CEDA Chief Executive Officer Melinda Cilento said Mr Kean had made an outstanding contribution to CEDA during his time with the organisation.
“Not only did his work continue the legacy of CEDA founder Sir Douglas Copland, but he also helped to set the future direction of the organisation,” she said.
“He laid the foundations for what CEDA would become today, while very much staying true to our original and core purpose of informing the national economic debate and contributing to the vibrancy of our society, while always welcoming those from both sides of the political divide.”
Mr Kean’s involvement with CEDA began in 1968. He would go on to serve on the CEDA Board before being appointed Chairman in 1994, a role he undertook until 2002. He would later become an Honorary Life Trustee.
As he explained in CEDA’s 50th anniversary publication, his years at the helm of the organisation were transitional ones, influenced by big technological and societal changes taking place at the time.
“The level of communications – through email, television, Internet – had risen to such a height that the original days of Douglas Copland, when CEDA was the principal source of information for a core group of people, had changed. CEDA had to go from being the principal source of information to providing understanding amidst information overload – to bring it together for members and give them that classic intelligence background: look at it, analyse it, cut it, shred it.
“The second thing to understand was that the big end of town now had the Business Council and, with modern communications, if they wanted to talk to a Cabinet Minister, they rang them up. CEDA had to make sure it was still respected and delivered a useful service. So it shifted from being a big end of town information giver to being the broker of information and ideas to a broader audience. We had to build up a better offering for membership that included not just business, but academics and government.
“We also came to the important conclusion that CEDA couldn’t deliver on its objectives without research. The whole idea was to force regeneration and new ideas coming through. We did achieve the planned change. CEDA recovered from a difficult position where it may have faded altogether. Today it is as strong and as vibrant as it ever was.”
He also reflected on the importance of CEDA’s nonpartisan approach.
“The integrity of CEDA, going right back to the days of Copland, created a culture where CEDA didn’t criticise publicly. It was comfortable to come out and say, “This is what’s happening”, without teaching people what to do. It was absolutely, totally, meticulously apolitical and always tried to show two sides of the story. There was an active culture of balance, and as a consequence state and federal ministers from prime ministers through cabinet ministers through departmental secretaries, of all persuasions, were always happy to ask CEDA if they could present a new policy statement.
“CEDA was a public platform to speak to the business community without political overtones.”