Concerned Psychologists: Post 5

This post have been written by senior figures in Australian psychology who have had close associated with the management and leadership of the APS for many years. The authors have asked that their names not be published because they believe it may leave them open to reprisals.

On the governance of the Australian Psychological Society – the office of Executive Director

Today’s subject is the office of the Executive Director and our intent is exactly the same as it has been with all our previous posts. This is, to bring issues of which everyone should know into the public arena. In doing so we do not intend to pass judgment on the performance or behaviour of the current Executive Director.

Our approach is similar initially to that of Post 3 when it commenced with a summary of the parlous state of affairs of the CPA (the accounting membership-based organisation in the press recently for the wayward behaviour of its CEO). This time it is the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) who is our fellow traveller and whose troubles, very conveniently for the purposes of all of us, were outlined in an article published in The Australian on 17 May, 2017.

Its focus was the effect that the long tenure of the AOC’s Executive President had upon the organisation. We need say no more and let the following quotes from very accomplished and highly respected people speak for themselves:

“Where longevity in sport was a cause for celebration, lengthy tenure on boards conspired against dispassionate, clear thinking and good culture. Longevity of this sort is never OK for it removes any potential for independence. When you remove independence bad things always follow.”
Diane Smith-Gander
A former chairwoman of Basketball Australia and a director of corporate giants Wesfarmers and AGL

“Basic governance principles require term limits for directors, the right mix of skills and talents on a board, and a regular infusion of new blood at the top of organisations.”
Ms Smith-Gander and her group backing the campaign to topple John Coates.

‘However the extraordinary tenure that elevated Mr Coates to a position of influence in world sport is now a dead weight in the AOC Campaign’
(to host the Olympic Games).

‘Mr Coates, with board support, has in more recent years adopted the title of Executive President, and is currently paid a consultancy fee much larger than the salary earned by the organisation’s full time chief executive’.
Chip Le Grand, editor, The Australian

Under the above circumstances “you can’t call the emperor out when he has no clothes”
Diane Smith-Gander

The APS Executive Director

One of the principal points made previously in Post 3 was that the change in the Constitution in 2007 led progressively to an accumulation of power and influence in the office of the Executive Director. Also the then-President persuaded the Board, apparently with little objection, to move from the longstanding practice of a 4-year term for the Executive Director to an “indefinite” term (i.e. permanency). These changes helped generate a culture of control that we believe spread across every facet of the APS’s senior leadership and filtered down at least to the next level of the Society’s governance.

The second example is the editorship of InPsych, supposedly the APS’s main vehicle of communication. While there is an Editor, what everyone may not be aware of is that the responsibilities of this position are all operational and ultimate authority lies with the Editor-in-Chief whose final say is absolute. The Editor-in-Chief is the Executive Director and thus InPsych has no editorial independence.

If anyone doubts what this means, just try to submit an article that raises issues of concern or engages in critical debate or, to put it in another way, is contrary to the party line. If, after a long, long wait for a reply, and the outcome is not refusal without adequate explanation, we would love to hear from you.

The next example is similar and just as grim. It concerns the Colleges and relates to the reception or reaction to those who may attempt to question things in the APS context. In general terms, responses tend to occur on an escalating scale of intensity, firstly, bullying, secondly, accusations of disloyalty, thirdly, branding as a rebel, and fourthly, threats of civil action on grounds of libel.

In short, the APS that once was an egalitarian, open, broadminded and active Society that everyone could be proud of has been turned into an hierarchical, closed, narrow-minded and in parts moribund fiefdom. The Chair of the AOC could well have sold his soul to the devil for such power-enhancing and -centralising structure and processes.

In conclusion, as stated at the beginning, the focus of this discussion is the office of the Executive Director not its incumbent, although in the nature of things the two are heavily interrelated. Again, as far as the incumbent is concerned, the achievements have been many that we gladly acknowledge.

The issues we have are two. The first is the ‘job for life’ and, in addition to the problems already discussed in Posts 3 and 4, this is another major problem that can readily be determined by its termination, voluntarily or otherwise.

One request: If you have learnt things of which you were unaware, perhaps totally unaware, from our posts please cut and paste as many possible and send then to as many of your colleagues as practicable with the request to do the same. Our belief is that this kind of escalation of the spreading of information is vital in encouraging members widely to vote and to vote in an informed way.

Send a proxy here before October 5 at 1pm (AEST)

3 thoughts on “Concerned Psychologists: Post 5

  1. Thanks so much for all your work. Most enlightening to learn of these issues which would otherwise go unknown, unexposed. We are indebted to you.

    1. This is a major contribution to the discussion. It is precisely because of this centralisation of power in the hands of the Executive Director that I have proposed reforming the structure of the Colleges and Division to make a more representative and responsive APS organisation.
      Kevin Quin

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