I may not ever again have a job as exciting as the job I had at the ACCC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. To quote from its website, the ACCC "promotes competition and fair trade in the market place to benefit consumers, business and the community. It also regulates national infrastructure industries. Its primary responsibility is to ensure that individuals and businesses comply with the Commonwealth's competition, fair trading and consumer protection laws."
Before working at the ACCC, I worked at a large law firm. The work of the ACCC was very important to several of the firm’s major clients. Later on I assisted with some research for a case which was heard in the High Court, against the ACCC. I remember thinking at the time that I wished I was working for opposing side.
This is one of the factors which led to me applying for a librarian position at the ACCC when the opportunity arose, despite the fact that this job would involve relocating to Canberra.
When I worked at the law firm, I often felt disconnected from the context of my research. I often was not told why I was doing particular research, and on the occasions when I was, sometimes I wished I hadn’t known.
It was the opposite at the ACCC. Most of the time, I was given detailed information about why I was doing particular research and how it was helpful for an investigation. This made me feel more like a member of the team - and I think my work was the better for this.
Not long after starting there, I started to see press releases and news items about ACCC investigations which I had assisted with. It was very gratifying, to see that not only was my research considered useful for my internal clients, but that it was absolutely clear in my mind that I was serving the public good. Even now when I’m watching the news, although it’s been over 3 months since I left, I still see echoes of the work I did there.
The highlight of this was when some of my company research was considered particularly useful for an investigation and I was asked to submit an affidavit about this research. That led to being cross-examined in Court on this evidence. That wasn’t exactly enjoyable, but it was certainly memorable and a fairly unusual experience for a librarian.
A lot of the research I did was for investigators and senior investigators at the ACCC. Working with these people was rewarding - they were smart, competent and extremely tenacious when it came to serving the public good. Most of them had a “never say die” attitude about their work. I mention this in the context of the criticism which the ACCC sometimes receives about its decisions. I don’t deny the possibility that the ACCC can make the wrong decision, but its staff are not apathetic.
If the ACCC was such an exciting place to work, then why did I end up leaving? I’ll answer that question later on in the month.