Australia’s Professor Gary Banks in Paris talking productivity

The Australian Productivity Commission is one of the first institutions of its kind and is considered an international benchmark.  EU countries are currently looking to set up productivity councils and are seeking Australian insights in view of the success of the Australian model.  This month, France Strategie and CEPII, each important advisory institutions to the French government, hosted a discussion with Gary Banks the former long time head of the Australian Productivity Commission (1998-2013).

In a roundtable session with Agnes Benassy-Quere of CEPII, Gary Banks noted that Government rarely has the capacity to look at the big picture.  Individual departments focus on parts of the business of government.  A productivity commission looks at the whole. He clarified that in Australia “productivity” means getting more from our resources but primarily focuses on community “wellbeing”; a major factor in its success.  He noted that the value of a productivity council is to counter the information asymmetry existing in favour of those who oppose change.  Through evidence based information and public consultation the Commission produces reports which governments in Australia have used over time to overcome “anti-reform bias” and make crucial reforms.  He observed that a Government would never get ‘consensus’ for change but through coalition building and good information, it could effect reform.

Three key features of the Australian model were highlighted: an institution that is independent, transparent and which takes an economy-wide perspective.  Important also is that Government itself set the terms of reference for each inquiry – ensuring buy-in – and that Government upholds the status of the institution itself (even if it disagrees with the findings).

Gary Banks put the success of the Australian body in part down to the strength of our public consultation phase.  Face to face consultation with a wide range of stakeholders and a “draft report” which could be amended to take into account public views was critical to effective reform.

ABIE France is pleased to acknowledge the work of Professor Gary Banks in building such a strong, effective and internationally recognised institution.