'Sacked by the PM without any reason'
FEW professionals could accept having a lengthy career terminated without being giving a reason.
But not many people answer only to the prime minister.
Former Toowoomba man Andrew Metcalfe's career took him to the highest levels of the Australian public service, with time as the head of the Department of Immigration as well as the Department of Agriculture among his achievements.
The Rangeville State School and Toowoomba Grammar School graduate began working in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra in 1980.
A distinguished career led to his appointment as Secretary of the Department of Immigration in 2005 by then Prime Minister John Howard.
He held the role until late 2011, when there was a general agreement among his peers he had led the department for long enough.
After time studying abroad, Mr Metcalfe was again hand-picked to lead a major department, this time by a Labor government.
He took over as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture at the beginning of last year.
But his tenure was abruptly ended in September last year, when Tony Abbott made one of his first acts as prime minister to sack Mr Metcalfe.
Mr Metcalfe, 54, spoke with The Chronicle about that moment and his enthusiasm for a new role in the private sector.
"It was a surprise," Mr Metcalfe said. "I hadn't been expecting it and I hadn't been planning on it."
Despite the surprise at being sacked after 33 years in the job, he absolutely accepted the prime minister's decision.
"I wasn't owed a reason and I didn't get a reason."
He has remained philosophical and relaxed about it.
"It's opened up opportunities for me that I previously wouldn't have had."
Professionally, those opportunities have included a new role as a partner based in the Canberra office of financial services firm Ernst and Young.
His brief covers a broad range of topics related to agriculture, fishing and forestry.
"I am able to contribute because of my own experience of government and how it works."
He wouldn't divulge who his clients were, saying only that he worked with more than 200 of Australia and New Zealand's top agricultural businesses.
There are differences and similarities between the public and private sectors.
The focus on the bottom line was one of the things that stood out to him in his new role.
"We've got people to employ and a profit to make."
Mr Metcalfe said the firm he was with was a bit more agile than the public service, but he noted that in times of crisis, the public service could be extremely agile.
"Certainly, the thing I'm noticing is the very strong focus on the profitability of the business."
Another aspect was the focus on quality.
"People won't want us back if we don't deliver good work."