Connect regularly features the profile of a member of the ABCB Board. This issue welcomes and introduces The Hon John Fahey AC, who took on the role as Chair of the ABCB on 6 November 2017.
In welcoming the new Chair of the ABCB, acknowledgement of the significant contribution made by the out-going Chair, The Hon John Thwaites, was made by both Building Ministers and the Board.
What motivated you in taking the role as Chair?
The collegiate nature of the Board. To succeed, the industry representatives, public servants and appointed Ministers must find common ground that incorporates safety, affordability and accessibility to product. My roles as a Premier, a National Finance Minister, a Board Member of the National Royal Flying Doctor Service and Chair of the Commonwealth Natural Disaster Reconstruction Inspectorate gives me reason to believe I can assist with uniformity and national solutions in the building sector.
What do you see as some of the emerging issues for the Board?
Improved compliance and enforcement practices following the report from Professor Shergold and Ms Bronwyn Weir to the Building Ministers' Forum. The reform must reduce significantly red tape and have an over-riding focus of industry affordability. A firm but fair national solution to the Aluminium Composite Panel external cladding problem must also be implemented in the interests of public safety.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
I worked in legal practices in Bankstown and Camden before entering the NSW Parliament in 1984 as the Member for Camden. I was appointed as the Industrial Relations Minister in 1988 with the change of Government and pioneered through the NSW Parliament sweeping changes to workplace law that was broadly followed by successive Liberal Governments across Australia.
I was the instigator of the Giles Royal Commission into the Building Industry in NSW in 1990. I was Premier and Treasurer from 1992 to 1995. I entered the Federal Parliament in 1996 as the member for Macarthur and the Finance Minister. I retired in 2001 after losing a lung through cancer. Post politics, I have served on numerous boards - commercial and not-for-profit, chaired the World Anti-doping Authority for 6 years and I am currently the Chancellor of Australian Catholic University.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given during your career?
When the problem seems insoluble, don’t make a decision for the sake of making a decision. Go to bed and sleep on it. It will amaze you how often the way forward is clear the next morning.
What has been the most challenging part?
After never having read a Federal Budget, my role as Finance Minister in 1996 was to find $7.6 billion in Commonwealth savings for that year’s budget - four months after my appointment. There are thousands of exit points in Commonwealth spending and learning the value of the program and the impact of spending cuts on the economy, local community and program beneficiaries took countless hours and enormous concentration.
Who or what inspires you?
Sport inspires me. The World Anti-Doping Booklet describes the spirit of sport as the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind and is reflected in the values we find in and through sport. I have found many sporting feats I have witnessed inspiring and never tire of watching it.
The most inspiring human I have met is the former South African President who handed Government to the black African Congress in 1994. He was scorned by many of his family and friends. When I asked him why he did it, his response was that it was for his family and friends to live rather than to be slaughtered through an inevitable revolution. He was a man of infinite courage for a politician.