Top 10 Australian economists of all time

Recently, while reading Stuart Macintyre’s Australia’s Boldest Experiment and Frank Moorhouse’s Edith trilogy, it repeatedly occurred to me that Australia has been home to some extraordinary economists who have made major contributions to economic thought and policy making. Here is my first attempt at an all-time top ten list of Australian economists (noting I’ve adopted a broad interpretation of Australian), based on their impact on economic thought and policy making. Some of these contributions are now controversial, and this list is not necessarily an endorsement of all of their theories and views.

  1. Colin Clark (1905-1989), who prepared path breaking national income estimates for Britain in the inter-war years, worked with John Maynard Keynes, advised Queensland Premier Forgan Smith, pioneered the field of economic development, and finished his career at the University of Queensland’s School of Economics, which holds an annual lecture in his honour.
  2. H.C. “Nugget” Coombs (1906-1997), Australia’s econocrat extraordinaire who guided Australia’s post-war reconstruction, was the first Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, advocated for Indigenous land rights, and acted as an adviser to Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
  3. Sir Leslie Melville (1902-2002), renowned economist and public servant, who led the Australian delegation to the 1944 Bretton Woods conference, and was later Australia’s Executive Director of the IMF and World Bank and Vice-Chancellor of the ANU.
  4. Trevor Swan (1918-1989), first Professor of Economics at ANU, and also a former Commonwealth public servant, who made major contributions to the macroeconomic analysis of economic growth and internal and external balance.
  5. Max Corden (1927- ), internationally renowned expert on international trade theory whose work helped demonstrate the high cost of tariff protection, a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne, and a former senior Adviser to the IMF.
  6. L.F. Giblin (1872-1951), a towering figure in Australian economics, who was a Professor at the University of Melbourne, an adviser to governments on all the major economic issues of the day, such as tariffs, wages policy and the Depression, and was co-founder with Douglas Copland and others of the Economic Society of Australia.
  7. Jim Brigden (1887-1950), who in conjunction with L.F. Giblin made highly influential contributions in Commonwealth-State financial relations and trade theory and policy (specifically justifying protection for manufacturing, a position now rejected by Australian economists but which was highly influential for decades).
  8. Bob Gregory (birth year unknown), ANU Professor who has made major contributions to Australian public policy, has served as President of the Economic Society of Australia, and who is famous for having identified the Gregory effect, also known as Dutch Disease, the adverse impact on other sectors of a terms-of-trade shock favouring a sector such as mining.
  9. Ken Henry (1957- ), former Treasury Secretary, now Chairman of NAB, who has had a major influence on Australian economic policy since the 1980s, including in the delivery of Keating’s mid-1980s tax reforms, the Howard Government’s GST, and the Rudd Government’s response to the financial crisis.
  10. Gary Banks (birth year unknown), current CEO and Dean of ANZSOG, former Chair of the Productivity Commission, a major advocate of economic reform in Australia over the past few decades, and the inaugural recipient of the Economic Society of Australia’s Distinguished Fellow (Public Policy) Award.
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2 Responses to Top 10 Australian economists of all time

  1. Smokin Joe says:

    Richard Snape…

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