meaningful dialogue and impact, rather than one-off transactional interactions, says AICD CEO Mark Rigotti MAICD.

    A core purpose of the AICD is to advocate on behalf of our members in support of policies that promote effective governance. We do this with our mission in mind — to be the independent and trusted voice of governance. In an era where public debates can quickly become polarised, the AICD prides itself on fostering respectful discussion on the issues that affect directors and the organisations they lead.

    As part of that, we undertake thoughtful analysis to surface insight and foresight — and we nurture long-term relationships with government and policymakers, ensuring our conversations start with mutual respect and understanding.

    I was advised once to “build bridges before you cross them”. Strong relationships lead to meaningful dialogue and impact, rather than one-off transactional interactions. This is our goal. Meaningful dialogue does not mean we win every point we advocate for — it does mean that the dialogue is thoughtful, measured and two-way.

    Last month, the AICD policy leadership team and a delegation of members representing a range of sectors met with national leaders from across the political spectrum and senior public servants. I can report that the AICD’s reputation in Canberra is strong on all sides of politics. There is an appreciation for the work that directors do in the aggregate, driving economic growth, creating value and delivering for stakeholders.

    The constructive role the AICD plays in director education and governance policy was also noted, especially our work in the not-for-profit sector, board diversity and in uplifting our national cyber capability.

    The delegation was an opportunity for the AICD to share our policy priorities for 2023–24:

    • Targeted cyber policies that lift national resilience
    • NFP regulation that promotes financial sustainability
    • Balanced policy settings that support high- quality disclosures and practice
    • Coordinated and proportionate regulation.

    You can learn more about these priorities and our positions on key policy issues on the website.

    It was also an opportunity for the director delegates to raise some of their lived experiences and concerns outside of these four AICD policy priorities directly with policymakers.

    It was invaluable having AICD members in the room to talk about how policy impacted their organisations. Theoretical models and empirical data are undoubtedly crucial in policy discussions, but the lived experiences of those on the ground offer crucial insights. Our directors, with their vast range of experiences, bring real stories that underline the implications of policy decisions. Analysis makes the argument — anecdotes win the argument. Both play a part in meaningful dialogue and impactful advocacy.

    The delegation occurred in the weeks after Treasury had released the latest Intergenerational Report. The report has focused minds on all sides of politics on Australia’s long-term growth challenges and the imperative to improve productivity. Directors and the AICD have an important role to play in the effort to lift productivity growth.

    To ensure Australia’s living standards rise over the next 40 years, it will be crucial that we put in place liability settings that allow directors to take sensible risks and drive innovation. Chilling regulation that stunts innovation and risk-taking will impair productivity growth. All sectors of Australia have a part to play in addressing the productivity challenge — and directors are ready to play their part.

    Business will need to engage in the productivity debate holistically. There are a variety of intersecting areas that need focus and attention to do so — ranging across skills, migration and industrial relations settings, to name a few. Social factors like affordable housing, which would allow people to live closer to work and help to ameliorate skill shortages, can’t be overlooked.

    The delegation traversed all of these issues and was able to provide input on them to the Treasurer, the shadow Treasurer and their colleagues on both sides, as well as some independents.

    I have previously written in this column about the process the AICD undertakes to formulate and advance our policy agenda. A fundamental part of that process is engagement with members, both formal and informal. Our policy leadership activities wouldn’t be as impactful without the generous contribution of many members who selflessly share their time, influence and insights.

    We are profoundly grateful to every director who has assisted us, whether by participating in a roundtable, completing a survey, providing feedback, or even just sharing a personal experience that has helped illuminate a particular issue. I want to particularly thank those members who were part of the delegation. We could not have asked for a group that was more engaged or better represented the AICD membership. It was a big ask of them to take time out of their schedules to support the AICD.

    I would also like to thank the policy leadership team led by Louise Petschler GAICD and the public affairs team led by Matt Pritchard. The breadth and depth of their work ensures the AICD is not just another voice in the noisy public square. The respect that Louise, Matt and their teams command is a credit to the organisation.

    AICD Canberra delegation 2023

    • Bruce Brook MAICD
    • Rob Cole MAICD
    • Craig Drummond
    • Marina Go AM MAICD
    • Debra Hazelton GAICD
    • Ian Hammond FAICD
    • Christine Holman GAICD
    • Graeme Liebelt FAICD
    • Tim Longstaff GAICD
    • Sarah Merridew AM FAICD
    • Frank Seeley AM FAICD
    • David Thodey AO FAICD
    • Heather Watson GAICD

    This article first appeared under the headline 'Meaningful Dialogue and Impact’ in the October 2023 issue of Company Director magazine.

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