‘Tough but fair’ accounting and tax policy leader Michael Andrew has passed away

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday June 25, 2019

Picture: Getty Images

Internationally renowned Australian accounting executive Michael Andrew, the former chairman and chief executive of KPMG International who also chaired the federal government’s Black Economy Taskforce and the Board of Taxation, has passed away.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has paid tribute to Andrew, who stepped back from his role with KPMG in February 2017 due to a serious illness.

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Michael Andrew AO yesterday,” Frydenberg said in a statement on Monday.

“Michael was a highly respected member of the business and tax community and made a significant contribution to improving Australia’s tax system.”

In a 2016 interview, Andrew said the Australian leadership style was “tough but fair” and he saw his compatriots in the world’s boardrooms and c-suites as straight-talkers who were generally open to new ideas, not bound by old-fashioned cultural conventions.

“Australians are very direct communicators, straightforward with little political bent and tend to tell it as it is. As a young country we are not trapped in tradition and prepared to embrace new ideas and organisational change. Our geography fuses western and eastern culture and beliefs which allows us to better understand and respect other cultures and values.”

He went on to say he felt most Australians wanted “honesty and transparency” from people in leadership roles.

“They want to have issues explained to them and be taken on the journey of why not how. They despise arrogance, ego and self interest. They respect teamwork, vision, hard work and consultation.”

The Treasurer said the former KMPG chief had “made a substantial contribution” to Australian taxation policy in recent years after being appointed to chair the Board of Taxation in January 2015, and the Black Economy Taskforce in December 2016.

“Under Michael’s chair, the Board has made valuable contributions on a range of issues spanning the tax system, with Michael bringing a real focus on simplification and red tape reduction.

“He also leaves a significant legacy with his Black Economy Taskforce report recommendations. The cash economy has been a long-standing problem, but it was Michael’s drive and leadership that moved the conversation forward. We are now seeing the results of the innovative, multi-layered approach that Michael championed.

“Michael’s ambition was to make the tax system fairer for all Australians and leave it in better shape for future generations. Michael’s legacy will continue well in to the future.”

Frydenberg noted that when appointed as KMPG’s global chair and CEO in May 2011, Andrew became the first Australian to lead one of the big four accounting firms. He also played roles in various domestic and international business groups, as chair of Australia’s B20 Working Group on Anti-Corruption and Transparency and its Global CEO Forum and as a member of the

Michael Andrew. Image: LinkedIn.

Business Council of Australia and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.

Andrew was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by Monash University and an Honorary Doctor of Commerce by Melbourne University.

“On a personal level over the number of years I have known Michael I have always found him profoundly decent, professional and possessing a strong sense of public duty,” the Treasurer added.

“I wish to express our deepest condolences to his wife Mardi, and his daughters Danielle and Monique. I’d also like to record our heartfelt appreciation for the time and effort Michael gave to the advancement of taxation policy in Australia.”

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