AustCham Shanghai Chairman Peter Arkell reflects on the organisation’s recent AGM, which included a key note address by former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard.
Annual General Meetings can be like brussels sprouts, you don’t necessarily have to like them but you should have them at least once a year. If the AustCham Shanghai AGM of 2013 is an indication, many will already be looking forward to next year’s event.
It must be said that the required reporting to members was conducted in the usual businesslike manner, and I would like to reflect on that a little later. But there had been a view expressed at the 2012 AGM that these do not have to be boring affairs. The task of getting a quorum and exciting members to participate in an AGM can be consuming for the organization. But the suggestion had been made that AGM’s can also be an event worth attending if there are associated drawcards.
This was a point well worth consideration.
In the last edition of Australia China Connections there had been references to 2013 being the 40th anniversary of the first Australian Prime Ministerial visit to the People’s Republic. So, it made sense that, if we wanted AustCham Shanghai’s AGM to be a day to remember, we should link it to that significant milestone. As a result, the Chamber was honoured to have as its guest speaker at a lunch preceding the AGM the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard.
*Pictured right: Andrew Collins (Mailman China), John Howard and Peter Arkell.
It was great to have a packed ballroom at the Langham Hotel in Xintiandi, not only celebrating that major milestone, but also the past year of AustCham Shanghai. It says something about our business community here, I think, that a prominent Australian of John Howard’s standing would see it appropriate to speak at such an occasion.
His speech was memorable, but so too were the exchanges between Mr Howard and the members, including via WeChat. As he remarked later, “fancy coming all the way to Shanghai to be questioned about gay marriage.”
It was also great to see the former PM’s eyes light up when he saw the Pudong Cricket Club table, with the First Eleven resplendent in their club blazers. Rumor has it that he was approached to be their Club Patron and that they got an instant acceptance. Fancy that, on his way to Trent Bridge for the First Ashes’ Test, John Howard was appointed Patron of the Shanghai Cricket Club.
So the scene was set for an AGM to remember.
It was important to acknowledge the retiring Director, Tim Lyons, who had served on the Board for five years. Tim retired this year and was not seeking election. His contribution to the Chamber had been outstanding in so many ways. He held the Finance Director role at the time of retiring, but over the years had also been a driving force in strengthening of our CSR contribution and especially in the establishment of the Shanghai Enterprise Collective. Tim had also been a tireless Deputy Chairman from 2011/2012.
The AGM was also very pleased to acknowledge the presence of representatives from AustCham Beijing at the meeting. In fact their CEO, Ross Bundey, addressed the meeting to reinforce the collaboration between the Shanghai Chamber and the other AustChams in China. Ross reported to the meeting on the great progress that has been made on formalizing AustCham Greater China, AGC, and especially the discussions that have been ongoing with the Ministry of Civil Affairs that will bring long overdue legal status for Chambers such as ours in Shanghai. This is expected to be a reality by the end of this year and all four mainland Chambers are working as one to make this a reality.
This AGM marked another historic milestone. It set the clock ticking on our twentieth year. In 2014 we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of AustCham Shanghai; a quite remarkable achievement. Not only is Shanghai the largest Australian business community in the mainland, with almost 420 corporate members representing many thousand people, it is a leader among the broader international community here in Shanghai. The AGM heard of significant exchanges with the Shanghai government, where we had been called upon to contribute to government policy deliberations, while also taking a leading role among the other international Chambers in Shanghai.
To be the Chairman, representing this business community, has been a great honour. The AGM elected a new Board for the coming year. All four retiring Directors who renominated were elected as well as Peter Langley, Managing Director of TNT Express, as a new Director. With the five Directors whose term has another year to run, we have a Board that is looking forward to delivering a terrific twentieth year for AustCham Shanghai.
Finally, it was acknowledged that we all owe much to our Secretariat. They are a tireless and dedicated professional team whose first priority is the needs of the membership. James O’Loughlin and all of the wonderful smiling team provide the engine room of the Chamber and deliver every day for the membership. We are very fortunate to have their contributions. I invite all members, current and prospective, to make a visit to the Chamber’s offices. You will be made most welcome. ■