Kerry Sanderson. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian.
Kerry Sanderson. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian.

Looking at the list of directorships Kerry Sanderson has assumed since returning home a little over a year ago from a stint as WA's Agent General in London, you might think she has enough on her plate.

A non-executive director with Atlas Iron and Downer EDI, Ms Sanderson also sits on the board of St John of God Health Care and chairs both the State Emergency Management Committee and the Gold Corporation, operator of The Perth Mint. She is also involved in a number of charities.

Now Ms Sanderson has agreed to co-chair the First Murdoch Commission, an initiative by Murdoch University to examine WA's economic ties with Asia. "You go to a meeting and think, 'no, I don't want to take on anything more'," she said. "Then when you hear about it, you think really that could offer something really good back to WA."

While familiar with the Asian market from her 17-year term as chief executive of the Fremantle Port Authority, Ms Sanderson said her more recent experience in London had left her with a Europe-centric view.

Now she's keen to explore and learn from the successes of Asian economies like South Korea and Singapore. "Our Western models have said you don't plan the economy, and yet these other countries have succeeded with more planning and saying we should get into this area."

But Ms Sanderson doesn't believe the commission is simply about siphoning Asian ideas for the benefit of WA. "You've got to look for mutuality. You don't get benefits just for one party." She points to the prospect of other countries in the region learning from the State's world-leading resources and mining services industries. "We've got some models of success, they've got some models of success and we're looking for mutuality. How we can do it better by learning from each other," she says.

The commission brings together an impressive array of Asian and Australian talent from the fields of academia, diplomacy and business, including Atlas chairman and founder David Flanagan.

"We wanted somebody who was a businessperson but prepared to think out of the box and I thought the best person for that was David," Ms Sanderson said.

The commission will launch by the end of the year a final report which she said would offer practical insights for policy development.

You've got to look for mutuality. You don't get benefits just for one party. "Kerry Sanderson

The West Australian

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