Few within government would deny that evidence-based policy-making is important to achieving good outcomes.  Australia’s history provides ample support for that. But it is also apparent that practice over the past decade has fallen short of the ideals espoused. 

In the third Alf Rattigan Lecture, Professor Gary Banks considers why that has been so and what might be done, at the political and bureaucratic levels, to moderate the increasing tendency for policy to be made 'on the run’. 


Read the 2018 Alf Rattigan Lecture (PDF)


Professor Gary Banks has spent much of his career at the Productivity Commission and its predecessors, retiring from the institution in 2012 as its longest serving Chairman. He was subsequently appointed CEO/Dean of ANZSOG, stepping down in early 2017. 

While at the Commission, Professor Banks led inquiries on numerous reform issues and chaired COAG’s Review of Government Services. In 2006, he chaired the Regulation Taskforce for the Prime Minister and Treasurer and has been a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.  He currently chairs the Australian Statistics Advisory Council and the OECD’s Regulatory Policy Committee. He is a Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies. He is also a Non-Executive Director with Macquarie Group. 


The 2018 Alf Rattigan Lecture is the third in an annual series in honour of G.A. Rattigan, the renowned Chairman of the Tariff Board and Industries Assistance Commission (predecessors of today’s Productivity Commission). 

The purpose of the Lecture is to elevate the importance of good process, sound governmental institutions and effective leadership to achieving nationally beneficial public policy and reform. 

It is delivered each year by an Australian or New Zealander who has played a significant role in promoting or implementing these ideals.

The Lecture is held by ANZSOG, with the benefit of an initial endowment by the Trans-Tasman Transparency Group and contributions from The Treasury, Productivity Commission, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia.

Previous Alf Rattigan Lectures: 


Emeritus Professor Fred Hilmer AO delivered the Alf Rattigan Lecture on Restarting Micro Economic Reform on Wednesday, 6 December.

See the news story for the full transcript of the lecture given at  the ANU’s Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Theatre.


The inaugural Alf Rattigan lecture, the first in a series in honour of G.A Rattigan, renowned Chairman of the Tariff Board and Industries Assistance Commission, was held last night at the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, Canberra. The lecture, to be held annually by ANZSOG, elevates the importance of good process and effective leadership in government through nationally beneficial policy and reform.

This year, Dr Paul Kelly, Distinguished Fellow of ANZSOG and Editor-at-Large of The Australian delivered the lecture “Economic reform: a lost cause or merely in eclipse?”The inaugural Alf Rattigan lecture, the first in a series in honour of G.A Rattigan, renowned Chairman of the Tariff Board and Industries Assistance Commission, was held last night at the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, Canberra. 

In his lecture, Paul Kelly provided an insightful account of the political battle to reduce import protection and open up the Australian economy, noting the role played by Rattigan and other key players. He highlighted the role played by the press and certain journalists who had an important impact, providing not only a fascinating account of the history and political economy of the major reforms of the past, but also some salient lessons for today. He also emphasised the importance of ‘making the case’ and persisting with a strong narrative. And he noted the over-riding importance of leadership, both bureaucratic and political, to achieving policy reforms that deserve the name.

Read a transcript of the 2016 Lecture

GA (ALF) RATTIGAN, CBE AO (1911-2000)

alf rattiganAlf Rattigan was appointed to the role for which he is most remembered, as Chairman of the Tariff Board, in 1962, having previously headed the Department of Customs and Excise.

The Tariff Board at the time had become an institutional vehicle for legitimating industry protection according to ‘need’. Its new Chairman soon appreciated that this was inconsistent with the statutory obligation to provide assistance to ‘economic and efficient industries’. Under Rattigan, the Board progressively built the skill base and analytical frameworks needed to assess the economy-wide impacts of ‘the Tariff’. It thereby developed a strong case for liberalisation, and Rattigan took this case both to the government and to the public.

In the early 1970s a new Government headed by Gough Whitlam (a self-declared ‘Rattigan Man’) replaced the Tariff Board with the Industries Assistance Commission, giving it a clearer economic mandate and wider remit. Through its evidence-based analysis, open inquiry processes and advocacy, ‘the Commission’ played a key role in the eventual demise of ‘Fortress Australia’. It became the model for the Industry Commission and today’s Productivity Commission.

Alf Rattigan has long been admired for his integrity and courage in upholding what he knew to be right; for establishing processes and analytical frameworks that transformed public understanding of industry protection and, above all, for the legacy of a more prosperous Australia.