The Macaulay Years: Print21 analysis

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Industry outsider Andrew Macaulay took over as CEO when print employers association Printing Industries, as it then was, had just been through the most tumultuous period in its history, under short-lived CEO Jason Allen.

Lobbying: Andrew Macaulay with prime minister, Scott Morrison prior to his re-election
Lobbying: Andrew Macaulay with prime minister, Scott Morrison 

The Board and the Association was riven with division as it grappled with tensions arising from the onset of the digital communication era, resulting in board resignations, protest meetings, high emotions, and three presidents in three months, with Allen eventually forced out.

That explosive eight month period calmed down shortly after Macaulay's arrival – he was chosen from a 100-strong field of candidates – and with a new president Kieren May in situ, Macaulay set about getting to know the members, and pushing through the board’s vision for reform.

There were 50 staff on the books at PIAA when Macaulay came in, today there are just three, plus five on retainers. The under-used former head office, located in-between a road and a railway line in the unlikely location of Auburn was sold off. The state offices were either sold or rented out, with services centralised. Today Macaulay is proud that PVCA is a more efficient organisation, delivering more services to members, with no change in fees.

Macaulay formed an effective partnership with PVCA Board president Walter Kuhn, who has been in the role for the past four years, the duo delivering stability after the ructions of the Allen era, and concentrating on providing services to members, promoting print in Parliament, and driving forward on strategic issues.

It is one of the biggest achievements during his tenure that Macaulay brought the Association back into the black, after years in the red. He is also credited with working consistently hard over the past five years to push for the creation a national print training framework, as TAFEs around the country sought to exit print.

Macaulay also gave print a higher profile in Canberra, using his network – he is for instance a good friend and former campaign manager of current federal communications minister Paul Fletcher – to great effect.

The board will expect whoever is appointed as new CEO to take up the parliamentary baton and walk the corridors of power as effectively as Macaulay. They feel the association, members, and the industry as a whole, has reaped significant benefits from having its voice heard in Canberra.

Macaulay also instigated the now annual Print2Parliament, which sees printers, politicians and policymakers meet up for an evening mingle in Parliament House, with the Gold Winners from the National Print Awards on show.

The Print in Australia initiative launched last year – to convince government and government-funded institutions that their tax dollars for print were better value for taxpayers if spent here, even if the headline cost was more than using a Chinese printer – was one of his proudest moments. Some 4000 printers signed the Bring Back Print petition within weeks of its launch.

Macaulay developed a good and effective working relationship with AMWU and its print secretary Lorraine Cassin, which saw them working together on many fronts, often singing from the same hymn sheet, especially in Canberra, although with the usual disagreements in various areas. Nonetheless it was a respectful relationship.

He was especially proud of the association's resposnse to Covid-19, which posed a number of challenges for the organisation, as it did for many membership organisations. However, the association proved agile, and turned those challenges into opportunities, innovated and launched multiple online services, online awards programmes, online industry sustainability certification, and an extensive and well subscribed series of specialist webinars in IR, finance and government services.

Perhaps inevitably for someone in his position of moderninsing a 140-year-old association, Macaulay was not everyone’s cup of tea, his clubby approach didn't endear him to everyone, and his focus on the future rankled with a few of those keen to celebrate the past. His political stance was not to everyone’s taste, but in his leadership position it was balanced by Walter Kuhn’s yin to his yang. There were clashes with some big personalities over the years, but the current board remain resolutely supportive of him.

PVCA membership has stabilised at around 750, a quarter down on five years ago, an inevitable decline given the shrinkage in commercial print. However, membership numbers have been steady for the past couple of years.

Macaulay's last major act was to deliver a deal with Visual Connections CEO Peter Harper to create a new joint venture company, owned by the suppliers assocation and PVCA – Visual Industries Events – to secure and produce the major industry events into the future, including PacPrint, which is scheduled to run in September.

The search now begins for a new CEO at PVCA, who will take on the role facing a different set of issues to those that confronted Macaulay five years ago, but that nonetheless are just as important.


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