Open-access content 17th May 2010
17 May 2010
by Ian Fielder - CEO BIFM
Proceedings started with the chairman's reception, held in the centre of Perth in the beautiful Kings Park Botanical Gardens away from the Burswood Resort complex where the main event was to be staged. The buzz at the reception was evident as the FMA members gathered to network and catch up with their fellow delegates. Interestingly the hot topic was not the recession as Australia has largely escaped the ravages of the global crisis, helped by the constant demand of their natural resources by countries like China, India and Japan. The surprising and over riding interest was the political situation in the UK and the unfolding developments of a hung parliament and the creation of the coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. There was also much discussion about the progress of FM in Australia, which is unfettered by the professional rivalries seen in Britain. Interior designers, architects and project managers all appear to be happy to be working in the FM space and seem to have no desire to ring fence their particular skill set as a special case. PFI/PPP is a subject that still causes heated debate and I overheard several conversations discussing its merits and concerns that each state seemed to follow different models and demanded unique requirements that thwarted the interest of FM providers. As in the UK, the cost of bidding is deemed prohibitive and presents a barrier to many of the more established providers in the market place, plus the global financial situation has made the release of capital almost impossible with banks wishing to spread the risk with other financial institutions. Australia still has a heavy reliance on the public sector both at national and state level and this is reflected in the FMA Australia membership.
The conference got off to a good start the following day with an opening address to the 240 delegates by David Duncan, FMA Australia's CEO. The keynote speech was given appropriately by Sam Walsh, Executive Director and CEO, Iron Ore & Australia for Rio Tinto. Walsh described the size and scale of the Rio Tinto's operation covering 12 mines, 3 shipping terminals, Australia's longest private railway, 3000 houses, 2500 apartments and over 600 industrial buildings. He stressed that the whole infrastructure to support these operations including roads, bridges, towns and villages is funded solely by Rio Tinto with no support from the Government. They employ over 11,000 people to support the evacuation, storage, blending and shipping of 220 million tonnes of iron ore a year. The mining industry is currently grappling with a proposal of the central government to raise additional revenue by applying an additional super tax of 40 per cent on top of all of the existing federal and state taxes. The net result that Rio Tinto would end up paying at least 57 cents on every Australian dollar earned. Walsh conjectured that the political mandarins in Canberra were betting on the electorate, mainly based in the south east, not being concerned with a disaffected mining and resource corporations located in the west. Like other mining operations throughout the world, he pointed out the huge investments made in community, education, health, arts and the environment including Rio Tinto's recent investment of $50 million in the Royal Flying Doctor programme providing a life saving jet to support remote communities. We were left in no doubt that discussion on the introduction of a super tax will run and run.
The morning followed with the normal eclectic programme of parallel session ranging from sustainable issues, focussing on water savings to managing a growing office technology footprint and what facilities managers will have to do about it. Over lunch we gathered to listen to a fascinating presentation from Brian Greedy, an Australian Business Consultant asking us to consider on how we define success and the role of leaders to help teams embrace change and deliver sustainable business solutions. Greedy used basic shapes to illustrate his very entertaining theories on leadership styles and left the delegates with plenty of thoughts on how to go back to the workplace and engender successful teams. FMA Australia then introduced an idea that has been promoted in the States at Ifma's World Workplace of using a poster campaign to engage facilities managers. I am not sure the delegates really understood engaged this innovation and it will be interesting to see if this idea is repeated in future Ideaction conferences.
After a full day at conference we all got dressed up in our evening best and attended the champagne reception and gala dinner at the Burswood Convention Centre where the FMA Australia Awards were presented.
The second day was further member presentations and I sat in on a well attended presentation given by Sue Wittenoom from DEGW who gave an interesting talk entitled 'making sense of the mobile workplace'. Her presentation centred on a number of case studies including the BBC on how workplaces can be shared by groups rather than individuals, especially if mobile working is factored in.
In summary the FMA Australia's 21st Ideaction conference in Perth hit the spot for the delegates and they enjoyed the technical content as well as the opportunity to network with their fellow FMA members. Although attendance was well down on the 400 expected, it was a great experience for all those who made the long trip to the very remote city of Perth in Western Australia.
All presentation material can be accessed on the FMA Australia website by linking through the member link on the BIFM member website.