In conversation with the Australian Government Actuary – Podcast with Guy Thorburn and Elayne Grace

As the office of the Australian Government Actuary (AGA) nears 100 years of service, Elayne Grace caught up with the current AGA Guy Thorburn, to find out what the office does.

Australian Government Actuary Guy Thorburn joined Elayne Grace (CEO of the Actuaries Institute) on Tuesday 14 August 2018 on the Actuaries Institute Podcast

Listen to ‘Australian Government Actuary – 100 Years of Actuarial Service’ on Spreaker.

The pair discussed how the AGA, with its team of 12, operate in providing services to more than 40 Government departments and agencies.
These services include:
  • superannuation and retirement incomes
  • supporting insurance like programs such as the medical indemnity insurance fund
  • supporting social security
  • supporting the department of veterans affairs
  • tuition protection
“one of the things that’s really fascinating about the role is that it is probably one of the most diverse actuarial roles that you could find. I thought working in consulting was diverse but actually this covers a different level altogether” – Guy Thorburn.

The AGA’s work on a DSS means-testing framework and parameters for the framework was a project Guy then described as one of the rewarding projects the office has worked on over the last 18 months.

“That was a good outcome from an actuarial perspective… it created something different in a complex environment the proposed solution seems to have generally been accepted. The resulting government policy was announced in the Budget,” said Guy.

“…we know what’s coming from a means testing perspective, so now we can think more broadly about the direction for CIPRs going forward.” I expect that enhancing retirement incomes for all Australians should be high on the agenda for Treasury in the coming years.

Brand ‘Actuary’

The conversation’s focus then shifted to the importance of the reputation of actuaries as independent, professional advisers, which Guy described as being “critical”.

“The reputation of actuaries provides the open door. People seek out advice at all levels because they know they’re going to get independent advice that’s well-grounded and well based [and] that’s going to contribute positively to the development of a viewpoint about a policy recommendation…” said Guy.

He acknowledged the work of immediate past AGA Peter Martin who, with the support of senior actuaries Susan Antcliff and Michael Burt, built up the reputation of the AGA, enhancing its role and government’s understanding of the contribution it can make.

The fact that actuaries typically represent the interests of the public at large; the individual or member; or what’s good for the country was highlighted as something to preserve. As was guarding against getting caught up in the different vested interests of commercial or industry participants, at the expense of seeing the bigger picture.

Guy provided some tips for actuaries keen to get involved in public policy, including volunteering in one of many roles available through the Institute or writing (or contributing to) a submission to Government.

What makes a good submission?

  • acknowledges the objective
  • informs the objective to make it richer
  • informs how we get to the objective
  • represents the public at large, rather than a vested interest

“The best submission I’ve read actually is one that came in many years ago and was written by an actuary. They basically wrote what you would call a blueprint for how to achieve the objective, and it virtually happened,” said Guy.

Listen in to the full conversation to learn about the history and current role of the Australian Government Actuary.

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