Autumn, May 2015

Jeff Kennett on Politics, Procurement and Passion

Ever wondered if time away from politics has mellowed former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett? It’s safe to say the answer is resoundingly: No.

Tackling three key topics - politics, ethics in procurement and the importance of both physical and mental health - with more energy and enthusiasm than seems fair at 7:00am, Mr Kennett had guests enthralled by his passionate address to the CPO Forum Executive Breakfast.

On politics – “If the Federal Government was listed on the stock exchange, you probably wouldn’t invest in them”

Jeff Kennett has been officially out of politics since the end of his second term as Victorian Premier in 1999, but his vision for Australia remains just as strong and he knows that audiences want to hear him speak on politics. What we lack, Mr Kennett tells us, is a national vision. He presents the audience with a mix of cutting criticism and optimistic pride in Australian potential, giving his opinion on:

•  the need for long-term vision (out to 2050 and beyond) over short-term, reactive politics; 
•  the huge opportunity to create a national agricultural and national water policy, open vast tracts of land and develop the capacity to feed billions across Asia; 
•  the vital need for economic and social strength as we’re never going to be a military power; 
•  the danger of becoming a subsidised community, with welfare now swallowing 35% of the federal budget and rising fast; 
•  the alarming rise in youth unemployment, with discontent and unhappiness creating a social divide that creeps into society; 
•  the need for an emphasis on growth at the federal level.

Many of the points made about politics apply equally to the workplace. Vision, planning, growth and hiring the next generation of professionals are all topics likely to be high on the agenda of every organisation represented in the room.

Mr Kennett on ethics in procurement – “You’re not in procurement to be a prick”

Procurement, in Mr Kennett’s view, is really about people - the strength of your procurement function lies in its talent. Mr Kennett is well-qualified to speak about ethics in procurement due to his involvement with Coles as independent arbiter to resolve ongoing disputes between the supermarket and its suppliers. Here’s some of the take-outs from this part of the speech:

•  Like politicians, procurement professionals need to think long-term rather than focusing on driving short-term targets that can damage suppliers. 
•  Having dollar targets and using price as a lever should always take second-place to developing relationships and helping suppliers grow. 
•  Australia desperately needs its farmers and processors – it’s the role of procurement to nurture these suppliers. 
•  Verbal agreements have no place in ethical procurement – it’s important to put everything in writing and create a paper trail. 
•  It’s not all bad news for Coles – if the supermarket can get it right in terms of its dealings with suppliers, it will come out of the gates with the highest standard of supplier relationships in the business and be streets ahead of its competitors over the next 5–10 years.

Mr Kennett on physical and mental well-being – “If you want to die early, just retire”

After politics, Mr Kennett became the inaugural chairman of beyondblue, a non-profit organisation focused on depression, anxiety and related mental disorders. Here are his seven tips to good health:

1. Appreciate the gift of life and make the utmost of every 24 hours given to you. 
2. Develop coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, anxiety and change, including “weighting” stressful situations from 1 to 10 to put them in perspective. 
3. Set an example to children of how adults deal calmly with stress. 
4. Recognise that your own health is the most important thing in your life. 
5. Avoid complacency about your health – it’s your problem and no one else’s. 
6. Never retire – find something you’re passionate about such as volunteering to keep yourself busy. 
7. The real key to a healthy life is making sure that every day is fully occupied – you should be mentally and physically tired every night before bed.

The 9th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum will be held in May 2016. To ensure you receive an invitation, register your interest in attending here.