Publication Details

This paper was originally published as: Chau, C, Cooper, KA & Irvine, HJ, Beware the reformers: A Machiavellian view of the accounting profession and public sector reform in Australia, Fifth Asia Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting (APIRA) Conference, Auckland, New Zealand, 8-10 July 2007.


During the last two decades of New Public Management (NPM), reformist governments have transformed the principle underlying Australia’s government accountability from compliance to performance evaluation. This change has been instituted in three phases, against a backdrop of uncertainty, complexity, and the diverse interests of pressure groups. A Machiavellian interpretation of reform, focusing on resistance and power, proposes that the development of public sector accounting in Australia has been highly politicized and characterized by power battles between the accounting profession and government departments. This is illustrated by analyzing the process by which a policy for the valuation of public sector assets in Australia was developed. The result is that control over accounting standard setting has been wrested from the accounting profession by the government, using the adoption of international financial reporting standards as a catalyst for change, at the expense of professional and governmental accountability.