Australia : ASU farewell to Second Commissioner Leeper
We know the ATO is a dynamic organisation, but Commissioner Jordan sure is keeping us on our toes. On Tuesday afternoon, without notice, Second Commissioner Geoff Leeper submitted his resignation, and
These higher duties will mean a significant pay increase for Frances. Total remuneration for a FAC is set between $282,742 and $319,915. Commissioner Jordan can now set Frances’ total remuneration to a figure between $237,650 – 470,840, which are the limits set by the Remuneration Tribunal. So we can expect Frances to start around $375k.
The Second Commissioners have access to performance pay, but this is unlikely to be paid during a short period of higher duties. Of course Frances may well have been able to negotiate a slightly better deal for herself, given the Commissioner really had to make the decision yesterday afternoon. We can be confident that Commissioner Jordan thinks Frances’ private sector background suits his direction for the ATO.
At least Commissioner Jordan won’t have to listen to Geoff Leeper going on and on about the need to comply with the Public Service Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act (PGPAA) anymore. Of course, Frances knows all about the PGPAA, so the Commissioner won’t be able to escape words of caution completely. But with Geoff Leeper out of the way, we can expect the Commissioner to drive the ATO forward towards his 2020 vision faster and smarter than ever.
A few words about Geoff Leeper
I clearly recall my first meeting with Geoff Leeper. It was arranged by then FAC ATO People Shane Reardon shortly after Geoff’s appointment on 13 September 2012. Shane has since returned to Adelaide and a role in AFL football. I was having one of my then regular meetings with Shane. Geoff joined us for a 10 minute introduction. Geoff told me he was familiar with unions from his many dealings with the CPSU at the Department of Human Services. I thought to myself that he would find industrial relations rather different in the ATO. It was a frustratingly short introduction for me, but pleasant enough.
Commissioner Jordan was appointed to replace Commissioner D’Ascenzo a few months later. I decided then that Geoff Leeper’s most important role would be to support Chris Jordan’s transition from his private sector background in KPMG, where he wined, dined and storied with the Chief Executive Officers and Chief Finance Officers of some of Australia’s largest public and private groups, to the public sector bureaucracy of the Australian Taxation Office. It seems Geoff had the same view. His ‘LinkedIn’ profile states that his is “Keenly interested in good governance, effective program management and change implementation, and maximising operational effectiveness through people”.
My next experience of Geoff Leeper was as the ATO’s peak union consultative forum, the National Consultative Forum (NCF). Geoff initially accompanied Chris Jordan, but Chris rapidly lost interest in the Forum when he found the Unions questioned his direction and were critical of his decisions. I knew we had problems with Chris when he was more interested in playing with his phone than participating in the Forum’s proceedings. Geoff then took over chairing the NCF from the Commissioner and would pass on Commissioner Jordan’s increasingly unbelievable apologies for not attending. Geoff would give the Commissioner’s overview at each NCF. Of course I would complain at each Forum at the Commissioner’s absence. On one of these occasions, Geoff Leeper said his presence was the same having Commissioner Jordan present because he was a Second Commissioner and on the ATO Executive. I didn’t accept this for a moment. Geoff has found out the hard way that being a Second Commissioner is very different from being the Commissioner. Geoff Leeper did not return to the NCF in the 2016 calendar year. It seems he was already on the outer. Perhaps that had something to do with enterprise bargaining.
Geoff attended the very first enterprise bargaining meeting back in June 2014 in the Commissioner’s place, but never returned to the bargaining table. Geoff was prominent in the lead up to the all staff vote in December 2015 on the Commissioner’s proposal for a new ATO Enterprise Agreement. Geoff would sign the all staff emails that promoted the Commissioner’s YES case. But Geoff failed the Commissioner. 85.2% of the ATO’s employees voted NO. Geoff was noticeably absent from the Commissioner’s next campaign for a new ATO Enterprise Agreement. As we saw, Commissioner Jordan decided he would show Geoff Leeper and the others how to promote a new ATO Enterprise Agreement and get it over the line. The Commissioner decided how to sweeten the proposal for a new Agreement, personally supervised the campaign, signed the all staff emails that explained his proposal for a new Enterprise Agreement and then went around the country speaking to employees in person. The result was 71.5% of employees voted NO, and the Commissioner still hasn’t quite got over the rejection.
So, we look forward to reading Geoff Leeper’s memoirs of this time in the ATO. The trouble is that because he is a consummate public servant we may have to wait a very long time.