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Real Business : Autumn 2008
12 REAL BUSINESS AUTUMN 2008 ANTHONY MCKEE THE CAREER of CPA Tony Brett has taken him to places he'd never anticipated. In the remote parts of the Northern Territory's Katherine region (330km south of Darwin), he amalgamated five Indigenous com- munities to increase efficiencies and improve services. Challenging to negotiate, yes, but rewarding. Numbers man Brett honed his people skills, and developed his ability to explain possibilities and outcomes to very disparate stakeholders. He saw how he could make a difference. In Katherine, Brett had made the switch from private tax work to the public sector to work for the NT Department of Local Government. Today, as the finance manager at Darwin City Council, his job is more office-bound and less dusty, but equally appealing. "The ultimate reward of working in the public sector is seeing people benefit from what you do," says Brett, who heads a staff of 17, runs a budget of $70 million, w rites 10-year financial and capital works plans and manages $30 million of investments for the council. "My job is not about profits but providing the community with what it needs and wants." Brett describes a delicate balancing act in determining what is achievable, a need to stay constantly mindful of cost structu res for BY DEBORAH TARRANT iNdUsTry profile: pUBLIc SEctoR FOR THE PEOPLE public projects and services, and when it comes to setting council rates, being careful not to over- or undertax. Several newspaper clippings in front of his desk highlight the relevance of his role. When the com- munity doesn't like what you do, then most likely you'll hear about it, cautions Brett. On the upside, sometimes they love it. At the other end of the country, with a keen eye on the financial opera- tions of the often-newsworthy forests of Tasmania sits Penny Egan FCPA. In the week she was interviewed for this feature Egan was before a parliamentary committee answering questions on the financial per- formance and strategies of Forestry Tasmania, a government-owned enterprise where she is CFO. Egan is responsible for the financial man- agement of a total of 1.5 million hectares of forests, about half in reserves and the remain- der cultivated for wood production. Forestry Australia pays dividends to the Tasmanian government, and a downturn in tourists trav- elling by ferries from the mainland and the demand for wood meant the organisation took a hit in 2007. As one of the executive team, answering to MPs is all in a year's work for Egan. Along with others who have chosen to take their accounting and finance skills into the public sector, Egan and Brett insist their work is profoundly satisfying. The message they underline is to abandon misconceptions about bureaucracy and being strangled by red tape. Much of what happens may be governed by legislation, but a career in the public sector in THE VAST LENGTH AND BREADTH OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR ... PRESENTS MORE OPPORTUNITIES THAN CAN BE FOUND IN ANY PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYER THE SATISFACTION OF DOING WORK THAT BENEFITS US ALL IS JUST ONE OF THE MANY BENEFITS OF WORKING IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR