Productivity Commission

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Productivity Commission
Productivity Commission (Australia) logo.jpg
Agency overview
Preceding agencies
TypeStatutory agency
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
Annual budgetA$35,911,000[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executives
  • Michael Brennan, Chair
  • Nina Davidson, Head of Office
Parent departmentTreasury
Key document

The Productivity Commission is the Australian Government's principal review and advisory body on microeconomic policy, regulation and a range of other social and environmental issues.

The Productivity Commission was created as an independent authority by the Productivity Commission Act 1998, an Act of the Australian Parliament.

The Commission operates within the Treasury portfolio and its core function involves responding to references from the Treasurer, which can request a commissioned study or a public inquiry. References to the Commission stipulate the length and terms of the project and may cover any sector of the Australian economy; address a particular industry or cut across industry boundaries; and involve wider social or environmental issues.

Most projects are specified for nine or twelve-month duration, although some may be six or fifteen months. Both studies and inquiries accept submissions from members of the public, although inquiries are additionally required (under the Act) to undertake formal public consultations. All reports are publicly released.

In addition, the Commission acts as the secretariat to the intergovernmental Review of Government Service Provision, and produces annually the Report on Government Services, as well as regular reports on Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage and Indigenous Expenditure that contribute to a better understanding of the effectiveness of government services provided to Indigenous Australians.

The Commission can undertake self-initiated research, and operates as the Australian Government's competitive neutrality complaints mechanism.

Productivity Commission reports often form the basis of government policy. However, the Commission does not administer government programs or exercise executive power and governments are not required to act on its recommendations; although in practice, many recommendations are accepted.


The Commission traces its lineage back to the Tariff Board, which was established in the 1920s. On 1 January 1974, the Tariff Board became the Industries Assistance Commission and then in 1989 it became the Industry Commission.

The Productivity Commission was created as an independent authority in April 1998 by the Productivity Commission Act 1998, and replaced the Industry Commission, the Bureau of Industry Economics and the Economic Planning Advisory Commission. These three bodies were amalgamated on an administrative basis in 1996.

The Commission's remit may extend beyond Australia, such as when the Commission worked jointly with the newly formed New Zealand Productivity Commission on a study into Trans-Tasman Economic Relations in 2012[2] and in a 2019 report on Growing the Digital Economy in Australia and New Zealand.[3]

Chairs of the Productivity Commission[edit]

Name Dates
Gary Banks AO 17 April 1998 – 31 December 2012
Peter Harris AO 11 March 2013 – 10 September 2018
Michael Brennan 11 September 2018 – 10 September 2023

Deputy Chairs of the Productivity Commission[edit]

Name Dates
Richard Snape 24 February 1999 – 4 October 2002
Mike Woods 8 October 2008 – 22 December 2014
Patricia Scott 24 February 2015 – 8 April 2016
Karen Chester 9 April 2016 – 27 January 2019

Commissioners of the Productivity Commission[edit]

Name Dates
John Cosgrove 17 April 1998 – 7 May 2002
Helen Owens 17 April 1998 – 14 April 2006
Richard Snape 17 April 1998 – 4 October 2002
Judith Sloan 17 April 1998 – 16 April 2010
Mike Woods 17 April 1998 – 22 December 2014
Neil Byron 15 July 1998 – 16 April 2010
David Robertson 13 December 2000 – 12 December 2003
Tony Hinton 27 March 2002 – 26 March 2007
Robert Fitzgerald 27 January 2004 – 26 April 2019
Philip Weickhardt 1 January 2004 – 11 December 2014
Gary Potts 17 April 2006 – 30 April 2008
Steven Kates 17 April 2006 – 16 April 2009
Angela MacRae 19 March 2007 – 9 December 2020
Matthew Butlin 1 May 2008 – 30 September 2008
Louise Sylvan 1 August 2008 – 20 September 2011
Wendy Craik 4 June 2009 – 31 December 2014
David Kalisch 4 June 2009 – 10 December 2010
Siobhan McKenna 4 June 2009 – 3 June 2014
Patricia Scott 7 September 2009 – 8 April 2016
Alison McClelland 8 December 2010 – 31 March 2016
Warren Mundy 8 December 2010 – 7 December 2015
Jonathan Coppel 28 July 2011 – 27 July 2021
Karen Chester 12 December 2013 – 27 January 2019
Melinda Cilento 27 November 2014 – 25 August 2017
Paul Lindwall 1 July 2014 – 30 April 2024
Ken Baxter 30 April 2015 – 31 December 2020
Julie Abramson 10 December 2015 – 9 December 2025
Stephen King 1 July 2016 – 30 June 2021
Richard Spencer 27 October 2016 – 26 October 2021
Jane Doolan 8 December 2016 – 7 December 2021
Romlie Mokak 25 March 2019 – 24 March 2024
Malcolm Roberts 1 May 2019 – 30 April 2024
Elizabeth Gropp 1 May 2019 – 30 April 2024
Catherine de Fontenay 1 July 2019 – 30 June 2024


The Commission is headed by a Chairperson and between 4 and 12 other Commissioners, who are appointed by the Governor-General for periods up to five years. Some commissioners are required to have particular skills and experience:

(a) in applying the principles of ecologically sustainable development and environmental conservation

(b) in dealing with the social effects of economic adjustment and social welfare service delivery

(c) acquired in working in Australian industry

(d) dealing with policies and programs that have an impact on Indigenous persons and dealing with one or more communities of Indigenous persons.

Associate Commissioners can be appointed by the Treasurer on a full or part-time basis. Commission staff are Commonwealth public servants. The average number of employees in the 2018–19 financial year was 174.[1]

The Commission reports formally through the Treasurer to the Australian Parliament, where its inquiry reports are tabled. Final inquiry reports must be tabled in Parliament within 25 sitting days of the Government receiving the report.

What makes the Commission unusual among public sector institutions around the world is the combination of three core principles which it embodies:

  • Independence — The commission operates under the protection and guidelines of its own legislation. It has an arm's length relationship with the Government. While the Government largely determines its work program, it cannot tell it what to say and the commission's findings and recommendations are based on its own analyses and judgments.
  • Transparency — The commission's advice to government, and the information and analysis on which it is based, are open to public scrutiny. Its processes provide for extensive public input and feedback through hearings, workshops and other consultative forums, and through the release of draft reports and preliminary findings.
  • A community-wide focus — The commission is obliged under its statutory guidelines to take a broad view, encompassing the interests of the economy and community as a whole, rather than just particular industries or groups. Environmental, regional and social dimensions of its work are also considered, informed by public consultation and the commission's own research capability.


  1. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2019–20". Productivity Commission. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  2. ^ "Strengthening Trans-Tasman Economic Relations". Productivity Commission. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  3. ^ Commission, corporateName:Productivity (14 February 2019). "Growing the Digital Economy and Maximising Opportunities for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) – Productivity Commission Research Paper". Retrieved 10 December 2019.

External links[edit]