"ABORIGINAL disadvantage [is] no one's fault in particular," he said. "And the setting of targets for reconciliation [is] the only way to achieve results."
Mr Macfarlane explained his target-based approach at the launch of the ANZ's reconciliation action plan to provide mainstream jobs for indigenous people and financial education for their communities.
Aboriginal reconciliation is a vexed question in Australia as entrenched disadvantage had spilled over into the media in the form of reports of violence, early mortality, child abuse, alcohol abuse, and high crime rates.
MacFarlane's words were produced at a luncheon at the ANZ's Melbourne headquarters.
Another ANZ executive to speak out in a more liberal vein than might normally be anticipated is the bank's chief economist Saul Eslake, who said that "business should start directing its generosity to the arts instead of sport".
Mr Eslake said that in 2000-01, the latest year for which figures are available, Australian business gave $628 million to sport. In contrast, the arts and culture only received $70 million, and community service and welfare $339 million. Worse still, business leaders urged their managers to learn from their sporting heroes.
"The strong bias towards sport on the part of business people extends beyond where they spend shareholders' funds," Mr Eslake said.
The speech was given to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the Australian Business Arts Foundation.
Australia only valued its sporting men and women, he opined. He compared this mindset with the emphasis given to sport in the former East Germany.