Big data and investment frameworks can change the way governments use welfare to address inequality and deprivation. Despite significant expansions of public services inequality and disadvantage remain stubborn problems with no obvious solutions. Technology offers a new path but challenges the institutional design of the welfare state. Lessons from Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand show that progress is slow but possible.

The 2019 Alf Rattigan Lecture was presented by Sir Bill English, former Prime Minister of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Read about the 2019 Alf Rattigan Lecture


Sir Bill English retired from politics in 2018 after 27 years in politics. He was Minister of Finance in Aotearoa-New Zealand in 1999 and 2008-2016 and Prime Minister 2016-2017. Sir Bill has a long-term interest in effective public services and sound public policy. He led the development and implementation of Social Investment in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Sir Bill is currently a director of Wesfarmers, participated in the 2018 review of the APS and is a member of the NSW Government panel on Federal Financial Relations. He is a director of several private export and technology companies.


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 Aotearoa-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: 


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 considered 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)


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.